Getting the Cloud in Shape for the Enterprise

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Choosing Your First Cloud Application Initiative

Questions you should ask to help determine which cloud application path you should pursue.

Is the cloud really up to performing enterprise-class functions? Perhaps not, according to some critics, at least not yet.

The cloud may have a lot of promise, but it won't be able to deliver the kind of business agility required of modern data environments until it achieves a true utility-style infrastructure, according to Infoblox CIO Benny Kirsh. Speaking before the former Information Systems Audit and Control Association, now known by just its acronym, ISACA, Kirsh said the cloud has yet to demonstrate any real value beyond plain old SaaS. Only through new generations of network automation tools, presumably under development at Infoblox, will cloud users gain the ability to address enterprise and user needs in real time.

Of course, that's part of what the hybrid cloud is all about. By linking internal and external infrastructure through a middle-ground environment, platform providers hope to create a cohesive whole that is both flexible and scalable enough to handle any and all data requirements. IBM just announced its latest development on this front with a new version of the SmartCloud augmented with technology acquired from Cast Iron Systems. The new package contains enhanced resource and security management, as well as simplified approaches to application integration and dynamic provisioning intended to enable "cloud bursting" of peak workloads.

No matter how you design your cloud architecture, you won't get the functionality you need without a whole lot of infrastructure integration, according to F5's Lori MacVittie. That may be a dirty word to some, but the fact is that things like data sharing and cross-application business processes simply won't happen if the various APIs in play today can't communicate with each other. All clouds - public, private and hybrid - need to act as one; otherwise, you remain a single business entity trying to manage multiple, disparate data environments. The trick will be to take the lessons learned from past integration projects and project them onto broader data models and architectures.

Integrating various cloud environments may be out of reach at the moment, but what about using the cloud to at least integrate existing data centers? That's the idea behind Virtustream's xStream platform. The company says it can federate data centers on demand, providing a secure bursting capability that allows enterprises to balance loads across various bricks-and-mortar resources. The system is suitable for both legacy and Web-scale applications, providing improved resource utilization, performance and compliance.

The cloud may not be everything that everyone imagined at the outset just yet. But it does represent an elegant solution to some of the most pressing problems confronting the enterprise - namely, rapidly increasing data loads and struggling capital and operating budgets.

And since the technology is still in its infancy, there is still plenty of room to work out the details. In short, we ain't seen nothin' yet.

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