It’s all made to sound so easy. Simply sign on the dotted line, shift resources and workloads to the cloud, and sit back and enjoy your increased profitability.
Of course, what works in trial or limited-scale deployments tends to get mucked up when you try to build real-world cloud infrastructure. The migration issues alone are enough to dampen any enthusiasm that the cloud once generated.
In fact, that’s what seems to be happening as we enter yet another “Year of the Cloud.” Recent surveys are starting to suggest that many enterprises are tamping down their expectations for the cloud now that they have gained actual working knowledge with the technology.
The U.S. government, for once, may be at the forefront of this shift in attitudes. As tech consultant David Linthicum noted on InfoWorld recently, federal agencies have already racked up $5.5 billion in savings through cloud deployments and could stand to reap up to $12 billion if not for issues like security, lack of clear guidelines, data portability and interoperability and a general lack of experience among IT professionals regarding the intricacies of cloud operations. There is also the fact that change can be quite difficult, and when you’re dealing with a work force that has grown accustomed to the practices and procedures that have served them well over the years, the cloud represents more of a headache than a productivity tool.
Security, of course, remains a key concern, as well it should be. Despite the assurances from cloud providers that they employ top-notch security systems and procedures, the fact is that handing over one’s data to someone else is, in itself, a security risk. According to David Reoch, senior director of cloud solutions at Gigamon, one of the most overlooked facets of security in the cloud, or in virtual environments of any kind, for that matter, is that the focus of security is no longer the server, storage system or network device, but the data itself. This vastly increases the number of attack vectors as virtual machines are spread out over disparate SAN and NAS arrays, greatly increasing the complexity involved in ensuring data access to those who are authorized while keeping the rest at bay.
Of course, there is a growing number of third-party solutions aimed at making cloud deployment and migration easier to accomplish. For example, CloudVelocity, the former Denali Systems, recently kicked off its new “cloud cloning” software designed to instantly replicate existing cloud environments for automated application deployment. The system promises to remove the barriers that make it difficult to deploy apps across public and private clouds. The Developer Edition provides for multi-tier app clusters to be cloned in public services like Amazon’s EC2, while the Enterprise Edition includes migration and failover capabilities.
As well, RiverMeadow Software offers automated server migration as a service for VMware Service Provider Program (VSPP) partners. The idea is to allow servers to be shifted to the cloud without modification, fostering a streamlined process for enterprises and service providers alike. The system supports an unlimited number of users, providing full migration to and from public, private and hybrid clouds with little more than a cloud URL and user credentials.
I’ve said many times before that nothing worthwhile is easy. And the cloud does provide a vast new data center infrastructure at a reasonable cost at a time when enterprises are inundated with massive data volumes and shrinking budgets.
The good news is that none of the issues surrounding cloud migration, security, availability and the like are insurmountable. And the most crucial component of successful cloud operations — more so than state-of-the-art technology or whiz-bang software — is user experience.
That will come in time, but only to those who are not afraid to embrace the cloud right now.