The cloud industry is starting to look a lot like the wine industry: Experts galore are ready to declare what is and is not a quality cloud, and hybrids and cross-breeds incorporate various components to produce a wide variety of options for consumers.
The debate over the efficacy of the various cloud approaches now on the market will likely continue for some time to come, as neither public nor private infrastructure appears to be going anywhere soon. But remember that all data infrastructure solutions are a means to an end, so it is important to keep your ultimate goals in mind when pursuing any one strategy.
This can be a tricky thing to do, says IBM’s John Easton, because most IT professionals tend to view cloud solutions from their own perspectives as managers of traditional data center infrastructure. In fact, he says he can guess a person’s particular job based on their rationales for migrating to the cloud, such as improved systems management or greater scalability. But this ultimately diminishes the return on any cloud investment because it focuses on how the cloud can solve current problems rather than how it can open new opportunities for the future. This is why most hybrid cloud deployments have proven to be of middling success at best – they are geared largely toward cost-saving and infrastructure efficiency rather than more forward-looking data portability and development agility opportunities.
Another problem with the way most organizations approach the hybrid cloud is that it is viewed as a hedge against future cloud operations, says Cloud Technology Partners’ David Linthicum. Organizations greatly desire the cloud’s operational advantages but are leery of trusting critical systems to third parties, so the obvious solution is to keep key functions at home. There is nothing wrong with this if done for the right reasons, but organizations stand to lose millions by investing in private and hybrid cloud infrastructure to support applications that will simply be ported over to public resources in a few short years anyway.
Of course, the vendor community has a strong vested interest in maintaining demand for hybrid clouds, says V3’s Daniel Robinson – it allows them to leverage legacy product lines for a few more years while they reposition themselves for the new computing paradigm. This actually provides a symbiotic relationship for enterprises that are not ready to fully trust the cloud, but ultimately it fails to support everyone’s best interests in building and maintaining the most efficient, effective support for emerging applications.
But what critics of private and hybrid cloud infrastructure fail to realize is that the public cloud is not without its problems too, says Egnyte CEO Vineet Jain. A key issue is cost, which many organizations are now dealing with as workloads scale up and both the cost of the cloud resources and the connectivity needed to access them start to exceed owned-and-operated infrastructure. This same dynamic can impact security and performance as well, so it makes perfect sense for organizations to test the waters with limited cloud deployments at first while at the same time converting legacy infrastructure to a cloud footing to produce an integrated environment in which ultimate control is maintained by the enterprise, not the cloud provider.
This leads us back to the notion of deploying the right IT solution for the right reason. As I’ve mentioned before, simply “getting on the cloud” is not enough, regardless of whether it is public, private or hybrid. Just as with legacy infrastructure, upgrades must be centered on solutions but with an eye toward incorporation into a larger, integrated data ecosystem.
It won’t be easy, but as data architectures become more dynamic and performance is measured according to real-time metrics, it will likely be the difference between success and failure in the new digital economy.
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.