The Enterprise’s Multi-Cloud Conundrum

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    It should be pretty obvious by now that most enterprises will not adopt “the cloud” as the next phase of data infrastructure, but many clouds. Indeed, with large numbers of employees embracing a variety of public services to process and store corporate data, many organizations already use multiple clouds without even knowing it.

    This could be a huge potential problem even beyond the obvious questions of security and availability. If the deployment of cloud services is allowed to continue in a piecemeal fashion, the enterprise could very well end up recreating the same silo-based infrastructure that currently diminishes performance in the data center.

    The trick, of course, will be to manage multiple clouds as one, says Dave Cope, executive vice president of corporate development at CliQr. The simple fact that virtually every application requires a unique set of infrastructure, services and support means that a “one-size-fits-all” cloud is not in the cards for most organizations. This is why the company developed its CloudCenter platform, to give organizations a one-stop-shop for migrating, governing and managing applications across disparate cloud ecosystems.

    This is also why the open source community has been working frantically to devise a vendor-neutral cloud environment for the enterprise. Just last week, the Cloud Foundry Foundation formally launched as an independent research body aimed at fostering interoperable Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solutions for Linux-based dev/ops and related functions. The group operates under the Linux Foundation Collaborative Project, and has already incorporated key platforms like the Pivotal Cloud Foundry, IBM’s Bluemix, HP’s Helion and the Canopy Cloud Fabric. It is currently examining more than 1,700 pull requests for contributions.

    It may be tempting for IT to merely adopt the role as a services broker across hybrid clouds, says Intel CIO Kim Stevenson, but that would be short-changing your user community. As she explained to recently, the real value comes from the creation of seamless business flows that can transcend mere infrastructure. The first step on this journey is the realization that the cloud is not about saving money but fostering better and faster innovation. In the grand scheme of things, which is more important: saving a few dollars on IT costs, or getting a product to market a full quarter before your competitors?

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    The fact remains, though, that few organizations have mastered this tricky dance. Forrester’s latest survey on the subject revealed that 83 percent of enterprises are struggling to consolidate cloud services into a cohesive, holistic platform. The firm recommends the creation of a “cloud ecosystem hub” that would compile all IT assets under a single view. This would allow users to pick and choose the kinds of services they need, but still ensure that their creations conform to the broader management and oversight requirements of the enterprise. At the same time, it would enhance interoperability among services and cut down on duplicative efforts that tend to drive up costs.

    A multi-cloud universe can be a tremendous boon to enterprise productivity, but only if it is architected from the ground up to enhance workflows and solve incompatibility problems. Many enterprises were caught unawares by the cloud when the first Amazon instances went live, but it is still early enough in the transition to get things right.

    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.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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