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IT experts optimistic on progress of virtualization, cloud technology
Published in Daily News Egypt on 01 - 12 - 2010

CAIRO: The impact of virtualization and cloud servers on data centers is simply making better use of IT equipment by decreasing the amount of hardware used, said Ragy Raouf Egypt's territory manager for APC by Schneider Electric.
Raouf spoke to Daily News Egypt on the sidelines of Sunday's conference on storage, virtualization and datacenters, organized by the International Data Corporation (IDC) and titled “Building a Smarter Infrastructure.”
Virtualization is a term used to describe the creation of a virtual operating system, server, storage device or network resources enabling IT management based on the actual use of IT and utility computing, in which computer processing power is seen as a utility that clients can receive only as needed.
According to Raouf, APC offers many solutions regarding the infrastructure for IT equipment including racks, power systems, UPS systems and cooling systems in addition to software to manage infrastructure in terms of power and cooling.
“There are many losses due to operation of hardware where a fixed amount of power, performance or network space is allocated regardless of the amount used. Storage, performance and power usage are variable and virtualization makes use of IT applications to the maximum by managing this variability,” he explained.
Raouf said that for APC, IT infrastructure is no longer offered as stacks or bundles but as modules or smaller units that can be added or removed depending on need.
“This enables you to reach two levels of efficiency: efficiency of IT, computing power and performance; and efficiency in terms of power, storage, cooling performance or data center infrastructure efficiency,” he added.
The next step in this technology according to Raouf is cloud computing. “Cloud technology enables us to use a server in a virtual location (cloud), where all users are connected to a network which …allocates performance, power and networking capacity depending on demand,” Raouf explained.
Giving an example of how this model can save money for businesses, Raouf said that using clouds basically means that you buy less hardware because all the hardware you have is used efficiently, reducing hardware expenditure by up to 30 percent.
It also speeds up business processes in terms of upgrades and updates, as these must only be done for the main (virtual) cloud server, which also saves time.
Raouf concluded that businesses in Egypt are starting to demand this technology due to the increasing importance and needs of data centers, particularly in the telecom and banking industries. These include entities that require databases with large amounts of data that are updated regularly as well as companies that are widely dispersed from their headquarters requiring significant networking and coordination.
Walid Gomaa, HP StrorageWorks business unit manager for the Middle East, said that for these businesses, most IT0related problems are maintenance related.
“Most of the budget is allocated to keep the systems running: 70 percent is to maintenance and 30 percent goes to innovation,” Gomaa told Daily News Egypt.
According to Gomaa, HP is trying to reverse this ratio or at least reach a 50-50 budget ratio asking the question: How can we have a new computing to help manage costs and increase innovation?
“In our current normal IT systems, every end-user has a pc. In the cloud case, end users have what we call a ‘Think Line,' which is basically a screen and keyboard, and everything else, is on the cloud servers, saving a significant amount of hardware funds and the hassle of viruses and CPU problems.”
Gomaa said that it is very costly for small and medium enterprises in particular to invest in IT infrastructure, so it is better to employ another organization which offers all IT service needs as well as offering maintenance, upgrades and updates, allowing smaller companies to focus on their businesses.
“The amount of saving can reach up to 50 percent,” said Gomaa.
“This virtualization is becoming mainstream and it is the first step to cloud computing. Some people virtualize for more efficiency, some for more flexibility and some virtualize to eventually implement a cloud system,” said Ahmed Hamed, Cisco Consulting Systems engineer for Africa and Levant.
According to Hamed, Cisco is focusing on the networking required for these new systems. “You have to have a network that is virtualization aware from end to end, from the client to the data center,” he said.
He added that after working on virtualization systems for three years, Cisco eventually felt that it is not about perfecting the technology anymore; rather, it is time to make it more relevant to businesses — which in turn affected Cisco's strategy to market the new technology.
“Energy efficiency, space efficiency, cost efficiency and HR efficiency can all be achieved in one product solution. We package this as a virtual desktop solution, not just a server or a switch, making our solutions more relevant to customers who are not into the technical details,” Hamed explained.
“The technology itself is very exciting and we are getting to cloud computing faster than anybody could have anticipated, we thought it would take five to seven years but we are starting to see banks and service providers starting to introduce it all over Africa.
“I was really amazed to see how fast the demands for these services are growing,” he commented.
According to Hamed, Africa and the Middle East have an advantage over Europe and the US because they are greenfields for this technology.
“We don't have to worry about integration and compatibility with other applications and already available IT heritage. There are many service providers that offer cloud services for greenfield markets which can be operational within six months, whereas in the developed countries it could take much longer,” he said.

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