Not many enterprises are willing to rely on a single vendor for all their infrastructure needs. And now that experience is gaining in the cloud, it seems this same ethos is transferring to hosted services as well.
But the problem that many organizations are facing is that once dependence on a single provider is established, it can be very hard just to migrate workloads from one provider to another, let alone integrate these disparate infrastructures into a working data environment.
Already, this is emerging as a big problem for companies that were lured into the cloud by low-cost, hyperscale providers like Amazon and Google. As iSpot.tv’s Anthony Skinner noted on xconomy recently, initial low-cost deployments can top $50,000 per month in no time. And despite claims of the cloud providing a steady stream of state-of-the-art infrastructure, as opposed to the relatively slow pace of enterprise IT upgrades, it turns out that most cloud investment is going toward new features and bug repair, not new infrastructure.
This is why it is important for the enterprise to craft a multi-provider or fully cloud-agnostic strategy from the outset, says Dion Hinchcliffe, chief strategy officer at business consulting firm Adjuvi. Fortunately, we are still in the very early stages of cloud adoption, so most enterprises have a lot of leeway when it comes to crafting optimized data architecture. Companies like Amazon do have a lot to offer when it comes to supporting advanced enterprise workloads, but they should by no means become knee-jerk solutions for every deployment. Before you assess cloud options based on features and scalability, it would help to take a look at issues like interoperability and adherence to standard APIs so that moving workloads onto the cloud is just as easy as moving them off again.
An open source cloud platform will certainly help in this regard, and according to ZDnet’s Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, a leading contender is SUSE Cloud. It has the distinction of being compatible with both AWS and Microsoft Azure, which provides broad flexibility in supporting OpenStack-based public and private clouds and then bursting capability onto scale-out infrastructure as needed. As well, the new release offers enhanced networking capabilities through the recent OpenStack Juno release, and a streamlined installation framework and native support for both SUSE Enterprise Linux 12 and SUSE Enterprise Storage, which themselves support the latest versions of the KVM and Xen hypervisors.
Enterprise executives should also note that, with data functions and services evolving in so many different directions these days, no one provider – not even Amazon – can satisfy all cloud needs, says Egenera CEO Pete Manca. Many smaller providers are forming alliances and building common orchestration and integration services so that strengths and weaknesses can be shared across a more disparate cloud landscape. This can include everyone from cloud MSPs to VARS, system integrators, other channel entities, and even vendors themselves who often launch cloud facilities of their own to support existing hardware and software platforms. The end result is a broad array of services and platforms that can accommodate the myriad ways in which enterprise data architecture is changing to meet the demands of the emerging digital economy.
Just about anyone involved in cloud computing these days will tell you that its real value proposition is the flexibility it brings to development and production environments, not the cost advantages vs. traditional infrastructure. An interoperable, multi-vendor approach should therefore be a primary consideration in any cloud strategy—particularly for enterprises that are wading into Big Data, collaborative workflows and data mobility.
In this environment, a single-provider cloud infrastructure makes no more sense than a single-vendor data center.
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, Carpathia and NetMagic.