From an infrastructure perspective, the cloud is a thing to be built. But from an application perspective, the cloud is a thing to be inhabited, to be navigated.
This distinction can sometimes make it difficult for all sides to agree on what type of cloud is to be deployed and how it is to be utilized and monitored. And ultimately, it means the enterprise won’t be able to fully embrace the cloud until both sides are ready for it.
This is part of the reason vCloud, CloudStack, Eucalyptus and other cloud platforms are scrambling to gain traction: Whoever controls the cloud operating environment will sit in the sweet spot when it comes to monetizing the future data ecosystem. Red Hat, for one, is already talking about building a range of hybrid application models for CloudStack that would fit more comfortably in environments that blend traditional enterprise and new cloud-style workloads. In fact, this was the key goal behind the company’s acquisition of ManageIQ last year, developers of a unified virtual/cloud management and automation interface.
But how do application requirements affect the development of infrastructure? In any number of ways, given the fact that infrastructure – through virtualization, SDN and other developments – is becoming an increasingly fungible commodity that can be rebuilt and repurposed with extraordinary ease. As RES Software’s Jeff Fisher noted recently, the focus behind infrastructure development should shift from resource provisioning and black box management to more “contextually aware” approaches like workspace virtualization. In this way, both applications and infrastructure can be provisioned according to user requirements across hybrid environments. At the same time, it enables a higher degree of self-service provisioning – an increasingly popular user demand – and lowers overall operational costs to boot.
Hybrid application environments are not intended to merely bridge on-premises and cloud infrastructure, but are increasingly crossing over to mobile environments as well. According to Gartner, hybrid apps that cross between HTML5 and native mobile environments will make up about half of all mobile deployments by 2016. This is the best way to ensure users gain the improved experience and performance that native mobile provides without having to build multiple versions for each device or operating system. And this trend will only accelerate as mobile devices eclipse the PC as the preferred client among knowledge workers. By the end of this year, in fact, Web access from mobile devices will outnumber the PC for the first time, according to Gartner.
In data environments, as in life in general, it takes two to tango. As infrastructure evolves into hybrid architectures, so will applications. It would be inaccurate to say that one is driving the other, but there is clearly a symbiotic relationship in play that will ultimately determine the success or failure of the conversion to more utility-style, cloud-based architectures.
And in that regard, it would be wise to infrastructure architects to determine not only how to get on the cloud, but how to use it once everything is in place.