Is It Too Late to Build a Cloud?

Arthur Cole
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Five Steps to Prepare for the Global Intercloud

Now that the cloud has become all but mainstream in the modern data economy, people are starting to look for ways to improve upon the initial concept. After all, with fully virtual environments capable of extending across all manner of physical infrastructure, IT is no longer relegated to the one-size-fits-all construct of the typical data center.

For the enterprise, that means a cloud optimized for the complex and highly specialized applications that drive business productivity. This enterprise-class cloud has, in fact, become a key component in the strategies of numerous cloud providers as they seek to rival the influence of Amazon, Box and other public services.

To some, however, this is a losing strategy. As Adobe’s Matt Asay puts it, the key element in cloud computing is scale: Those that have the most of it will win, and by any measure that means Amazon, Google, Microsoft and the other cloud behemoths. Scale not only affords the ability to handle any enterprise workload that comes along, it also provides the leverage needed to drive prices down and squeeze out smaller rivals. It’s the same strategy that Rockefeller, Carnegie, and other robber barons of the Gilded Age used to solidify their monopolies. Anyone who is not already counted as one of the major public cloud services, Asay said, should literally “shut up shop.”

Reliability is vital as well, as last week’s scheduled shutdown at Verizon showed. The company’s nascent service went dark for two days in order to implement a system update. Forgetting for the moment that the shutdown affected only Verizon’s public cloud, not its enterprise-class services, Asay claims the move gives Verizon a black eye because it robs customers of the convenience that the cloud is supposed to provide: service that is not only broadly scalable, but available and reliable as well. But I am guessing that given the choice, must users would take a planned, scheduled stoppage over the unplanned outages that hit the cloud, including Amazon’s, from time to time.

While it is true that the top cloud providers are seeing substantial growth – 90 percent for Amazon and 128 percent for Microsoft in the most recent quarter – this may be more indicative of the fact that the enterprise has been slow in recognizing the importance of cloud computing and its relationship to mobile, social media and other consumer-driven services. As 2nd Watch CTO Kris Bliesner notes, hybrid clouds are the preferred end-solution for many enterprises, but it will take time to convert local infrastructure to the private cloud needed to support such architectures. Once they are ready, the enterprise will be on the hunt for cloud partners that provide not only scale and flexibility but compatibility with internal cloud-based infrastructure. Ask any CIO how easy it is to migrate workloads off Amazon to someone else’s cloud and you’ll get an idea of how important compatibility and integration are.

Cloud Computing

And this gets to the heart of the disconnect that exists between the enterprise and the public cloud. It’s not that the infrastructure isn’t sound or the cost/scale isn’t attractive, but that the applications residing on public services simply aren’t up to snuff. According to analytics firm Netskope, nearly 88 percent of public cloud apps are deemed unfit for the enterprise when measured against key metrics like security, auditability and business continuity. This is a problem because the average number of cloud-based applications per enterprise jumped from 579 to 613 in the last quarter of 2014. That means a whole lot of data is now flowing to applications that would be rejected by IT if someone tried to deploy them on legacy infrastructure.

Without doubt, the public cloud will continue as a key resource for the enterprise going forward, but so will private and hybrid clouds. While cost and scalability will remain as key factors in the deployment process, so will support for key features and applications that the enterprise has come to rely upon over the years. And yes, small providers will have to figure out a way to add real value to their offerings if they hope to compete against the big guys.

In the end, however, the prize will go to the company that provides that most robust set of business-class services without forcing the enterprise to re-invent its data infrastructure from the ground up.

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.

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