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Cloud implementation is no simple task

Jack Loo | June 23, 2010
There is a whole plethora of issues including security and performance to tackle during a cloud project

SINGAPORE, 23 JUNE 2010 - There are several challenges that IT decision-makers need to address during a cloud implementation, identified Mark Ross, founder, CloudGarage and a former CIO of Sunlife Financial Asia.

He was presenting a case study of Hong Kong-based Sun Life Financial Asias first cloud-based project at Springboard Researchs Cloud Asia event yesterday. In 2008, a service portal with more than 500,000 customers and agent users in Hong Kong was built in four months. The common Web platform allows access of critical information securely and at all times. As a result, Sun Life is able to offer customers real-time access to account information and other online services, and improved customer engagement.

Concerns over security, especially with handling sensitive financial data, can be countered by conducting deep physical security audits of the providers, said Ross. We went down to their data centres and examined their security practices, he added.

Ross addressed uncertainties over performance levels by having a prototype built to see how it can handle loads. The test saw four million records loaded onto the cloud, but what should have taken just two hours extended to some 18 hours.

Small project, small risks

He also started small to reduce business risks by moving the sales forecasting process from Excel files to a portal built on the cloud. This gained confidence and allowed us to take on larger works, he said.

The move to link data from the proprietary legacy system uncovered several problems that were not apparent in the beginning. Some of the sets were malformed, while others were placed in the wrong areas. We spent some time cleaning up the data, said Ross.

The project requires housing sensitive customers data on the cloud. A fair amount of time was spent agreeing on the commercial terms, he said.

Once the portal has been completed, work needs to be done to draw customers to use the online services. This include promoting the use of the system and offering log-in access on traditional correspondence channels like direct mailers, as well as identifying and placing a segment of customers who most likely would use the portal, as a pilot group. 


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