By now, it should be clear to most enterprises that simply spinning up new cloud environments is not the answer to ongoing cost/performance issues. In fact, the cloud can actually aggravate these problems if not created and managed properly.
Perhaps the most common disconnect between the cloud and traditional infrastructure is the application. Too often, enterprise users – primarily business managers with little or no IT experience – provision cloud resources as a means to support legacy applications, which ends up hurting processes when those applications cannot deal with the dynamic infrastructure on the cloud.
This has led to the rise of cloud native applications, which in all likelihood are going to assume the bulk of enterprise activity before the decade is out. That is, of course, provided that both enterprise and third-party developers can figure out how to make them work effectively for the kinds of workloads that will drive productivity in the future.
A big step toward that goal emerged this week with the creation of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. The group, part of the Linux Foundation, is dedicated to fostering open source development of cloud native apps, primarily through the use of containers and the emerging field of microservices. It counts AT&T, Box, Cisco, IBM, Twitter, VMware and other tech luminaries as members. The aim is to devise a common architecture that allows the enterprise to scale cloud applications in conjunction with cloud infrastructure while at the same time improving development processes and fostering greater resource utilization and efficiency on the app level.
Let’s be clear about one thing, though, says Fortune’s Barb Darrow: That common architecture is to be Google’s Kubernetes container orchestration platform, which also happened to see its Version 1.0 debut at OSCON this week. Google also recently joined the OpenStack Foundation, ostensibly as a way to smooth over concerns that Kubernetes-plus-Docker overshadows some of the infrastructure that OpenStack defines, but on the surface, at least, it is a sign that Google is interested in ensuring open access across multiple clouds. Of course, this could be a problem for other top-tier cloud providers like Amazon and Microsoft, neither of which has added their support to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.
Meanwhile, foundation members like VMware are moving ahead on a range of initiatives aimed at streamlining the process for the development and implementation of cloud native apps. VMware recently released a pair of initiatives that leverage Docker containers within the VMware enterprise ecosystem. VMware AppCatalyst is an API and CLI-based development hypervisor that enables desktop-level private clouds to test containerized and microservice-based applications. Project Bonneville then enables seamless integration of Docker containers into vSphere where they can be scaled and managed in isolation while still providing the transparency needed to aggregate their various functions into app-level virtual environments. VMware has long claimed that harnessing containers within an over-arching virtual environment provides for a more streamlined and higher functioning environment than running them on native hardware.
And it is starting to look like applications based on microservices are the only effective way to implement cloud-native applications, says IBM’s Ryan J. Baxter. The basic problem is that the large, monolithic apps that populate legacy environments simply lack the flexibility to adjust to the shifting resource sets that are common in the cloud. This isn’t to say that monolithic apps can never work in the cloud, but if the goal is to enable flexibility and scalability across a disparate infrastructure, then it will be far easier to do this by breaking the app into hundreds, even thousands, of pieces than trying to manage them as a single block of code.
Naturally, none of this is feasible without a good deal of automation, most likely on an app-level framework that allows users to define their goals and let the app take it from there. And this, after all, is the motivation behind Kubernetes and the CNC Foundation.
The only question now is whether this kind of environment will gain universal cloud support or whether key players like Amazon and Microsoft prefer another solution.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.