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CIOs must fit the cloud into IT strategy

Thor Olavsrud | March 5, 2012
Cloud computing is quickly going from promise and potential to practical applications, and CIOs who haven't already considered what cloud means for their business better step up. That was the consensus of panelists at a roundtable discussion hosted by IntraLinks on Thursday.

Practical Cloud Computing

Philip Jacob, senior director of risk management at Axioma, a provider of optimization software and financial risk modeling software for the financial services industry, said his organization has turned to the cloud-and specifically Microsoft Azure-to provide the raw computational power for its services rather than build out new servers each time it takes on a new project.

"It's allowing us to be able to plan much more effectively," he said. "We don't have tell our clients in advance, "here's the level of service we can offer you." We can tell them, "here's the potential," and then we can just buy on demand the services necessary to do whatever and however complex calculations they require."

Jacob noted that such a model allows Axioma to be much more efficient as well, because most of the demand for its risk management reporting only occurs for about eight hours a day. If the organization bought hardware to serve its needs, it would sit largely unused for 16 hours a day.

"It's a way to only get the capacity when we need it, but also not to have to plan what could be very large potential acquisitions in advance," he said.

David Goodman, chief technology officer of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), an organization founded at the recommendation of Albert Einstein to rescue intellectuals and artists from the Nazis, said the cloud allows his organization to better allocate staff resources. Today, IRC provides humanitarian services to refugees around the globe. Goodman leads a staff of 26 based in New York and Nairobi, overseeing teams focused on infrastructure, application development and project management. He is also responsible for RescueNet, the organization's global intranet.

"I have a lot of things I have to do," he said. "I've got all the problems of a global organization and very few of the resources. I have to make sure that my staff is working on the stuff that really needs doing and try to push out the rest of the stuff. Email is a great example. It's the most important thing we do, but I don't think we need to be top-level Exchange architects and administrators. Other people will do that perfectly well. Storage is another example. I don't really want to deal with storage anymore, so I give that to somebody else. That gives my staff an opportunity to focus on the things we have to be excellent at, which is delivering services to local field organizations.

Ari Lightman, director of the CIO Institute at Carnegie Mellon University noted that he sees the enablement of a mobile workforce as one of the most promising aspects of cloud computing. He pointed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, which now gives every new intern an iPad rather than deal with flip charts.


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