The cloud was established on the idea of “build it and they will come,” which certainly turned out to be the case. The corollary to the maxim, of course, is “give them a little and they’ll want more.”
On one level, this can be seen by the size of the workloads being migrated to the cloud, but it can also be seen in the quality of cloud services and the ability to customize even public cloud architectures to support highly specialized applications.
The increased demand for customization coincides with increased concern that many cloud deployments to date, while effective, still leave a lot to be desired. According to a recent survey by the Society for Information Management (SIM), large segments of the IT profession are concerned with the cloud’s ability to align properly with business processes, as well as the speed and agility of cloud infrastructure and the ability to engage in proper strategic planning in highly dynamic environments. For these and other reasons, says study author Leon Kappelman, many organizations are shifting their IT budgets to software development that allows for greater integration, customization and migration of cloud-connected workloads.
This is one of the primary reasons why the enterprise needs a formal cloud strategy rather than a series of ad hoc deployments initiated by business managers, says Gartner’s Donna Scott. Whether the cloud spans public, private or hybrid architectures, the ability to customize architectures allows for greater control, compliance and development of effective business strategies. A key element in the transition from generic to specialized cloud is the use of managed service providers and/or cloud service brokers who can more precisely align application and service needs with available cloud resources. They also act as an intermediary between various cloud providers who may offer individual pieces of an effective architecture but lack the interoperability to enable seamless workflows.
The rise of multi-cloud deployments, in fact, is being driven by the need to craft more specialized data ecosystems, says NaviSite CTO David Grimes. By breaking the single-provider lock, organizations have much greater leeway to build comprehensive deployments that can better meet the needs of knowledge workers and customers. In a “cookie cutter” cloud environment, resource consumption and other facets of application support are usually managed in the best interests of the provider, but with more choice at their disposal, enterprise executives can cherry pick the best solution for their needs – and it can usually be done at lower cost provided it is in keeping with a well-developed deployment strategy.
Third-party platforms are also starting to take a hard look at cloud customization. Teradici recently launched a new Cloud Access software and platform solution that strives to provide seamless desktop, workstation, application and workflow migration to any cloud. The system is built on the company’s PCoIP technology that provides secure connectivity for multiple end-point devices, and provides APIs and SDKs to create tailored workflows, interfaces and peripheral support functions to build fully customizable cloud solutions. The platform has also been expanded to include Linux instances to allow for workspaces in CentOS, RHEL or Ubuntu environments.
Given the choice, few people would choose an off-the-shelf solution over a customized one, provided the cost differential is not too great. While a customized cloud is likely to be more expensive than simple bulk storage or processing, it should still be dramatically cheaper than even the most tailored data center solution.
The real burden, though, is not the cost but the need to define exactly what features and functionality are required of any given application, and this can only come from the user. The means of customization are certainly available today, but the enterprise must be willing to do the leg work to make it happen.
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.