Could it be that we are rushing onto the cloud too fast? Or at the very least, are we moving toward cloud infrastructure before we have a full understanding of its impact on existing physical and application environments?
These are heady questions considering what's at stake -- no less than your organization's ability to function in a rapidly changing data universe. But even if there are no definitive answers just yet, it's a relief to know that some people are at least asking them, hopefully providing a means to avoid potentially serious problems before they arise.
The Uptime Institute took a crack at this topic earlier this week at its annual Symposium in New York. Moderator Dan Kusnetsky of the 451 Group, got the ball rolling by wondering whether any lessons have been learned from virtualization's impact on application environments. But even then, it was hard to reach a consensus as to what connotes virtualization.
"Virtualization is an enormously broad term," said James Houghton, CTO of Adaptivity. "What type of virtualization are we talking about? Application virtualization, memory virtualization, server, storage, desktop..."
But what is clear is that, despite its increased flexibility, many organizations are finding themselves stuck in the same silo architecture they were hoping to get rid of, which is why that cloud has gained such broad appeal.
"Virtualization is still a lot like the static technologies of old," said Mike Manos, vice president of service operations at Nokia. "We're taking an industry that's still trying to virtualize and move it into the cloud. So the question is, can we even do it? And many people still don't realize the nature of their application environment and will find out that the cloud may not be able to support it."
The biggest mistake would be to rush out onto the cloud without a clear understand of what your goals and objectives are. With that information in hand, it will be easier to tailor existing systems to the new environment.
"How does your CMBD deal with virtual instances and images," Manos said, citing one example. "Be absolutely sure that, before you move to the cloud, whether public or private, that this is something you need to do."
And the impact on management systems should not be overlooked as well.
"Operational tooling in the cloud is not like operational tooling in traditional environments," Houghton said. "The way in which most systems management systems are adapted to static management paths will have to be updated. Change control, business systems management -- all will be very different in the cloud.
"The best way to approach it is to set it up on a small scale with the smartest people in the organization, and then move out from there."
Horror stories of critical data lost to the cloud or management systems running amok notwithstanding, the consensus is that the cloud is a worthwhile investment that will increase IT productivity by several orders of magnitude. Doubtless, there will be some growing pains along the way, but the more we think about all that might go wrong and then work to address those issues ahead of time, the easier the process will be.