Slovakia not alone on its cloud

CLOUD computing is a relatively new phenomenon in Slovakia, arriving on the heels of mobile devices which are rapidly gaining in popularity. While Slovakia, as has happened with other trends, is lagging behind many other countries in its usage of the cloud, providers here report growing interest.

Slovak firms have their eyes on the cloud.Slovak firms have their eyes on the cloud. (Source: Jana Liptáková)

CLOUD computing is a relatively new phenomenon in Slovakia, arriving on the heels of mobile devices which are rapidly gaining in popularity. While Slovakia, as has happened with other trends, is lagging behind many other countries in its usage of the cloud, providers here report growing interest.

The Slovak Spectator spoke to Ján Paulech, technical director at Microsoft Slovakia, Zdenko Böhmer, technology solutions and cloud manager for HP, Peter Mravčák, customer solutions manager at SAP Slovensko, and Slovak Telekom spokesperson Tomáš Palovský, about cloud computing, its popularity in Slovakia, security-related questions and when companies should start thinking about switching to the cloud.

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): How would you assess the interest of companies in Slovakia in cloud computing and cloud-related products or services? Does this interest differ from the level seen abroad?
Ján Paulech (JP):
Slovak clients are more conservative. The percentage of clients switching to the cloud is smaller than in western Europe or in the US. The cloud is appealing, for example, for managers who decide about investments, because they realise its advantages the most. IT departments respond in a more reserved way. They are afraid of losing control over infrastructure and technical support. In the public sector conservative thinking also persists, with the most frequently used argument being that legislation prevents certain data from being located in the public cloud. But when an analytical approach is applied we find that really sensitive data make up in many cases less than 5 percent of the total.

Zdenko Böhmer (ZB): In Slovakia, cloud computing is gradually entering the bloodstream. Clients are starting to understand that this is the only way, and that it is impossible to avoid it. This process is significantly faster in the case of companies with foreign parent companies. Here, the topic of cloud computing is being discussed as part of specific corporate standards.

Peter Mravčák (PM): Globally, there is a trend towards more intensive usage of cloud computing. It is enormous, especially in developing economies like Brazil, China and India. Based on surveys, a doubling in private as well as public clouds is expected by 2020. The global results of SAP confirm this trend.

Even Slovakia is not an isolated island in this respect and interest in usage of cloud computing is growing. But for now provision of cloud-based services in Slovakia focuses on cloud infrastructure – hosted servers, mail, websites and so on. But the first swallows in the form of cloud solutions are starting to emerge here too.

Tomáš Palovský (TP): In Slovakia too the perception and willingness to switch to ICT on-demand services is gradually changing. Clients are beginning to realise what flexibility such a move can bring, and ultimately how much money it can save them. The interest of clients in services of our data centre confirms that we decided [to open our data centre] at the right time. This step was followed by the launch of our own cloud solution last year.

To say it in a simplified way, interest in data centre services and cloud services is growing continually, along with the volume of data and the dependence of companies on the availability of their IT systems.

Because of this, more and more clients are becoming actively interested in services which are able to eliminate the risks without the need to make significant investments in building their own data centres. Moreover, the client obtains a solution with costs which can be clearly planned.

TSS: What kinds of cloud services are most popular in Slovakia? Which services or products do you perceive as having the most potential in the long term?
Today we already have a relatively solid adoption of our services, either as a package or as individual services. We expect that these services, of the SaaS (Software as a Service) type, will have the most potential in the long run as they represent the highest and the most comfortable level of cloud services and reach the widest target group of potential users. Another prospective category of services are IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)-type services. These appeal to managers with the possibility to remove the need to take care of server infrastructure. For developers, the possibility to develop applications using the progressive abilities of public clouds will have the best prospects. Recently we also launched in Slovakia a cloud service enabling administration of mobile devices and here we already see significant potential with respect to the boom in tablets and smartphones on the Slovak market.

ZB: Currently we most often meet with services of the IaaS-type, i.e. renting of performance and capacity, either of pre-defined configurations or based on the exact specifications of the client. We assume that this trend will continue for a while, but services of SaaS and PaaS (Platform as a Service) types will come into the limelight from the long-term view.

PM: We expect growth in the field of platform and application solutions. Creation of business networks, which serve for transactions for which mail or special protocols have been often used so far or private networks, is a chapter on its own. This mitigates obtaining commercial partners either on the side of suppliers as well as consumers.

TP: The answer varies according to the type of client and their IT requirements or the amount of IT in their company. Clients with ‘large IT’ tend to prefer IaaS-type services, while clients with ‘small IT’ reach most often for SaaS- and PaaS-types of applications. In the long term, services with added value and which respond to the specific features of a specific client will have the best prospects.

TSS: When should a company start thinking about using the cloud?
It should think about it continuously; it can decide according to a specific offering, and accept or refuse it. The decision about whether to switch to cloud computing always depends on the field in which the company operates, its workload and application. Switching to the cloud is not always suitable or possible, but it is often the optimal solution.

ZB: A company should start thinking about cloud computing during any infrastructure changes or in changes in the requirements of its business.

PM: Nowadays more and more companies are trying to optimise their spending on IT infrastructure, focus on their own business, divide it from support activities and processes, and maximise their effectiveness, the availability of information and data, and the effectiveness of their employees. All these are arguments based on which managers should ponder cloud computing.

TP: A company should think about cloud services when it thinks about the economy and the effectiveness of funds invested in IT. It is possible to say that almost every company, even small ones, which use an information system (ERP, CRM, intranet, and so on) can use cloud services or a support application.

TSS: In what fields of operation or for what size of company do you consider cloud computing and cloud-related services to be suitable?
Cloud computing does not have limits in this respect. It can be an advantage for companies which, for business reasons, need temporarily to increase/decrease their number of licences or computing power, or also for small and medium-sized companies which cannot afford robust technology.

Currently cloud computing is most interesting for companies without investments in their own hardware. Companies which have invested in their own data centres do not hurry to switch to the cloud as they firstly need to make a use of what they already have.

ZB: With regards to field of operation or company size, cloud solutions are ideal for companies with intermittent requirements for performance or capacity. Our company offers a service enabling us to find out [the current situation] and afterwards to propose to the client the most suitable type and way of realisation of a cloud solution.

PM: Nowadays we also use cloud computing as a completely natural thing at home. Thus its usage cannot be limited only to some fields of operation of companies, or their size, because it can actually be used in each company. Especially in the case of SMEs it is often the only way to access resources which, with respect to their capital costs, would otherwise remain permanently unavailable. But before a company starts using them it should make some points clear: especially whether it needs cloud on-demand solutions, whether it wants an open platform supporting third-party innovations, and it is also important to select a reliable partner who will guarantee all advantages of cloud computing in connection to the company’s existing systems.

TSS: What are the main advantages that cloud computing brings?
The advantage of cloud computing is savings in IT costs as well as operation of new types of applications. When using cloud solutions a company does not need to own either hardware or software and does not even need to employ an extensive IT team. It pays only for consumed services and resources, which is an advantage in companies in which IT requirements change over time.

The switch to cloud computing can be designed directly to fit the needs of each company. It is possible not only to choose the level of services, i.e. IaaS, PaaS or SaaS, but also to locate applications and data in the public or private cloud. The private cloud is suitable for companies which need the cloud only for themselves, for either legislative or security reasons. It offers them a help-yourself portal, sharing of sources, more effective usage of the infrastructure, elasticity, location of several applications on one server, and so on.

ZB: They are, in particular: flexibility, simple management, modularity and reduction of costs.

PM: The primary benefit is the possibility of fast implementation and continual innovation from the side of the cloud solution provider. Thus the advantage is their immediate usage and a fast return on investment.

TP: The main advantages of cloud computing include flexibility, reliability, security and optimisation of IT costs.

TSS: What disadvantages or dangers are linked with usage of the cloud? How can these be eliminated?
The security of stored data is one of the most often discussed topics, because it may raise concerns to store data outside one’s own computer or server. Thus confidentiality, integrity and the availability of information are the basis of cloud computing.

ZB: Based on the latest surveys by Gartner and IDC [the main concern] is certainly data security. But today products already exist which move cloud security into the sphere of almost absolute security. If we want to have data under control, a private cloud is the solution.

PM: Threats linked with the cloud are connected especially with incorrect selection either of the supplier of on-demand solutions or the provider of the cloud. Also, there are often concerns about the security of data which are ‘somewhere in the cloud’. But experience shows that the security and stability of systems provided by professional data centres exceed the level common in Slovak companies.

TP: Security and reliability, which fundamentally depend on the infrastructure of the provider, are the features most often mentioned. Thus the client should look for a reliable, but especially a financially stable, provider which is able to ensure the required level of security and reliability. There are several models of providing cloud services – from a closed private cloud up to the public cloud.

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