It’s nice to be wanted; it’s even better to be needed.
That pretty much sums up the enterprise industry these days as vendors and providers of all stripes fall over themselves to tap into the lucrative market for cloud-based infrastructure and application services. Not only is it driving costs to the floor, but it is producing a bumper crop of new and combined offerings that seek to cater to the enterprise’s every whim.
The latest big announcement came from IBM and SAP, which are solidifying their existing partnership to provide broad infrastructure support for the SAP HANA Big Data platform. While this comes at a time when both companies are struggling to maintain profitability, it is nonetheless a win for organizations dealing with heavy workloads or hoping to leverage the Internet of Things for the development of new markets and increased business activity. One of the main problems in creating adequate Big Data capabilities is building the infrastructure to house it, and with a ready-made cloud solution from an experienced enterprise vendor like IBM, that task becomes a lot less burdensome.
In fact, much of the recent activity in the IT space is centered on positioning traditional vendors and product lines for the cloud, says Nebula’s Chris Kemp. Whether it is HP’s breakup or recent acquisition of Eucalyptus, Cisco taking over Metacloud or the spate of executive shuffling that brought top enterprise talent like Red Hat’s Brian Stevens to Google and OpenStack champion Bill Vass to Amazon, the focus across the board seems to be overcoming lingering doubts about the cloud’s efficacy as a professional platform. With more than $3 trillion in annual spending on the table, the enterprise market is simply too big to ignore.
It seems likely, then, that we won’t see the rise of general-purpose cloud infrastructure as much as environments geared specifically to key tasks like Big Data and mobile collaboration. As Sungard Availability Services’ Jeff Fleece notes, developing the right cloud begins with knowing what you want to do with it first. To that end, enterprise executives need to determine the key processes and systems to port to the cloud, as well as the proper selection of resource pools and the staff to oversee this new computing environment. Above all, be sure to base your technology decisions on what is best for business objectives, not the other way around.
If there is a fly in the ointment, however, it is the challenge of migrating applications and data to the cloud. Many organizations have grown quite comfortable with their on-premises infrastructure, which was never designed for the hustle and bustle of the cloud, so aside from literally shipping in-house disk drives and other systems to the cloud provider, enterprises need creative solutions to produce an effective cloud experience, says Delphix’ Kyle Hailey. As anyone with any cloud experience can attest, providers tend to play up all the cost and flexibility benefits of their platforms, while leaving the messy migration details until after the contracts are signed. This is the reason why many organizations are looking past mere resource virtualization when embracing the cloud to full data virtualization, which opens up the possibility of seamlessly moving large amounts of data across disparate infrastructure.
Cloud supporters will no doubt claim that increased deployment of enterprise-class services will inevitably lead to an all-cloud data environment for the IT industry at large, but it is more likely that we will see an increase in hybrid deployments first. Organizations still value their data above all else, so it is only natural that they would want to maintain an active role in the care and feeding of the underlying infrastructure.
But the good news is that the cloud industry wants your business, and that gives IT plenty of leverage to influence the future development of the distributed data environment.
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.