At the moment, there is no greater priority in enterprise IT than building out and leveraging the cloud. Organizations that make the transition successfully will reap the benefits of a more agile infrastructure and lower costs. Those that don’t will fall into obsolescence.
But the sheer number of options when it comes to cloud services and infrastructure is mind-boggling. Whether it is public, private or hybrid, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS or the numerous permutations within those groups, the roadmap to a successful cloud environment is far from clear.
Like any IT deployment, it all starts with the platform you choose. This is particularly crucial when it comes to the private cloud because it is the owned-and-operated rock upon which all other cloud services will be built. And it is why we’ve seen such a plethora of options lately, both from traditional IT vendors and the rising tide of cloud providers.
SingleHop, for example, just released the Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), which combines onsite hardware and software from VMware, Veeam, EMC and others with its own global automation and orchestration platform to allow for a low-cost but scalable means of building cloud infrastructure from scratch. The company is pitching the platform to small and midsize businesses (SMBs) that may not have the resources to implement enterprise-class cloud infrastructure on their own. This is not the only private cloud platform on the market, warns Forbes' Ben Kepes, but these and other solutions present the enterprise with a stark choice: Either build your cloud from discrete components a la the traditional data center, or buy into an all-in-one platform that increases your reliance on a single vendor.
Of course, the cloud does not need to represent a full replacement of general-purpose data capabilities, but could emerge along a wide range of specialized services. Quantrix’ new Qloud is a prime example, as it is geared specifically to support collaboration and resource distribution for planning, budgeting and forecasting functions in the banking and finance industries. The platform is based on the company’s Modeler analytics suite that provides predictive analytics for highly complex workflows and data environments. In this way, companies can enhance team-based approaches to financial modeling while preserving critical data and systems behind the corporate firewall.
The rise of new private cloud platforms does not mean the classic debate pitting public vs. private is over, however. Companies like CommVault continue to supplement their private cloud offerings with commissioned studies that claim dramatic improvements in flexibility and functionality following the conversion to service- and application-centric infrastructure. At the same time, the cost, time and risk of deploying new data architectures is reduced because the higher order software layers are completely divorced from underlying hardware.
On the other side, you have IT consultants like David Linthicum who argue that private clouds are still too expensive and unwieldy for most organizations, and it is only a matter of time before all but the largest switch over to a fully public footing. Studies from firms like RightScale purportedly back up this notion, pointing out that owning hardware and software is still more expensive than leasing it, and that fears of security and availability Armageddon in the cloud have not materialized.
It seems to me, however, that most organizations are willing to incur extra cost and complexity when it comes to supporting critical applications and data and are therefore willing to support the private cloud as long as it can deliver on the cost and flexibility benefits compared to traditional infrastructure. At the same time, they will support the public cloud for bulk processing, storage and other applications for non-critical workloads, but only if it can provide most of the enterprise-class management and governance features that are common in the data center.
Ultimately, of course, any and all decisions regarding the cloud should come down to solutions. Those that solve problems or enhance capabilities at the lowest price point will win, and the details surrounding the underlying configuration should be a secondary consideration.
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.