Driven by the growing demand for lower costs and increased performance within business IT infrastructure, Cloud Computing has emerged as an efficient and effective platform for sharing resources, applications, software and information. With the uptake of Cloud Computing, IT has undergone a period of dramatic change, moving from being something that is fundamentally delivered and consumed as a product, to being delivered and consumed as a service.

The move towards cloud services is something that businesses of all shapes and sizes must contend with. For those businesses that do not have any legacy IT infrastructure, the move can be straightforward enough. The public cloud, delivering IT as a utility service, enables new architectures and practices, which nimble start-ups can quickly take advantage of.

For established organisations the path to the cloud is less clear; they must deal with their installed base and sunk assets, consisting of hardware and software products. In most cases significant investments will have been made in these, while people and processes will have been put in place over time that manage occasionally distinct assets or parts of the IT infrastructure.

The total performance of a cloud service is always based on the weakest performing technology layer, therefore getting the foundation or physical layer correctly specified, designed and installed is a crucial first step towards updating a business in the era of Cloud Computing. Yet, this new generation of best-practices for cloud applications and operations must be delicately reconciled with an existing IT culture and its associated processes.

Every enterprise must find a way to manage their existing applications, traditional infrastructures and associated practices, while simultaneously taking advantage of utility computing models to remain competitive. As with all journeys, a path needs to be created and stepping stones are also needed to bridge gaps along the way. These stepping stones are needed to enable the transformation for people and process, as well as technology.

Network Service Providers have a crucial role to play in not only providing the physical and logical pathways to connect cloud components, but also the additional services and support to enable the transformation. They are in a position to manage the critical interface between the private virtualised and public cloud environment, not just in terms of the network connectivity, but also from a security, performance and reliability standpoint. They can ensure the necessary checks and balances are put in place to protect corporate systems and data as they move between legacy infrastructure and cloud platforms.

The move to adoption of cloud computing will undoubtedly involve various products, but these ultimately need to be wrapped up as part of a true end to end service that includes management and support. No one is in a better place to deliver this than Network Service Providers.

This is particularly true when one considers the increasing need for cloud aggregation – that is, the ability to seamlessly connect customers to multiple best of breed cloud providers for individual services. Network Service providers can take on the role of ‘Cloud Aggregators’ – providing services which not only simplify the process of connectivity, but manage those connections end-to-end – ensuring performance, security and reliability all meet the customer’s requirements.

Network Service Providers (NSPs) are in the perfect position to be able to help guide businesses through this period of transition as trusted advisors. NSPs should not simply look to deliver a product, as so many players in the cloud space still do, rather they can offer a true service that makes the transition to the cloud more straightforward and ensures customers derive maximum value from it. Indeed, perhaps the most important element in ensuring a successful move to the cloud is this spirit of collaboration and trust.