The Cloud in Practice: Harvard Medical joins Industry Experts on Cloud Panel at The Open Group Boston Conference

This week Platform customer Dr. Marcos Athanasoulis from Harvard Medical School spoke on a panel at The Open Group’s Architecture Practitioner’s Conference at the Hyatt Harborside Hotel in Boston. Entitled “Taking the Business Decision to Use Cloud Computing,” Dr. Athanasoulis was joined on the panel by a number of industry experts on cloud including Mark Skilton, Global Director, Applications Outsourcing, Capgemini; Pam Isom, Senior Certified Executive IT Architect, IBM; and Henry Peyret, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research. The panel was moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst, Interarbor Solutions, who is also a prominent blogger for ZDNet.

In their discussion, the panel covered a wide range of topics, from the cloud themes that in their opinion will survive the hype cycle, to a deep dive on how Harvard Medical School (HMS) has implemented their own private cloud. According to Skilton, utility computing, SaaS and application stores will be the primary drivers of cloud. One overarching theme during the panel was the need to find some sort of common ground for IT and the business when it comes to cloud. Isom pointed out that cloud cannot be done in a vacuum, so providers and stakeholders will need to come together. Agreeing, Peyret pointed out that not only do IT and business need to be aligned, but they must actually be in sync at all times for cloud to work.

Providing the practical perspective, Athanosoulis talked about how HMS has found common ground from which to function. HMS is a unique use case for cloud because the policy at the school is that IT cannot mandate central IT services. Because the department must work with the school’s many researchers to provide services that meet their research objectives, Athanasoulis refers to HMS as the “land of a thousand CIOs.” Over the past few years, Athanasoulis has implemented a private cloud for HMS’ researchers, using Platform LSF and ISF, to support that cloud. According to Athanasoulis the real value of the cloud at HMS is the ability for them to handle projects that require a lot of adaptation and that can handle the “burstiness” needed for massive research compute cycles.

Athanasoulis has been able to find common ground within HMS by working closely with the school’s deans as well as with the researchers themselves. To implement the internal cloud, his department first went to the school’s senior business leaders and made the argument for the upfront investment they would need to demonstrate the value derived from using the cloud. The implementation was iterative, with Athanasoulis first urging first adopter colleagues to try the cloud, then using their word of mouth to encourage others to use it. Use throughout the individual research departments has been growing steadily ever since.

According to the other panelists, this type of iterative adoption approach to the cloud, beginning small and then repeating the process throughout the organization as needed, is the best way to get buy-in throughout an enterprise. They also foresee that most clouds within organizations will eventually take the form of providing a “business services catalog” for users to pick and choose their IT apps from. In this scenario, the IT department will evolve to be the internal promoter and broker of those services. Finally, the panel provided the following recommendations for IT departments considering the cloud:

· Evangelize and act as a service provider
· Contractualize services as a business catalog
· Look at cloud as a risk mitigator
· Use best practices
· Try it, then practice what you preach
· Pilot, Participate, Produce results, Promote the services


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