Cloud Computing Starts to Get a Little Foggy

Michael Vizard
Slide Show

Private Versus Public Cloud Computing

A plethora of applications are being considered for the cloud, but it may take at least another year before cloud computing goes mainstream in the enterprise.

Too many IT organizations these days are equating virtualization with cloud computing.

Whether that stems from a lack of understanding or a calculated effort to appease demands from the board of directors, equating virtualization with cloud computing only serves to slow down the pace of innovation within the IT organization.

According to Barton George, Dell cloud computing evangelist, unless a private cloud provides self-service capabilities, dynamic orchestration and support for multitenancy across two or more data centers, it's not really an instance of cloud computing. In short, that which does not mean all the characteristics of cloud computing as defined by the National Institute for Standards and Technologies (NIST) should not be called a cloud.

Unfortunately, many IT organizations have started referring to anything that runs on shared infrastructure as a private cloud. That may reduce some of the external political pressure on the IT organization, but ultimately all it does is slow down the pace of much-needed innovation. For instance, an IT organization may think it is doing well by leveraging virtualization to go from 300 servers per IT administrator when other companies that fully embrace cloud computing will be soon approaching 3,000 servers per administrator, says Mark Bilger, CTO for the Dell Services organization.

Dell, says George, is offering two primary paths to the cloud. The first is the Dell Virtual Integrated System (VIS) platform that is a more evolutionary approach in terms of how most IT organizations are structured today, while the PowerEdge C Series is aimed at IT organizations that want to radically change the way IT is managed across servers, storage and networking. In either case, adds Bilger, the goal is to dramatically increase the scale of computing in the enterprise without having to make a corresponding increase in the size of the IT staff.

Bilger notes that, by definition, that means embracing more IT automation, which he concedes IT organizations have not uniformly embraced. But without, cloud computing simply will not scale.

What all this means, says Bilger, is that IT organizations need to change the way they think about themselves. In the old days, IT organizations had a tendency to think in terms of the size of the staff, the amount of infrastructure and the total number of MIPs consumed. Today, the conversation say Bilger, is a lot more about efficiency and utilization.

Obviously, Dell sees cloud computing as a seminal industry moment through which it hopes to usurp rival server vendors. Whatever the outcome, it's pretty clear that the way enterprise IT is managed is being transformed. The only real question is to what degree does your IT organization want to lead that transformation today versus being forced to react to it tomorrow.

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