A new dawn for cloud computing

By Eric Knorr
Created 2012-05-21 03:00AM

The knock on Amazon Web Services and other IaaS (infrastructure as a service) providers is that they're not reliable enough for enterprise-class workloads. And even with recent price drops, it's cheaper over the long haul to buy and run your own infrastructure.

I'm not going to attempt any in-depth cost comparisons since so much depends on the workloads in question and granular provider pricing for various sevices. But I'm pretty convinced that reliability concerns about cloud computing are going the way of cloud security worries: If you know what you're doing, in most cases the public cloud is probably at parity or better with the risk posed by your own infrastructure (ultrahardened, mission-critical workloads excepted).

[ In the data center today, the action is in the private cloud. InfoWorld's experts take you through what you need to know to do it right in our "Private Cloud Deep Dive [1]" PDF special report. | Also check out our "Cloud Security Deep Dive [2]," our "Cloud Storage Deep Dive [3]," and our "Cloud Services Deep Dive [4]." ]

Big dogs weigh in

Now HP and reportedly Microsoft are entering the IaaS fray. Both will compete directly with Amazon while emphasizing their enterprise worthiness and leveraging their existing enterprise sales channels -- not an Amazon strength.

But as RightScale CEO Michael Crandell reminded me [5], sophisticated configuration of Amazon Web Services already provides public cloud infrastructure that's reliable enough for production workloads. In addition to the many startups that have built businesses on the Amazon cloud, I think many enterprises and small businesses have simply gotten used to Amazon and learned to tweak it to their liking. I can't imagine Amazon being knocked out of the top slot anytime soon.

Currently occupying a distant No. 2 position behind Amazon, Rackspace seems sure to slip as HP and Microsoft ramp up. Plus, Terramark, a subsidiary of Verizon, is coming on strong. As I noted a few months ago, Terremark benefits from both huge Verizon bandwidth and a big buildout of regional Terramark data centers [6], which together promise to reduce the latency inherent in cloud computing.

The two-pronged approach

And guess what? Each of these public cloud IaaS providers has a way for customers to run local, private clouds using similar technology. For example, HP, Dell, and Rackspace have adopted the OpenStack platform [7] for their public cloud offerings -- just as OpenStack is beginning to gain traction as a private cloud solution for certain fearless customers.

As for Microsoft, for some time Redmond has been touting its version of a private cloud solution built on Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V, and System Center [8] -- which will be part and parcel of Windows Azure and should figure prominently in Microsoft's imminent IaaS push. Terramark, for its part, is a 100 percent VMware IaaS play that clearly targets existing VMware licensees, which today have some of the most advanced private cloud functionality currently available.

What of the incumbent cloud leader, Amazon? It already has a private cloud equivalent: Eucalyptus, one of the earliest private cloud software stacks [9], which evolved independently using Amazon Web Services APIs without so much as a wink from Amazon. Perhaps the new, more competitive landscape was behind Amazon's decision to give its formal blessing to Eucalyptus [10] two months ago.

Today, the benefit of going with closely related public and private cloud solutions is really about leveraging skills: If you have developers and admins who know their way around Amazon Web Services, you might be inclined to have them deploy Eucalyptus as your private cloud. If you're so into VMware that you've bought a laundry list of private cloud management software from the company, Terramark might be worth considering as your IaaS provider, if you can afford it. Obviously, that connection is easily trumped by the specific requirements of certain workloads and which platforms stand to support them best.

Where we're headed and why it matters

The future will be different. The idea of "bursting" from the private to the public cloud, where you fire up a chunk of IaaS from your provider automatically to scale out big workloads, is still a dream -- but perhaps not such a distant one. I'm starting to hear two years out as the time frame for bursting, as well as the generalized ability to manage private and public cloud infrastructure of a piece.

The private/public play sounds like the mother of all lock-ins, doesn't it? That's one reason that, sometime soon, you might consider a preliminary evaluation of these two-pronged platforms. You'll hear all sorts of noises about interoperability standards to make cloud workloads portable among different cloud flavors, but I wouldn't bank on them. With OpenStack, at least, the same open source software will run on many different providers' public clouds, potentially offering greater freedom of choice for IaaS customers.

It may seem as if I'm outlandishly bullish on IaaS. Not really, though I'm excited by the entry of HP and Microsoft into the race. In enterprise computing, change takes forever, and as far as I know the predictions -- and the dollars spent -- for IaaS fall pretty short of hockey-stick growth.

But over the long haul? We're living in a software world, where your entire data center, from monster 10 gig switches to virtualization provisioning, is becoming programmable. Someday you'll probably physically touch your hardware just once, when the truck rolls in. When you follow a similar software configuration procedure in the cloud, except with more options, the objections to moving the lion's share of workloads to the public cloud begin to melt away.

This article, "A new dawn for cloud computing [11]," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com [12]. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog [13], and for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter [14].

Cloud Computing Amazon Web Services Dell Hewlett-Packard (HP) Microsoft OpenStack IaaS Cloud computing
Source URL (retrieved on 2012-05-23 03:10PM): http://www.infoworld.com/t/cloud-computing/new-dawn-cloud-computing-193514
[1] http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/download-the-private-cloud-deep-dive-168788?source=ifwelg_fssr
[2] http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/download-the-cloud-security-deep-dive-660?source=ifwelg_fssr
[3] http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/download-the-cloud-storage-deep-dive-report-459?source=ifwelg_fssr
[4] http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/download-the-cloud-services-deep-dive-report-479?source=ifwelg_fssr
[5] http://www.infoworld.com/t/cloud-computing/rightscale-ceo-we-enable-the-enterprise-cloud-193063
[6] http://www.infoworld.com/t/cloud-computing/2011-when-cloud-computing-shook-the-data-center-182549
[7] http://www.infoworld.com/t/cloud-computing/hp-heats-cloud-wars-backing-openstack-168271
[8] http://www.infoworld.com/d/microsoft-windows/microsoft-ups-the-battle-vmware-the-private-cloud-184888
[9] http://www.infoworld.com/t/iaas/eucalyptus-3-your-own-private-amazon-cloud-170757
[10] http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/aws-deal-bolsters-eucalyptus-enterprise-appeal-189279
[11] http://www.infoworld.com/t/cloud-computing/new-dawn-cloud-computing-193514?source=footer
[12] http://www.infoworld.com/?source=footer
[13] http://www.infoworld.com/blogs/eric-knorr?source=footer


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