One of the more unsettling aspects of cloud computing is multi-tenancy. What CIO in his right mind would share servers and other hardware with total strangers, regardless of the cost?
It turns out, though, that CIO decision-making has had very little bearing on this point, considering that the majority of cloud deployments are coming from business line managers or even knowledge workers themselves. This puts the sanctity of enterprise data below the need to provision readily available IT capabilities that can get the job done.
A recent report from Mind Commerce puts the shared cloud infrastructure market at $6.63 billion by 2019, representing nearly 30 percent annual growth for the rest of the decade. The impetus behind this activity is the growing realization that the advantages of shared hosted platforms far outweigh the disadvantages, particularly as the digital workforce becomes more adept at collaborative work processes. Indeed, long-standing concerns over security and scalability are falling away as top providers exhibit multiple-nines performance despite the occurrence of high-profile outages.
This isn’t to say that multi-tenant clouds will simply become clearinghouses for all manner of random data and applications. Rather, as ISG analyst Stanton Jones noted recently, the idea of community and membership clouds is catching on across numerous industry verticals. By earmarking shared infrastructure to key data processes, the cloud becomes more attuned to the needs of the enterprise it serves, and the enterprise gains a little more assurance that its data won’t inhabit bare-metal resources with just anyone. Costs will be slightly higher, and the community cloud will probably require a fixed-term of service, but ultimately will provide a specialized tier of shared infrastructure that serves the targeted needs, such as compliance and governance, of key industries.
At the same time, new security platforms are starting to take aim at the unique challenges that multi-tenant clouds face. Radware’s DefensePro offers 100 Gb interfaces capable of overseeing 230 million packets per second across 1,000 active policies. This is designed to offer multi-tenant environments protection against DDoS attacks, including UDP reflection attacks and out-of-state floods, while also taking on non-volume, multi-vectored events. The platform provides individual processing and management capabilities for each tenant, and can secure the overall environment with less hardware than existing platforms.
Still, multi-tenant environments may pose additional burdens on enterprises pursuing a more application-centric approach to their data architecture. Enterprise Strategy Group recently polled several hundred small and mid-level enterprises working with Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) and found that more than a third have encountered configuration issues when supporting multi-tenant applications, as well as operational problems, loss of performance and poor scalability. Part of this, though, can be attributed to underlying infrastructure if, say, the physical device lacks sufficient capacity or is not properly geared to support dynamic data processes and automation.
Like much of the rest of IT infrastructure these days, multi-tenancy is becoming more diverse and more specialized as deployments pick up. Ideally, only low-value bulk data should wind up on general-purpose shared infrastructure within the cloud, with higher-tiered services going toward moderately shared and even fully isolated tiers, depending on the costs involved and the nature of the data itself.
To do this, of course, will require a firm hand on IT’s part, not to dictate individual use of the cloud but to ensure that organizational needs are being met within the distributed data environment. It will require a fair amount of guesswork and trial-and-error, but with a highly dynamic architecture in place, it should be easier to provision and reprovision workloads until the proper balance is struck.
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.