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Forces Supporting the Cloud

By John Jainschigg  |  Posted 06-24-2010 Print

Forces Supporting the Cloud

The "big trend" forces that are driving IT priorities and budgets in the current year--consolidation and virtualization--tend to support cloud applications. So do still-important goals such as data integration, which is easier in environments that support light, Internet-style APIs and Web services.

Feil pointed out that another key IT priority and budget item--security--clarifies where the dividing line may fall for larger enterprises in evaluating public versus private cloud solutions. "Security is very, very important to these companies," he said, "and concerns about security clearly retard uptake of public cloud solutions."

On the other hand, Feil added, if you look at things another way, the increased homogeneity, standardization, improved process, auditability, reduction in number of applications and versions in use, and other direct results of cloud implementations can all be viewed as security positives.

Based on the report, the achievement numbers are stellar. For example, under the direction of CIO Geir Ramleth, the international construction firm Bechtel has used cloud technologies--notably server virtualization--to collapse 27 data centers to just three, totaling about 1,000 square feet. At the same time, Ramleth has produced a suite of remote-cloud solutions called Project Services Network (PSN). These solutions enable Bechtel to set up shop on any continent and support far-flung, long-term projects without building or maintaining any local IT infrastructure beyond, as Feil summarizes, PCs, a LAN and an Internet connection. In the process, Ramleth's team has reduced the number of applications they need to support from around 1,600--each with multiple versions--to a little more than 200.

"We wanted to find both higher efficiencies and more simplicity," said Ramleth, who is quoted heavily in the report. "Driving down the number of applications, the number of locations, and the number of physical boxes is important for doing that. The fewer locations you have, the less chance you have to waste, and the less chance you have to mess something up."

Such a simplified system is more agile, more serviceable and more efficient. It also is, at least in principle, more robust and easier to secure. Other benefits include the ease of producing metrics, codifying processes and scaling in different ways to achieve even higher levels of service, availability, resilience and lower cost.

This kind of highly virtualized, consolidated data center--with its application suite and process envelope--is the latest "new thing," and it appears as if enterprises need to build this thing, play with it, optimize it, and then learn to manage, scale, secure and ultimately trust it.

Unfortunately, the report reveals that CIOs still identify "lack of internal/staff expertise" as an important residual gating factor on private cloud acceptance. But they are learning fast.

And once this process has concluded, paradigms such as public clouds may start to look more attractive. Bechtel is already dealing with demand spikes by going to the public cloud for data-storage services. The next step, Ramleth predicts, will be to explore running some of their servers in someone else's data center.

"Once you have reached the point of dealing with this as a cloud service, actually adopting other public services--versus the ones that you're doing yourself--is not that big a shift," he said. "You start adhering to the same form of architecture, the same form of technology, the same form of standards and the same form of operating. You pretty much look like peers. The demarcation line between private clouds and public clouds starts to get blurry. At that point, it becomes extremely interesting."


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