The cloud is set to remake data infrastructure as we know it. The question is, by how much?
It’s a strong sign that the cloud is moving past the introductory phase of its deployment when experts start to ponder the end game. This week, we have Infosys’ Basab Pradhan wondering what the enterprise will look like once the cloud is fully implemented. In short, he says resistance is futile – the enterprise will be fully assimilated into the cloud given all the financial and operational benefits the technology provides. At best, some large enterprises will maintain their own plants, but they will be much smaller than today’s behemoths, and they will no longer be a core responsibility when it comes to business productivity and maintaining a competitive edge.
This notion of a stripped-down data center is already starting to reveal itself in some of the new hardware platforms hitting the channel. This week, Nebula Inc. unveiled the Nebula One turnkey private cloud system that integrates compute, network and storage services into a streamlined, open architecture populated by commodity systems from HP, IBM, Dell and others. The setup is governed by the Nebula Cloud Controller appliance and the Cosmos operating system that enable instant IaaS functionality for either OpenStack or AWS deployments. In essence, the platform provides all the resources an enterprise should need with only a few racks of hardware.
And this comes at a time when servers themselves are set to make the jump from scale to hyperscale. HP is on the verge of releasing the initial results of its Project Moonshot, which calls for highly dense, low-power server architectures capable of providing cloud-like functionality in very small footprints. The company is tossing out some pretty dramatic numbers based on internal research: a half rack of Moonshot servers costing a little over $1.2 million replacing upwards of 1,600 servers valued at more than $3 million, with a 90 percent reduction in power consumption to boot. The platform is expected to employ both ARM and Intel Atom processors.
Both of these platforms are intended to shore up the enterprise’s ability to establish its own private clouds using internal infrastructure. But even that level of commitment might be too much for some organizations as the development of hosted private clouds ratchets up. As I mentioned earlier this week, public cloud leader Amazon seems increasingly intent on leveraging its hold on the public cloud market to provide private services to enterprise customers. If reliability and security issues can be adequately addressed, a big if, it will be hard to justify internal infrastructure of any kind for all but the largest enterprises.
Most business leaders readily agree that when it comes to infrastructure, smaller is better. The challenge will be to enable broad integration between internal and external systems and services, most likely from numerous providers, using a range of technologies and formats, all while maintaining or preferably exceeding the functionality that is currently available on owned-and-operated infrastructure.
The cloud certainly has the potential to provide all that. All we need now is the proper execution.