What’s Old is Now New: Cloud Trends
“Owning and operating enterprise compute and storage equipment is expensive and labor intensive. By using our subscription services you get only the computes and storage you actually need for far less expense.”
I delivered that pitch 30 years ago selling CSC Infonet timesharing services in Manhattan — walking up and down Madison Ave cold calling on prospects. The logic was clear and economics compelling: service bureaus could offer subscribers dramatic economies of scale in delivering remote compute and storage services. It was all enabled by the Data Modem technology of the time and utilities like CrossTalk and Xmodem to move data to and from the subscribed services. Customers typically used these services to augment or bridge their processing and storage needs.
Then the minicomputer and PC era arrived and we all began focusing on building data centers and networks. Now the tide has turned again.
Virtualization technologies for servers and storage have matured to the point where they are now an integral element of enterprise data centers. That virtualization brings the ability to flex, move, and readily reconfigure live systems. These capabilities, along with true secure multi-tenant configurations, enable service providers to deliver server and storage subscription services via the Internet with a minimum of equipment. Therein lies a new era of economies of scale similar to the timesharing days, but with a whole new set of capabilities and complexities.
Shock and Awe
Even with a solid financial argument, I still expect the typical enterprise to approach Cloud services with care and with low risk functions. Recently, one of my customers said they were seriously exploring moving their entire EBS workload to a subscription service configuration. I was slack-jawed! So, this ‘old school’ enterprise IT group finds the financials compelling and has sufficient confidence in the technologies to trust their commercial data processing there.
In another setting, a CIO said, “I expect to be out of the data center business before I retire.” That’s within the next 8 to 10 years!
These anecdotes reveal to me that the tide is indeed turning to cloud-based services as an integral – if not primary – element of enterprise IT architectures.
The Devil is in the Details
As “Hybrid Cloud” configurations (blended on premises and subscription services) are adopted over time, we’ll see a growing demand for the following:
Instrumentation: Uniform tools to manage, operate, monitor, and measure both internal and subscription resources will be essential. A major value point of a Hybrid configuration is to move workload and resource consumption to the optimal location in the “stack.” We can see major providers like Microsoft, VMware, Citrix, CA, HP, Amazon, and others advancing and promoting tool sets that aspire to comprehensive management and operation of Hybrid infrastructures.
Security: With your data now potentially residing in a multi-tenant setting, security is of the essence. Even though the providers ensure secure boundaries, I suspect enterprise customers will call for strong encryption of data at rest and in transit. They may even be compelled to do so by their customers, business partners, or government regulations.
Business Continuity: A crucial element of a Hybrid configuration is the continuity and disaster recovery model – the devilish details in the Service Level Agreement. Most providers today offer secondary and even tertiary storage and processing centers, but you’ll need to specify in the SLA exactly how and when those resources are activated and with what Recovery Points and Recovery Times. Broad adoption of Hybrid configurations for mission critical applications could breed a whole new crop of lawyers and contract specialists to write and review those Service Level Agreements.
Hype? Not exactly…
For a long time I’ve ranked the term “The Cloud” with “The Golden Fleece” or “Alchemy” – a mythical thing of great hope and promise. But “The Cloud” can be decomposed into specific advanced technologies that can be employed on premises or via subscription service to deliver great economies of scale. We see earnest exploration and adoption on the enterprise customer side, and an abundance of providers and services available and growing.
For 2013, I expect a key question for enterprise IT groups will not be, “What’s in your data center?” but rather “What’s left in your data center?”
If you choose to explore and adopt “The Cloud” and Hybrid architectures with subscription services, proceed with care and caution. And remember, Corporate Technologies can help.