This year, it is expected many companies will stop talking about cloud computing and finally do something about it. This is where we will see the uptake of cloud services.
As New Year business plans were drawn up, cost effective, time efficient and sustainable options were a high priority, making cloud computing a serious contender for IT services. Enterprises can expect the following:
- Manageability of the cloud is becoming a critical success factor
As different vendors clamour to be part of the cloud, unified management of the entire technology stack is critical. Whether public or private, tying together the different infrastructure layers including applications, VMs, systems, networks and storage, along with a comprehensive set of management tools will reduce complexity by providing end-to-end service visibility, performance monitoring and automated provisioning.
- Natural selection will begin in the cloud service provider space
Although it is still early in evolutionary process, Darwinian selection is already starting to happen in the cloud service provider space. Super efficient aggregators are emerging who have figured out how to get the most out of a virtualised infrastructure. Some early adopters of the cloud business model will decide to abandon offering services from their own datacentres and partner with successful service providers, who have demonstrated they can offer enterprise class IT as a service cheaper and with better service levels.
- Secure multi-tenancy will become imperative
Datacentres today that are deploying cloud architecture are making a profound shift from application-centric silos to virtualised shared infrastructures. This shared environment results in multiple ‘tenants’ or users occupying the same virtualised infrastructure. As a result, the tenants need to be assured that safe sharing occurs both from a security perspective and a performance perspective. A secure, multi-tenancy solution enables this.
- Companies will need a better grasp of how to standardise, consolidate, and virtualise their IT environments
Most IT departments over time have accumulated a diverse set of hardware and software platforms. This model may be fine in a siloed structure where each business application has its own server and storage resource. However, in a cloud environment, this model will pose serious challenges. As a result, companies who want to realise a true service-oriented architecture will need to start by planning to standardise and consolidate, in order to build a shared virtualised infrastructure.
- Security and privacy issues will come more into focus
Data security is a challenge today even in closed IT infrastructure environments. For many financial, military defence and public security companies this issue will be even more profound in a shared and open cloud environment. Cloud service providers will need to develop a proven practice, to gain the confidence of those wary customers who value data security as the number-one criteria in choosing a service provider.
- It will be important to define SLAs to effectively measure IT performance
The cloud will fundamentally change how IT services are offered, both internally and externally. For emerging cloud service providers, offering the right-sized SLA will be critical to winning business and market share with potential customers. For internal cloud deployments, IT departments will need to create the right SLA and the appropriate visibility associated with the SLA, so that the business units and IT can determine the most efficient use of resources.
- More internal enterprise IT departments will be measured against the service levels, costs and provisioning speeds that are offered in comparison by public cloud providers
Many IT organisations are recreating themselves as “internal service providers” in the effort to standardise offerings and reduce costs, yet still meet the requirements of the business. By implementing “service catalogues”, – meaning a finite set of configurations with associated service levels, costs and delivery times – IT organisations are able to reduce their procurement and management costs. The limited set of resources available in a catalogue enables standardisation which in turn creates a more predictable cost model and increases time to market.
- Cloud architectures will be driven by standardisation (Ethernet), virtualisation (servers, storage), and efficiency (asset, operations, environmental)
Standardisation is critical to any service offering because it gives both the provider and the consumer a set of repeatable, measurable resources. Without standardisation every offering would be custom, which would not only increase up front deployment costs and on-going management costs, but also make it difficult to measure the effectiveness of each offering as there would be no baseline. Additionally, by standardising on lower cost network technologies such as Ethernet and a virtualised server and storage infrastructure, cloud architectures will drive up efficiencies – allowing service providers to drive down their costs and focus on value-added services to differentiate and drive their own revenue.
- Companies will move towards shared, but self-hosted infrastructure behind virtualised servers (whether public or private) and co-existence of siloed application stacks
The move toward cloud architectures will not happen overnight. Most companies have a number of critical legacy applications in traditional siloed architectures that they will not change for any number of reasons including the introduction of too much risk, politics, organisational inertia, and so on. Shared, virtualised infrastructures will become the de facto choice for new application rollouts, but enterprise organisations will continue to maintain a hybrid environment for years to come – witness the number of IT organisations investing in and maintaining mainframe systems even decades after their projected lifespan.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) will become a major focus
The potential for cloud computing extends beyond hypervisor-centric Infrastructure as a Service resource-sharing. Successful Software as a Service (SaaS) Cloud offerings today include powerful underlying PaaS engines such as Force.com, Google Apps, and Intuit QuickBase Online. These PaaS engines offer the necessary customisation of otherwise rigid SaaS workflows and reports. The advent of Microsoft’s Azure, coupled with a huge and loyal developer base, will accelerate adoption of next-gen Cloud-centric applications. VMware’s purchase of SpringSource also confirms and reinforces this trend.
As more and more vendors enter the cloud server provider space, the prices will become more competitive, quality of service will increase and issues of standardisation, security and privacy will be addressed.
The author is manager, solutions and alliances, NetApp Asia Pacific.