April 9, 2009
GE also is evaluating which applications can run in public clouds rather than in GE's data centers. In two examples, it's moving to WebEx for Web conferencing and adding Zoho for Web-based spreadsheet editing and storage. (It also retains Excel.) Every GE employee has access to Zoho tools, though the actual data is stored internally in shared folders. Meanwhile, GE is taking Google Apps for a spin, and it's watching Microsoft's plans for the next version of Office, which will include some Web-based apps, and Cisco's plans for recently acquired PostPath, which makes an e-mail and collaboration server Cisco has promised to offer on-demand.
Simpson likes collaboration apps in the public cloud, and GE's goal is to choose a service within the next year. "That's where it makes perfect sense. You want to collaborate with your customers, and that makes it easier," he says.
GE has used Amazon Web Services for "cloud bursting," or tapping into server capacity on demand. A typical scenario where that would come into play is to support traffic spikes on NBC Universal's Web sites in support of a popular TV show or during a televised event that includes Web-streamed video.
Simpson doesn't want GE-specific code
But GE's own data centers will do most of the heavy lifting, and the company has embarked on a multiyear strategy to make them more energy efficient. That work began with GE's Cincinnati data center, where the company has replaced old chillers and installed a building management system, a reverse-osmosis water purification system, and an air conditioning system.
Simpson expects internal clouds to further reduce power consumption and, because GE's servers will be more highly optimized, result in lower hardware expenses. On top of that, he says, employees will spend less time managing the data center, which should translate into more savings.
"There are a lot of places where people always allocate a little bit extra," Simpson says, describing the way IT planners and users tend to think of their computing resources. Through cloud computing, GE hopes to turn that little bit extra into a sizable advantage.
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Why 'Private Cloud' Computing Is Real -- And Worth Considering
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