Most enterprises are already realizing some of the benefits of cloud computing in the form of lower capital and operating costs, better scalability and access to more modern, robust infrastructure.
But if they are not careful, they run the risk of migrating workloads onto too many disparate platforms, creating the same kinds of data silos that currently plague the data center, except this time they are spread across town, across the country or around the world.
This is why many leading-edge adopters are starting to gravitate toward unified cloud solutions. The ability to meld all available resources, regardless of who owns them or where they are located, is a major step toward the initial promises of broad federation and highly scalable, interoperable data environments in the cloud.
One way to do this is to coordinate disparate resources on the virtual layer. VMware has been pushing this strategy from the earliest cloud deployments, arguing that even as workloads become distributed and containerized, a unified virtual management stack is needed to tie it all together. To that end, the company recently updated its vRealize automation stack and the vSAN virtual storage area network to better enable organizations to treat multiple cloud deployments as a single data ecosystem while still enabling a high degree of user self-service. As well, the company is close to launching its Workspace ONE platform that brings mobile device and app management into the mix.
A key aspect of unified cloud operations is access to storage. But this is also one of the easiest things to lose track of, especially as users start to spin up resources to suit their own needs rather than those of the enterprise. Start-up firms like Infinit are working to address this problem by offering Dev/Ops and other users a seamless, decentralized file system that can be accessed directly from user workstations. The system essentially allows the creation of virtual drives that, in turn, access data stores from multiple providers located anywhere in the world as if they were housed on a local array. The platform supports AWS S3 and Google Cloud Storage, as well as consumer services like Box and Dropbox.
Disjointed cloud solutions can also wreak havoc on the mainframe, which still handles the bulk of activity for industries like finance and insurance. As advanced analytics for risk assessment and other critical functions start to tap data from multiple sources, discrepancies in the storage formats and the data itself can skew results. Veristorm’s vStorm Enterprise 3.0 platform allows the enterprise to tailor functions like Infrastructure as a Service, Database as a Service and cloud orchestration for the specific needs of the mainframe. Not only does it support the cloud as a target for data integration, it also provides for unification across distributed sources, such as Hadoop, NoSQL, ETL applications and numerous archive and analytics solutions.
But even if storage and other resources are unified, the enterprise still has to tackle the mammoth problem of growing endpoint diversity, particularly as mobile devices continue to populate the user community. So it’s no surprise that unified endpoint management (UEM) is emerging as such a hot market, with forecasts putting growth at more than 40 percent per year, likely to hit $3.7 billion by the end of the decade.
The overarching goal is to provide single-point access to all endpoints at the same time and to provide a more business-centric approach to existing enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions to enable more streamlined data flow even as users gain increasing autonomy over their devices and applications. At the same time, organizations need to ensure compliance and other regulatory requirements are maintained across disparate infrastructures.
Achieving a unified data environment cuts straight across the two predominate trends in enterprise infrastructure these days: increased reliance on multiple third-party platforms and resources, and greater autonomy within the knowledge workforce to define and provision their own data workspaces.
Charting a course through these shoals will be difficult, and success will be rather hard to quantify given the divergent needs of stakeholders. But organizations that hope to compete in the digital economy must make the attempt, and sooner rather than later.
Flexibility in the data environment is always preferable to rigidity. But flexibility without some level of underlying structure is merely chaos, and that won’t provide a solid enough foundation for emerging business models.
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 and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.