M&S executive calls for cheaper cloud computing


Cloud computing has been proven to offer lower IT costs for many businesses, although there are still some areas in which prices for hosted services could fall further, according to Marks & Spencer chief tech officer, Alan French.

French was speaking at the Cloud World Forum conference held in London this week, when he explained why his company is still waiting for prices to be reduced, before it migrates some of its mission-critical systems to the cloud.

Although French was somewhat critical of the cost of the cloud platforms offered by major providers, he did explain that the main reason for his concern is because M&S is so eager to adopt this type of IT service going forwards.

In particular, the retailer wants to move its order processing over to the cloud, allowing it to handle the five billion or so transactions that it has to manage annually, to be taken care of at remote data centres.

French said that M&S wants to migrate to SaaS (software as a service) to cover as many bases as possible, although he said that the economies offered by the cloud did not yet scale to meet the needs of the company, even if the flexibility of the hosted infrastructure itself was definitely a benefit.

He went so far as to implore providers to try and work with his firm, by presenting them with an SaaS offer that will be affordable in the face of the significant annual requirements which will be placed upon it.

M&S’ eagerness to start using cloud-based platforms is already evident in the fact that it has migrated its email to this type of hosted solution, along with a variety of other vital services.

French said that the cloud does have the potential to be a value-oriented IT proposition for larger companies, although he said that he was yet to be convinced that providers have alighted on an approach to selling cloud capacity commercially which is suited to M&S’ requirements.

V3.co.uk points out that there are other conclusions to be drawn from the comments made by French during the recent conference.

In recent years, much of the criticism of cloud computing has been based around the issues of security and the practicality of deploying it in an enterprise environment.

Now the focus appears to have shifted to price, suggesting that these other points of contention have been smoothed over, following developments in understanding of this type of technology.

If the only thing standing between providers and increased cloud adoption is cost, then there are plenty of ways for the big hitters in the industry to start living up to demands placed upon them by firms like M&S.

There has already been a notable dip in the cost of cloud solutions like SaaS over the past couple of years, with competition helping to keep expenses at a low level.

For smaller businesses, the cost of the cloud will be less of an issue, because as French clearly points out, the issue here is only applicable when dealing with several billion transactions a year.

This at least means that SMBs and start-ups are being given a leg up in the modern IT market, whereas in the past they might have been left in the wake of much larger rivals, with the resources to spend big on emerging tech trends.

French’s comments also make it apparent that even those who are critical of the cloud today are coming at it from a positive perspective, because there is a persistent and prevailing desire to adopt cloud platforms.

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