Australia's $2.6 billion cloud potential

With global spending on public IT cloud computing services tipped to hit the $100 billion in 2016, sky's the limit for our cloud outfits, provided they play their cards right.

Worldwide spending on public IT cloud computing services is tipped to hit the $100 billion mark in 2016, predicts analyst firm IDC and the Aussie component of that market is forecast to hit $2.6 billion by 2017.

The $2.6 billion figure is impressive but it still sells the nation’s potential for cloud services short. After all, this is the cloud we’re talking about: nothing is stopping an organisation in Russia or Scotland from choosing an Australian cloud provider with data centres in one of the major capital cities to host their vital information.

Information can literally be stored anywhere with the right infrastructure, and the forecast shouldn’t be seen as a cap. However, to get there local networks will need to be modernised. And while the National Broadband Network will bring with it increased capacity and speed, it’s up to those who run the networks to meet additional demands of exceptional cloud service delivery.

More than just bandwidth

Enterprises need not only more bandwidth, but they need it at more locations with higher performance, enhanced security and on-demand connectivity. If the enterprises are locally-based, traffic patterns tend to be somewhat predictable. However, in a global cloud network those demands are amplified.

To differentiate themselves in a global market, local networks must enable richer service level agreements on par with global standards. Providers need to adapt IT and connectivity services to meet the specific needs of enterprise verticals and the myriad of specific geographical needs. In essence, carriers need to move away from merely providing a network to adapting it to suit the needs of the customer.

It sounds daunting, adjusting networks to suit the disparate needs of enterprises the world over, but the key is to simplify the platform and focus on programmability.

People look at the word simple and think “basic”, preferring to look at complexity as a more evolved way to do things. More is going on, there’s more to it – complexity is seen as more intelligent.

These people would be wrong.

After all, one of the main reasons the World Wide Web has become ubiquitous is because of how easy it is to use, and the cloud will be just as transformational as the web. Simplicity is truly what will make the cloud an everyday part of human existence – beyond the already regular use of consumer cloud services such as Gmail – but it will take a modern approach to networking.

Historically, we built dedicated networks to support different service types, such as voice network or video network. But now, within this new cloud ecosystem, we have a new set of functions that need to be converged.

Look at something as “simple” as Siri for the iPhone. We think this is a simple app, but using it actually means we’re connecting to a server that runs compute cycles and pulls information from storage, all within seconds.

In short, we now need to bring together compute, storage and connect functions because new breeds of services are starting to evolve that use a blend of all three.

The location and latency balance

To do this, we first need to minimise the number of locations to achieve maximum economic efficiency. This can be done by concentrating content delivery and application processing as well as higher-layer network functions into centralised content centres. This is a balancing act between location and latency. The wide area network is now reduced to two domains, in essence – one domain is the funnel that connects users to content, and the other is the network that connects the disparate content centres.

The next step is to simplify the connectivity employed in those domains through high scale, lean packet technologies. The content user funnel needs only to aggregate traffic to the content centre and send it on. Therefore, packet-optical nodes can transport packet and circuit traffic on a minimal number of wavelengths.

In a similar vein, packet-optical nodes can be used to provide an economical and scalable network so as to enable swift transfer between the domains.

Once the network is simplified, our focus needs to shift to making the network more programmable and application-aware. The industry is turning to the power of software-defined networking to add this intelligence.

We are describing a network that is simpler, more efficient and more intelligent. Some local providers are beginning to see the benefit of simplicity, and in doing so are setting themselves apart from the rest in a growing cloud market in Australia. Those providers are further setting themselves up to take a slice of the global cloud pie, and they are doing so by keeping their networks simple and easy-to-use.

The key is simplicity and the Cloud is on the same upward spike as the web was in its early days, and Australian cloud providers are jumping on the bandwagon. But there remains a need for them to become more enabled.

After all, $2.6 billion is just a number, and there’s no reason why we should limit ourselves to that ceiling.

Wayne Moulton is the managing director, Australia and New Zealand, of Ciena.

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