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NATS is one of Europe's largest air traffic control service providers

NATS is one of Europe’s largest air traffic control service providers

Cloud service providers have been improving their service terms but still have a way to go when it comes to guaranteeing service reliability, said NATS CIO Gavin Walker.

NATS, originally known as the National Air Traffic Control Services was established in 1962 to provide air traffic control services to airports within the UK initially and subsequently internationally.

The company’s CIO recently outlined his vision at a London event for shifting mission-critical services to the cloud and the three and a half-year journey NATS has embarked on in doing so.

“What we found around 365 is that Microsoft wasn’t actually able to provide enough assurances for security, for availability – all the things enterprises need really,” Walker told Business Cloud News.

“Even though it was going to save me money by putting it into a cloud type of solution, to go back to the business and say ‘I don’t know what the availability is going to be’… I couldn’t stand behind that,” he said.

Walker’s comments echo concerns shared by many enterprises looking to shift to cloud services, as many have already invested in getting their on-premises solutions to work well, and the perception that moving to the cloud implies a compromise on security and reliability is still very real according to a recent study commissioned, somewhat ironically, by Microsoft (interestingly, the same study also found reliability and security to be among the cloud’s greatest perceived benefits once enterprises chose to adopt cloud services).

But Walker suggested things have moved on considerably in the last few years. NATS now uses a virtual private cloud for most mission-critical IT applications will soon make its first foray into the desktop-as-a-service space, offering the service to some of NATS’s “IT light” groups.

While he highlighted the efforts of SaaS and IaaS providers like Salesforce and Microsoft, which are developing their international datacentre presence and investing heavily in improving the quality of service enterprises should be able to expect from the cloud, Walker suggested service providers still need to do more to offer cloud services on better, fairer terms.

“My view is we have all of these assets within NATS, and you see a couple of big long rows of IT equipment in our datacentre. In the future I want to go into that datacentre and see one little box kicking around,” Walker said. “But the market needs to change for me to be able to contract for that, because if you go into the detail of the SLA, all of the risk is left with me and none with the provider.”

“No matter how much I could tell the CEO that we’ve saved millions of pounds, if the service isn’t working, the CEO phones me,” he said.

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