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Is cloud computing bad for your networking career?

Nick Booth

Personal issues can be a bigger hurdle than technology issues when it comes to getting people to accept cloud computing, according to industry experts. Though the theory of pooling resources is compelling, in practise many network managers

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struggle to overcome the "server hugging" mentality that compels users to own their own equipment. For some, the benefits of shared IT resources do not seem as important as the need for hardware that you can see and touch.

Network managers often like to purchase equipment because the hardware is a physical embodiment of their importance, said Dominic Monkhouse, the CEO of Peer 1 Hosting, a hosting provider that offers services including data centre hosting, network services and cloud computing. He likens hardware to familiar executive status symbols like a VIP parking space or a corner office. The problem, for network managers, is that cloud computing doesn’t give them anything tangible to show off. The result is that many companies waste money on data centres or networking resources that are pure folly, said Monkhouse.

Cloud computing makes economic sense

“Many companies spend a fortune building their own networks purely because the IT director or the network manager wanted a prestigious project,” said Monkhouse. These days, with servers becoming a commodity, it is cheaper to outsource servers, rather than hug them, he argued.

The economics of buying rack servers should persuade anyone to outsource, he said. Users buy rack servers at around £2,500 each. To a service provider, the wholesale price is likely to be nearer £1,500, claimed Monkhouse.

“You would need to fill around ten thousand square foot of network room before you could approach a return on your investment for building your own network,” said Monkhouse. “I can’t see why on earth anyone would build their own data centre if they had less than 20,000 square foot of equipment rooms.”

Companies such as Sentrum, Digital Realty and Peer 1 will get lower prices on network equipment and can negotiate better rates on the electricity supply as well, said Monkhouse. A network manager in a medium sized organisation will pay 7 1/2  pence per kilowatt, where Digital Realty might get the supply at 7 pence per kilowatt, he said.

While network managers struggle to negotiate power rates and arrange redundant power and data centre cooling, service providers have more expertise in these areas, Monkhouse pointed out. Power issues can eat up the precious time of network managers who should be concentrating on virtual LANs, peer arrangements, firewalls and load balancing. Implementing critical network elements is sometimes delayed, as is the prospect of introducing cloud computing.

Cloud computing may help your career

Virtualisation and the cloud could be the key platforms on which a network manager’s career will advance this coming year, according to Ros Taylor, CEO of the Ros Taylor Group, a career development organisation that specialises in business leadership and coaching. “For any network manager or CIO to rise within a company, they need to show good commercial acumen, business skills and strategic thinking,” said Taylor. Cost cutting and realigning the business through cloud computing could be a good way of demonstrating this, she said.

By outsourcing server management to a hosting company, the network manager can create a business reputation that will be more worthwhile than a big server room, according to Monkhouse. Network functionality will also be where the in-house professional can add value.

-- Nick Booth is an independent industry analyst. He started working in IT, networking and telecoms in the days when even the visionaries couldn’t see the Year 2000 coming.