That the cloud is a major boon to the enterprise is beyond question. At this point, it’s kind of like saying the CPU was a really good idea.
But no matter how valuable the cloud becomes, there will always be questions over its design, implementation and efficacy when it comes to specific applications and workloads. Already, cloud architectures have diverged along three distinct tracks – SaaS, PaaS and IaaS – and countless sub-tracks that use one or more of the three to achieve targeted goals, such as data center as a service, disaster recovery as a service, and networking as a service.
So while increased use of enterprise-facing cloud services seems inevitable, the hows, wheres and whys of this transition are still unclear, which is why leading IT vendors like Intel are hoping to move things along.
The company recently announced its Cloud for All initiative, designed to make public, private and hybrid clouds easy to deploy and scale. The venture involves both technology development on the CPU level and elsewhere as well as partnerships with a broad range of vendors, cloud providers and enterprises in order to ease many of the integration, migration and other issues that arise when transitioning legacy enterprise functions to the cloud. The company is banking on the notion that the initial consumer-driven adoption of cloud services has run its course and that, going forward, opportunities for enterprise-level deployments will grow as organizations large and small seek to leverage Big Data, the Internet of Things and other initiatives that would break the budget if housed on traditional IT infrastructure.
A key aspect of the program is a partnership with Rackspace, which has long styled itself as a more enterprise-friendly cloud provider than consumer-oriented services like Amazon and Box. The duo will create an innovation center featuring a 1,000-node cluster designed to foster development of enterprise-class tools and platforms for the OpenStack framework. As Intel’s Diane Bryant told eWeek, the cloud has already shown a compelling value proposition just based on consumer services, so the next step is to demonstrate its worth to not only enterprise users, but also to developers and data center operators.
Based on some of the latest market research, the timing for enterprise-class cloud development could not be better. According to service and software provisioning specialist SteelBrick, more than 70 percent of high-tech providers are reporting growth in sales quote volumes through SaaS providers like Salesforce, and that the overall market is growing substantially faster than the overall economy. The company’s most recent SaaS Purchases Report shows that B2B activity surrounding storage, infrastructure, networking, Big Data and a number of other fields is on the upswing, with both sales and quote volumes on the rise and closing times decreasing.
The danger in all of this, however, is the tendency for enterprise executives to apply the same architectural and application accessibility thinking that exists in the data center to the new cloud environment. As BetterCloud CEO David Politis explains, this is a sure way to limit the cloud’s efficacy and encourage users to pursue the same self-provisioning practices that have led to shadow IT and non-interoperable service environments. Only by overseeing the basic framework and then letting users select and optimize their own cloud environments can IT hope to remain relevant in the future.
Enterprise executives should also be wary of turning to the cloud to solve every issue that comes up in the data center. The cloud can do many wonderful things, and it is the focus of much of the development and deployment activity taking place in the IT industry right now, but that does not mean it is the right solution all the time.
Indeed, an initiative like the Cloud for All program could end up missing the mark in the long run because it places the selection of technology before the definition of the problem. A far more meaningful approach would be to de-emphasize the cloud and stress the need for low-cost, highly effective data infrastructure, no matter what form it takes.
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.