There aren’t too many people in enterprise circles that want the cloud to fail. Even the system vendors who stand to lose lucrative revenue streams are still pulling for the cloud, if only to get in on the ground floor of the new data reality.
But there are many degrees to both success and failure, so it isn’t always clear one way or the other, particularly in large, complex systems like data infrastructure.
From today’s vantage point, however, it appears that the cloud is a success, with caveats. While it has gone a long way toward simplifying and streamlining data infrastructure, it also presents new challenges as reliance on cloud services grows and data becomes more distributed on third-party infrastructure.
RightScale surveyed some 1,600 IT pros recently and found that the number one challenge in the cloud these days is a lack of resources to meet emerging workloads. This is notable for two reasons: one, it supplants security as the top concern, and two, wasn’t the initial purpose of the cloud to provide enough resources for whatever workload the enterprise could throw at it? Yes and no. The fact is that as workloads scale in the cloud, so do the costs. And when the application calls for dedicated, private infrastructure, finding the right resources at the right price, either at home or on third-party infrastructure, becomes a problem.
The cloud can also provide varying degrees of success depending on the kinds of workloads it supports and the specific capabilities that are brought to bear. F5 Networks recently published a study that revealed enterprises gain the most from the cloud when it is applied to Dev/Ops and supplemented by software-defined networking. With mobile applications driving much of the cloud spend lately, capabilities like global load balancing, identity federation and domain name system (DNS) management go a long way toward interconnecting the numerous pieces that support advanced applications and services.
Even in the cloud, though, deployment and provisioning is a manual process that generally takes place outside the normal development workflow. But companies like Automic are looking to change that with plug-ins to OpenStack and other cloud platforms that integrate resource generation and other functions into Dev/Ops. In this way, developers can automate tasks like server pool configuration and scale based on the needs of a particular deployment, such as a test environment or full production, and then decommission the resources either on-demand or on a pre-set schedule. Ultimately, the software is aimed at providing continuous delivery of applications into the cloud.
The enterprise can also optimize its cloud footprint by turning to one of the many solutions aimed at key industry verticals. As Cognizant’s Nachiket Deshpande notes, the vertical cloud is proving particularly effective in highly regulated industries like health care and finance in that they are not only built to stringent compliance standards but offer a range of predefined SaaS, PaaS and IaaS architectures to suit core applications. By shifting the onus of compliance and resource management to the cloud, highly regulated enterprises can redirect their own workforces toward higher-level strategic and market development tasks.
None of this is possible, however, if the enterprise fails to establish a clear, forward-leaning cloud strategy. Too often, decisions regarding cloud deployment and configuration are left to mid-level, line-of-business managers who are merely trying to streamline their own processes rather than foster a cohesive data environment for the larger organization. This will inevitably lead to the same kind of silo-based infrastructure that plagues the local data center, except now it is distributed over a wide area.
A successful cloud is certainly out there somewhere, but first you’ll need to determine what success is and then adopt a proactive approach toward achieving your goals.
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.