Moving on Up: Middleware in the Cloud

Loraine Lawson

I once worked at an Internet start-up. I was interviewed by the head of content, who would be my boss, and he reported directly to the owner of this start-up.

 

The day I started, I learned I'd already been moved down the food chain by a newly created level of middle managers, and I met my new boss.

 

By the time I left, about a year and a half later, I had three to four bosses (I lost count) between myself and the man who hired me-despite receiving a promotion. And that's when I learned an important life lesson: Middle managers rule the world. The phrase "cut out the middleman" isn't only impossible, it's probably an ad tag line dreamed up by middle-management marketers.

 

So, I'm not really surprised that the solution to cloud/SaaS integration is boiling down to middleware. New and improved, service-in-a-cloud middleware, mind you-but middleware, nonetheless.

 

Much to my bemusement, I learned this while reading about yet another study-this one by Forrester Research -- showing integration is one of the top three obstacles to SaaS. CIO.com reports 40 percent of IT decision-makers cited integration challenges with other applications as one of the reasons their firm isn't interested in SaaS-right behind that other SaaS perennial, security concerns (51). The third issue? Data migration.


 

OK, so we could've guessed that, but it was nice of Forrester to back it up with a survey. But what's often more useful in these reports is not the statistics themselves, but what the analysts say about the statistics and their interviews with companies. The CIO.com article included this revealing information from the report, which was written by Principal Anlayst Liz Hebert:

"'Firms not only face the challenge of integrating SaaS with on-premise but are increasingly finding that SaaS-to-SaaS integration can be difficult and often expensive,' writes Herbert. Companies are looking to third-party solutions from vendors such as Informatica (INFA) and HubSpan or to custom solutions from vendors like Appirio and Bluewolf, the report states."

The article goes on to warn that IT professionals should be involved in these integration efforts to "avoid duplicating integration work being done elsewhere in the organization." So, not only is the cloud creating more integration work, organizations may be paying for it twice? Crazy.

 

Does anybody else find it a tad ironic that companies are moving to the cloud because it's easy and circumvents IT, only to end up with data integration problems, a list of new IT problems, and a pressing need for more middleware?

 

While the integration worries about SaaS are now widely recognized, I'm just now starting to see more press about the integration issues -- and silos -- created by cloud computing. Recently, Red Hat's CEO James Whitehurst told IDG cloud could be "the mother of all lock-ins," if it's not defined in a more user-friendly way.

 

He pointed out that lock-in can come in three different variations:

  • The inability to move workloads among different clouds;
  • Problems extracting data from the cloud; and
  • Being forced to use the underlying virtualization platform chosen by the cloud provider.

 

Whitehurst is promoting Red Hat's proposed solution to the first problem-moving workloads. The company offers a cloud certification program, the Premier Cloud Provider Program. So far, Amazon Web, NTT and IBM have joined the list. InfoWorld reports that to be certified, the cloud provider must use use a virtualization platform based on one of three solutions:

 

  • VMware's ESX hypervisor
  • Microsoft's Hyper-V
  • Red Hat's own hypervisor, which is based on KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine).

 

Whitehurst also said the cloud needs fewer APIs (application programming interfaces), but argued that's not the real challenge of the cloud. Instead, he says, the real problem is making sure applications don't lose performance capabilities when moved to a new cloud provider.

 

Just like SaaS, cloud also comes with security concerns. For more on that, check out CTO Edge's new slide show, "The State of Cloud Computing Security."



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