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An entire cloud ecosystem is emerging in Australia with companies setting up shop to offer cloud building tools, cloud platforms, cloud brokering and cloud consulting - what's still missing though are cloud standards to avoid lock in.

At a media roundtable event held in Sydney today organised by VMware - which is now selling tools starting at $300 a month to allow even the smallest private clouds to be constructed - participants pointed to the rise of the hybrid cloud model, where users curated a variety of public and private cloud services to meet their needs.  Increasingly end users are working with industry partners to help navigate the different cloud services and models on offer.

However Rob Livingstone, a consultant and author of Navigating through the Cloud, warned that despite the range of different clouds now on offer it was; 'Not simple to switch clouds,' given the lack of agreed standards and companies also needed to remain mindful of the hidden write offs that might accompany a move to the cloud if an organisation still had significant amounts of legacy systems in operation.

He also warned that unless organisations were running 'rock solid vanilla offerings the public cloud is quite limiting,' Instead organisations were turning to hybrid solutions and working with a range of different companies now offering cloud related services to orchestrate those cloud solutions.

Nicki Periera, general manager of ZettaGrid which offers infrastructure as a service, said this was particularly attractive to the SME sector which liked the cost predictability that cloud models delivered but wanted to harness the flexibility they promised.

'This is bringing certainty to uncertainty,' he said. 'It is saving them money in upfront capital costs. SMBs work on cashflow and they have the ability to react and execute as required. We can commission a machine in 20 minutes.'

Commissioning a cloud however isn't as simple as turning on a tap for a drink of water, and paying the bill according to what you use. Companies for example need to remain mindful of the need for disaster recovery and business continuity in the event of either a cloud outage, or an inability to access the cloud over communications networks; and how different clouds can work together so that data from one application hosted on one cloud can be made available to an application which may be running elsewhere.

It's here that another part of the cloud ecosystem is emerging in companies such as Perth based IntegraNet which provides consulting services, or NewLease which can provide companies with help managing different subscription software licences.

Doug Tutus, director of NewLease explained that while public clouds served a purpose, their offerings were often pretty rigid, which was leading to more organisations considering a hybrid approach where they might offload some of their 'cookie cutter' applications to a public cloud, but also integrate them with private clouds developed to run their less standard business processes.

Separately Josh Rubens, director of the Cloud Solutions Group, a consulting business specialising in cloud computing, said that one of the key issues that needs to be tackled was the lingering confusion about what cloud was and how it could be introduced to a business.

Mr Rubens said that he was carving out a business providing strategy and roadmap advice to potential cloud service users. For most he said the transition away from on premise solutions to cloud based systems would be a long journey.

'Very few of them are forklifting everything to the cloud tomorrow - this will take years,' said Mr Rubens.

He warned though that many current cloud providers were still trying to lock customers into lengthy contracts, and that end users needed to carefully examine what they needed and determine whether they should opt for a private or public cloud, or more likely a composite or hybrid cloud solution.

He said that before embarking on any cloud adventures companies needed to consider their data needs - where it was stored and how it could be accessed, the privacy and security of that data, and the back up and disaster recovery plans available once applications were operated in a cloud.



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