Interview with the expert
What exactly is needed to bring IT into the cloud and why no company can avoid using cloud services in a digitalised economy is something that Thomas Gfeller, the head of Product Management for Cloud Products at Swisscom, knows all about.
Why should a company rely on the cloud for its IT?
Thomas Gfeller: The most important reason: Expectations of the agility of the company are growing rapidly. Customer expectations are increasing and constantly evolving, and this means the speed at which business is done is increasing as well. New business models are required. This can only be managed by means of digitalisation and automation of business processes. IT is becoming more and more important, and needs to keep pace with business requirements – and this despite the often declining employee headcount. The best, if not an essential, basis for comprehensive digitalisation is flexibility, scalability and the reliability of the cloud.
Isn't bringing IT to the cloud a highly complex matter?
TG: The transition to a cloud-centred IT is no longer a matter of sorcery – providing that the software is suitable for cloud operation, and that IT is already using virtualised infrastructure. There are a multitude of tools that simplify migration. Infrastructure that still uses mainframes and other legacy systems does, however, make things more complicated. In cases like this, a hybrid approach is recommended. Overall, the cloud has grown out of its infancy: Cloud services are now stable to operate, and data security and confidentiality are guaranteed. It works. And certainly does so when you place your trust in the right provider. This is also demonstrated by the fact that renowned companies are now transferring their entire IT into the cloud, and are highly satisfied with the result.
As Head of Product Management at Swisscom, Thomas Gfeller is responsible for cloud solutions in the corporate business segment. He completed his engineering degree in electrical engineering and complemented this with an MBA in an English-speaking country. He has 15 years of ICT experience in different functions: as a Telecommunications Project Manager, an IT Business Consultant, an IT Sourcing Advisor and a Cloud Services Project Manager. He likes to spend his spare time hiking or travelling with his family.
«Cloud services are now stable to operate, and data security and confidentiality are guaranteed.»
Is the changeover also financially worthwhile?
TG: Investments in infrastructure, ongoing operating costs, certification costs, reserving additional capacities for release updates and test environments – the provider takes care of all of this in the cloud. This gives the employees in IT more time to pursue issues relevant to business instead of labouring over infrastructure and operation. And when you do the maths (TCO), the cloud is actually less expensive and involves fewer risks.
Do you see a trend to more migration into the cloud?
TG: Public Cloud Services are gaining in significance, just like the Virtual Private Cloud and Hybrid Cloud. More and more companies are realising that keeping their entire IT on premises just doesn't make sense. According to the Experton Group, the market for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) in Switzerland is growing by 37 percent every year. At Swisscom, the demand is actually growing at even higher rates.
Which cloud services does Swisscom currently offer?
TG: We offer the most diverse variants, from IaaS to SaaS. IaaS services in the Public Cloud have been available on the market for some time now under the name of Dynamic Computing Services (DCS). The PaaS product Application Cloud was added in the autumn of 2015. They are today's draught horses, which thousands of customers and partners meanwhile rely on. However, we also implement projects in the private IaaS and private PaaS model, for example for Swiss Re. In the SaaS segment, I’d like to mention the backup and collaboration solutions Storebox, Dynamic CRM and Docsafe.
Which technical structure does the Swisscom cloud have?
TG: When someone decides to hand over their IT, the heart of the company, so to speak, to us, then robustness, stability and reliability are what matters. This is why we place our trust in established, top providers for our infrastructure services, and pursue a best-of-breed approach. When it comes to the Application Cloud, innovation plays a key role, and this is where we rely on diverse open-source solutions, maintain a close partnership with Cloud Foundry, and, last but not least, have access to the source of the latest developments due to our outpost in Silicon Valley. However, the data security and confidentiality are equally important. Our four Swiss data centres put us in a great position in this context: 70 percent of Swiss companies exclusively want “data storage in Switzerland”.
«Public Cloud Services are gaining in significance, just like the Virtual Private Cloud and Hybrid Cloud.»
Swisscom recently announced a “Dynamic Database” for the cloud. What exactly is this?
TG: This is a real innovation on the cloud market. There are hardly any other providers from which you can source Oracle databases from the cloud. Oracle's licence policy makes it difficult to licence Oracle databases on shared platforms inexpensively. Swisscom has signed a special agreement with Oracle allowing dynamic Oracle databases to be deployed on a virtual environment. Dynamic Database functions in a similar way to Dynamic Computing Services: The customer specifies the required volume on the web portal, and receives its database within a short time. The special feature is the shared infrastructure it is based on. It allows us to offer a dynamic and inexpensive service. This also allows customers to employ Dynamic Database for a temporary test installation and they no longer have to make extensive investments in hardware.
Innovations are also being regularly announced for the Application Cloud...
TG: That’s right, because the technology used for this is developing particularly quickly. We have had the monitoring and reporting service ELK on offer for a number of months now. The Application Cloud has also supported Docker containers based on the Diego runtime environment since May. And the in-memory database Redis has only recently become available in an Enterprise version. And we are the first PaaS provider worldwide to offer MongoDB and RabbitMQ Enterprise.
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