Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
June, 22nd 2011

Golf_bunkersLong the province of Internet startups and Wall Street outfits, cloud computing is at last going mainstream. That conclusion smacked me upside the head when I spoke to Jessica Carroll, managing director of IT at the United States Golf Association. “I see great opportunity in the cloud. We can run applications and do our backup without a huge capital outlay. We don’t have to buy servers of our own or train staff,” she said.

The USGA is golf’s governing body in the US and Mexico and conducts 13 national champions  each year–including the US Open. It’s located in rural Far Hills, New Jersey, but it’s no technology backwater. Carroll is running several primary applications in the cloud and subscribes to a data backup service from IBM for all of her mission critical computing applications.

The reason I spoke to Carroll was that IBM on June 20 announced a pair of new cloud services, including virtualized server recovery and  data archiving. IBM began developing its cloud services for backup and recovery several years ago, and engagements like the one with Carroll and the USGA helped the company hone its offerings.

Backup and recovery aren’t typically on the top of companies’ IT priority lists. They’re not exciting like new applications. “But I look at it as insurance,” Carroll told me. “Why wouldn’t you want to have coverage on your most important asset, which is your data?”

Technology companies have long offered backup and recovery services to their clients. By their nature, these services are offsite and hosted. So what’s different about backup and recover services offered from the cloud? They usually employ a multi-tenant setup, which means the data from different companies may reside on the same physical server–though they’re walled off in separate operating system virtual machines. That brings efficiencies and cost savings. The cloud services are also more flexible. Clients can order and monitor their services using a Web portal and, typically, their monthly bills fluctuate based on their actual usage patterns.

Clients who subscribe to IBM’s cloud backup services, for instance, report reductions in total costs of up to 40% and improvements in service levels of up to 30%–all without increasing staffing or capital expense.

In the USGA’s case, the shift to cloud services made it possible for the organization to conveniently back up its data at the end of each day, which is a vast improvement on its previous system of backing up data onto tape once a week. “It was an easy decision for us to go to the cloud,” Carroll said.

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