Making the Cloud Work for You


Everybody's talking about how to get the cloud up and running for the enterprise, but once the initial launch period is over, another more important issue will emerge: How to get the cloud to work well so that its ultimate promises can be fulfilled.


The idea of optimizing the cloud may sound foreign to some given the incessant hype that has accompanied the technology. The cloud does have the potential to deliver massively dynamic infrastructure services on a global scale, but only if it is used correctly and managed properly.


One of the first major issues that new cloud users will encounter is data integration, according to distributed computing expert David Linthicum. Once you start relocating data to the cloud, you're going to need a way to synchronize it back to your core enterprise systems to avoid conflicts that could bring work to a halt. To do that, you're going to need to integrate numerous interfaces from the cloud provider-not a difficult job, but one that could become increasingly costly as the cloud relationship becomes more complex.


You'll also need to pay close attention to the kinds of workloads your users are putting on the cloud. Former Wachovia IT executive Tony Bishop argues that too many enterprises take a bottom-up approach to resource allocation-piecing them together in response to demand rather than using a top-down approach that anticipates growth. With the latter approach, you can optimize cloud services for the type of workload you typically encounter, from numerical processing to request/response to event-driven demands.


Re-thinking your governance policies and frameworks is also on tap, according to Forrester's James Kobielus. Like those who dabbled in SOA before, simply letting users create and remove a hodgepodge of services quickly leads to anarchy. Clouds add an extra layer of complexity because there is little consensus as to what kind of governance practices are appropriate. Still, it's a safe bet that a well-thought-out service catalog for storing service metadata, as well as federation agreements for things like auto-provisioning definitions, will be minimum necessities.


New varieties of cloud-friendly management stacks are also on the rise. Startup Kaavo recently pushed further in this direction with the Infrastructure and Middleware on Demand (IMOD) system. The company bills it as the first application-centric management solution for the cloud in that it focuses on aligning resources to suit application needs rather than managing individual servers. The package provides what the company calls n-tier configuration that portions out single or multi-server systems, as well as tools for automated backup and security.


Believe it or not, the cloud will make things simpler for IT. Most of the provisioning and monitoring that makes for a dull workday will be gone. But there will still be a need to keep tabs on what's happening out there-so the more thorough you are in laying the ground rules, the easier it will be to keep things under control.