Cloud makes its way in Slovakia

WHILE the cloud and cloud services have been gaining popularity in Slovakia, a lack of trust in the technology is discouraging some companies from switching over to the cloud. Nevertheless, data centre operators and cloud service providers in Slovakia believe that ever increasing data and financial savings will persuade more firms to head for the cloud.

Several firms in Slovakia operate data centres and provide cloud services.Several firms in Slovakia operate data centres and provide cloud services. (Source: SITA)

WHILE the cloud and cloud services have been gaining popularity in Slovakia, a lack of trust in the technology is discouraging some companies from switching over to the cloud. Nevertheless, data centre operators and cloud service providers in Slovakia believe that ever increasing data and financial savings will persuade more firms to head for the cloud.

The Slovak Spectator spoke with Stanislav Verešvársky, CEO of Swan; Martin Ďurov, product manager at GTS Slovakia; Petr Leština, client IT architect at IBM in Slovakia; Ján Adamec, executive director for ICT and corporate segment at Slovak Telekom; Martin Drahoš, business unit manager at Vnet; and Alexandra Piskunová, spokesperson for Orange Slovensko about the challenges cloud service providers in Slovakia face, the current level of interest in their services and their expectations for the future.

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What are the biggest challenges for cloud service providers in Slovakia?
Stanislav Verešvársky (SV):
Suppliers of cloud [services] should realise that each solution is individual, that no two are identical. They have to master the financial argument for the sale of cloud. They should define their stability on the market and be trustworthy. They should take a lesson from their own experiences because they also have their own suppliers. They should realise that partners of cloud providers are not just IT directors and financial directors anymore, but also marketing and HR specialists.

Martin Ďurov (MĎ): It is possible to feel an increasing level of interest in a more complex cloud environment. Two years ago we saw the most interest from operators of online shops. This is not surprising because cloud services providers of the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) type can provide an ideal environment for such a business. For the time being we are solving more inquiries from companies that would like to migrate their entire internal systems. In such cases providers must know how to build a complex virtual environment.

Petr Leština (PL): The building of cloud services is currently prevalent especially among large corporate clients, who, in particular, use the services of the private and hybrid cloud. But the cloud is also suitable for small companies and businesspeople that use the services of the public cloud.

Ján Adamec (JA): In the case of cloud services, security and responsibility, which to a large extent depend on the infrastructure of the provider, are being mentioned most often in terms of the challenges. Thus the client should look for a trustworthy and an especially financially stable provider, who can secure the required level of security and responsibility. The biggest challenge for providers is to persuade more conservative companies to change their mindset from the viewpoint of moving data onto the cloud.

Martin Drahoš (MD): The biggest challenge is competition from global companies like Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft. These have massive promotion, a strong brand and a huge number of clients. As a result they create from the cloud a mass product.

Alexandra Piskunová: The main challenge is the still relatively low level of knowledge about the advantages of the cloud and partially also distrust of this type of service. Many services that companies or households use nowadays are de facto a cloud service, but hardly anybody realises this. Let’s take popular free-mail services, internet deposits of files or back-up services, which manufacturers of smart phones offer within the price of the device. The question of trust is significantly more important in the case of corporate data. Companies that care about the security and protection of corporate data will prefer services that are operated by established brands, which they can trust thanks to being synonymous with high security standards.

TSS: How would you evaluate the current level of interest in cloud services in Slovakia? Does it differ from other countries? How has it changed over the last two to three years? What factors affect this interest the most?
The interest in cloud services has been gradually growing compared with the most recent years. Companies are realising the benefits that the cloud can offer them. Looking at operating and entry costs is enough; it is a simple math. But the cloud is not only about numbers. Firms are also interested in the impacts that using cloud solutions has on their operation and business. The cloud enables them to focus on what is essential for them, i.e. their core business. For example, for a sweets producer it is more essential that it produces high quality sweets that sell well rather than having an excellent IT department that employs the best and most expensive specialists. For such a company IT is rather a supportive activity. When administering its own infrastructure, the company has to have prepared a backup and an emergency plan in case something fails. In the cloud, it is the provider who solves this. For many companies it is also important than they can start using the cloud from one day to the next, and change the size of the infrastructure based on their needs.

MĎ: The level of interest has been really growing from year to year. Companies are inquiring and they are gradually using cloud services more and more. Such services can be provided to clients for some weeks for testing and only when they see that their applications can run in the cloud without any problem do they begin to gradually migrate. For the time being we run dozens of testing environments for clients and I dare say that most of them will stay in the cloud.
Compared with abroad, this train departed in Slovakia at the same time and it is as fast as anywhere in the world.

When comparing the current level of interest with that of three years ago, at that time there actually was no large provider of cloud services in Slovakia. Two years ago, it was providers of simple applications available from the internet that were especially interested in cloud infrastructure. But at that time large companies were starting to build their own private clouds. For the time being big companies also trust professional cloud platforms and they want to use their internal IT sources more sensibly than for hardware administration.

The biggest concerns are related to security. The advantage of a local provider of a cloud infrastructure is that it can, without any problems, interconnect the virtual data centre with the headquarters and branches of the client by a secure MPLS network.

PL: In the case of corporate clients, currently there is an upward trend in cloud solutions in the form of so-called managed services, i.e. the provision of IT services for a longer period of time, usually for more than one year, while the IT means are the property of the supplier (IBM) and the client pays only for their usage. In the case of software cloud services (Software as a Service - SaaS), these services are used the most for communication and cooperation, i.e. email, chatting and sharing documents. Simultaneously there is no exception when small companies also use ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system as a service.

JA: The willingness to shift to ICT services based on requirement has also been gradually developing in Slovakia to the benefit of these services. Clients are starting to realise the flexibility and in the end also the savings that such a shift can bring. In a simplified way it is possible to say that interest in services of the data centre and cloud services continually increases along with the growth of the volume of data and companies’ increased dependence on the availability of their IT systems. Because of this, more and more clients are becoming actively interested in services, which can eliminate these risks without the need to spend significant investments on constructing their own data centre and without the risks of their being used ineffectively. Moreover, the client gets a solution with clearly predictable operating costs within which he pays only for what he consumes.

MD: The current level of interest is growing moderately and comes especially from the sector of IT companies, which display the most trust towards the service. When comparing the situation to three years ago, then it was just interest; nowadays we can speak about concrete realisations.

With regards to factors affecting the level of interest in cloud services in Slovakia, the most important factor is trust, or in this case distrust. Clients fear for their data and simultaneously they are afraid of the solution failing; they like to have their data under 100-percent control.
Clients are very interested in where their data will be physically stored. In the case of Slovak clouds, data mostly remain in one location. Paradoxically, in the case of large foreign brands, clients do not know where, specifically, their data are currently located. This is because at these providers data flows between data centres around the whole world. If a company does not realise this and deposits data that is subject to personal data protection, it violates the law because according to Slovak legislation, such data can be deposited only on the territory of Slovakia.

TSS: What further development in cloud service usage do you expect in Slovakia?
The cloud will face several tasks in the upcoming years. Firstly, there is the harmonisation of legislation, and the protection of personal data when moving it to a data centre abroad. It is also necessary to constantly watch and improve security criteria in terms of access to the data on the server of the client as well as the supplier, and the criteria of security for depositing and transferring data. Another task is to advance from infrastructure to a discussion about services (SaaS). From the companies’ perspective, it is important that they take into consideration the cloud as an alternative when pondering the future of IT infrastructure and learn to trust providers and start to view them as their partners.

MĎ: The cloud is an appropriate name because it does not have clear boundaries and can grow or shrink. But we unambiguously expect growth because most of the companies still operate applications on their own physical servers, for which they signed support contracts and whose capacities meet their requirements for now. But users’ requirements grow constantly, which requires new hardware, disks, new licenses and obligatory support contracts. And when despite this they are unable to cope with the tidal wave of requirements for the output of applications, then comes the time to migrate to the cloud.

PL: In the case of smaller companies it is possible to expect almost complete or complete passage to the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and SaaS cloud services. Bigger companies will focus on implementation of private or hybrid clouds.

JA: From the long-term viewpoint, services with added value which will take into consideration specific features of a specific client will have the best prospects. It is possible to say that almost every company can use cloud services, even those smaller ones which use some kind of information system (ERP, CRM intranet, etc) or support application when doing their business.

Clients with ‘large IT’ rather prefer services at the IaaS level. On the other hand, clients with ‘small IT’ reach most often for SaaS or PaaS. Thus, in the future we can also expect requirements for a combination of these services and solutions based on the preferences of the clients.

MD: We expect that the market will continue to develop and, thus, demand will also have an upward tendency. With our branch, just like others, further development depends especially on the general economic situation and the performance of Slovakia’s economy. On the other hand, it depends on how fast clients will gain trust in this type of service.

AP: We expect that development in Slovakia will be similar to that elsewhere in the world. Firms as well as individuals will increasingly realise the advantages, including the financial savings they can achieve thanks to cloud services. Households, thanks to the cloud, have a simple way to safely back up all digital family data so as not to fear that they may lose it because of the [insufficient] quality of the backup media they have at home. Small and medium-sized companies can, thanks to the cloud, achieve worthwhile financial savings. Cloud services manage, for example, to replace more robust software systems, which require not only high investments but also further investments in their maintenance.

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