Will the burgeoning cloud industry provide an application-friendly environment? It may seem like a basic question, but it's one that is still very much up in the air.
A few weeks ago, I brought up the subject of hybrid cloud-- the notion that most enterprises will employ a mix of private, public and utility-based services, with the main problem being an effective, efficient way to port applications across these multiple environments.
Earlier this week, I sat in on a webinar sponsored by rPath that laid out a framework for making that happen. It seems that rPath has teamed up with VMware and cloud service provider BlueLock on a platform that allows for the automated creation of enterprise apps that can run across traditional, virtualized or cloud environments. The package combines rPath's rBuilder and Lifecycle Management Platform with the VMware VCloud Initiative to create self-contained applications that have all the policy settings and descriptors needed to migrate and self-assemble in both the traditional enterprise and the BlueLock cloud.
"You get cloud-ready applications that run in any environment," said Erik Troan, CTO of rPath. "You connect the application development process with the deployment process in an automated way so you don't lose control over what is running in different geographical locations and different physical and virtual environments. The applications are free from any part of the data center, allowing you to incorporate them into multiple environments."
The most important benefit of this kind of flexibility is to avoid vendor and cloud lock-in, where the enterprise is dependent on a single platform to maintain data and application availability.
"If you start building solutions under one platform, you are locked into their pricing and they have a monopoly on your ability to deploy applications," Troan said. "Those APIs can never move, and you have limited choice as to where you can deploy in the future."
It also helps to avoid a lot of confusion for IT, according to Wendy Perilli, director of product marketing at VMware.
"The development community asks for resources from IT internally, but they don't feel IT is as responsive as they need to be, so they start working on Google," she said. "IT teams find out about this after the fact and have to deal with the implications. Can they move the applications back in-house? Why kind of risk will that expose them to? Are there any compliance issues? Security issues? Intellectual property violations? And could it have been cheaper to do if IT had been more proactive to begin with?"
Already, a number of smaller development firms are devising similar means to promote application portability over hybrid clouds. Elastra has developed the Enterprise Cloud Server 2.0 platform that lets you establish policies and rules that allow apps to run according to specific security, capacity and business requirements. And a company called Egnyte has blended the hybrid cloud concept with its on-premise file server solution so that files can be easily transferred between the cloud and the home office.
Solutions like those proposed by rPath, VMware and BlueLock should provide the kind of flexibility needed for smooth application portability, but only with cloud services that tie into that specific platform. To really make for an open, full interactive cloud universe, we'll need a set of universal APIs that can establish an stable operating environment no matter where the application winds up.
You can view the webinar here.