Cloud computing forecast is bright and sunny
Everyone has heard of cloud computing, but its practical applications in a manufacturing operation as less clear. As mobility becomes a greater force in manufacturing operations, the cloud will play a role in information delivery. Plant Engineering content manager Bob Vavra talked with Kevin Price, Senior Product Manager for Infor EAM, about the cloud and the forecast for the future:
PE: For manufacturing today, what are the practical uses of cloud computing?
Price: Cloud computing, from a maintenance management perspective, is an important service for manufacturers, as it gives them more time to focus on things that matter most – operation of their production environments. Placing systems into the cloud, like asset management, removes the headaches of system availability, system responsiveness and system update/upgrade from local management to the cloud provider, who has the skills, knowledge and scalability to meet these demands on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
What this means is that the local resources used to maintain these environments can now provide their value-added skills on higher-end system troubleshooting, system integration, end-user education and further business implementation of the application.
PE: Where does Infor think cloud computing is headed on the manufacturing front? What are the advantages to the cloud in the future?
Price: Infor has been in the cloud for quite some time and continues to be very optimistic on the use of its systems in the infrastructure. As systems become more loosely coupled but bound by vertical and micro-vertical needs, the cloud becomes an ideal infrastructure. Systems no longer require collocation as their integration is augmented by tools like middleware. Systems no longer require a heavy hand to administrate. This allows local resources to focus on improving the business rather than maintaining the tools that make business happen.
In the future, as more de-coupling occurs, cloud users will continue to enjoy the benefits of hassle-free system availability, but will also enjoy the benefits of outsourced storage for big data, referenced asset infrastructure documentation sets, as well as work process instruction and verification materials.
PE: One of the biggest costs for any system manager is data centers. The cloud seems to address a great deal of that. But what are some of the limitations of the cloud?
Price: The limitations of the cloud, in a situation where systems hosted in the cloud are truly “cloud-enabled”, are limited only by the access to them – by the Web, by secure connection, through mobile solutions and remote integration. With an inexperienced vendor, these limitations will persist for many years – until the vendor gets it right. Experience and audited certification are requirements for doing business in the cloud. That’s old hat for Infor.
PE: The biggest challenge seems to be adoption. How do you make the business case for cloud computing in manufacturing?
Price: A business case for anything will vary by industry, vertical, micro-vertical, system, and use-case for the system in question. There are many common threads to point to, but more and more are being unveiled as organizations dig deeper into their reasons for going to cloud in the beginning. Disaster recovery, for example, is a costly idea for any organization, but if handled by an audited and certified provider, it’s a simple alternative to consider.
System availability can also be a costly idea for most organizations as it involves oversight into many machines, systems, secure access to the administration of those systems and redundancy to everything – another headache removed in the growing cloud “norm”.