The lifecycle of any given technological innovation follows a fairly standard path: proposal, development, deployment and then either success or failure based on cost, efficacy, execution or a number of other factors.
With the cloud, however, we seem to be diverging from this pattern, or at the very least the process is being drawn out due to the radical and fundamental way it affects the entire data stack, and indeed the entire business model.
The private cloud in particular seems to be caught in a no-man’s land of doubt/certainty, confusion/clarity, and ongoing debate between those who support it to the nines and those who chalk it up to so much wishful thinking. On any given day, a web search of the terms “private cloud” can produce the following results:
“Why the Private Cloud is Fun and Easy,” by Aberdeen Group’s Jim Rapoza. The gist here is that, while complicated, the private cloud is no more difficult to master than a long string of previous IT solutions, and in fact is much more simple and straightforward than legacy infrastructure once you get used to the new way of working. In Rapoza’s view, the private cloud’s difficulties to date are the legacy of server virtualization, which was rushed into production too quickly at many organizations and thus failed to deliver the expected results immediately. If implemented carefully and correctly, the private cloud will ultimately solve many virtualization-related problems like VM sprawl, poor utilization, and lack of self-service capabilities, and the best way to do that is to simply incorporate the public cloud templates and processes within the enterprise-owned data environment.
This is followed up by “The Private Cloud Is for Suckers,” by Adobe’s Matt Asay. He has been railing against the private cloud for some time now, which is not to say he is wrong but that it is nearly impossible to query Google on the subject without pulling up something he’s written. In Asay’s view, the economics of the public cloud will always outweigh those of the private cloud, and the security, governance and other fears that many CIOs cite as reasons to avoid public resources for critical functions is merely the same old FUD that greets any other change before it becomes the accepted norm. The private cloud, he says, is merely a last-bid gambit by legacy infrastructure providers and old-line IT staffers to preserve their own lucrative status quos at the expense of productivity, efficiency and profitability for the enterprise.
This is part of the reason why Datamation’s Christine Taylor threw up her hands recently and posted “Will the Real Private Cloud Please Stand Up?” While private clouds have advantages over legacy infrastructure, particularly when integrating with public clouds, but lack the capex and scalability of those same public resources, how are we to ascertain which solution is the “correct” one? Perhaps the answer lies in the question: With data loads and business processes becoming increasingly diverse, the enterprise will choose “all of the above” simply as a means of keeping all options open in an increasingly competitive economic landscape.
And perhaps, as InfoWorld’s Eric Knorr noted recently, the question isn’t “which cloud is better,” but “what are the ramifications of cloud computing regardless of the way specific architectures play out?” Knorr takes Microsoft tech guru Jeffrey Snover to task (slightly) over the notion that automated cloud computing will be no more disruptive to IT departments than earlier plug-and-play innovations – it simply shifts technicians’ responsibilities from one level of the stack to another. Fair enough, but while plug-and-play was a limited hardware change, cloud computing is a fundamental shift in data architectures and operations in which the data center itself becomes a largely integrated compute, storage and networking component requiring no more maintenance and operational expertise than the PC sitting on the knowledge worker’s desk.
In this light, it would probably be best for today’s prognosticators-at-large (including yours truly) to shift the focus of their examinations from “what kind of cloud will win?” to “what does the future hold no matter what kind of cloud the enterprise chooses to deploy?”
There probably won’t be any greater agreement on that level, but at least we will be talking about things that really matter to the people who hope to work and prosper in a cloud-based 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.