If the recent IBM Pulse conference is any indication, two of the major themes in IT’s move to the cloud will be openness and collaboration.
Held this year in Las Vegas (February 23 to 26) IBM Pulse was billed as “the premier cloud conference,” and was attended by a record 11,000 people. Cloud is obviously a marquee topic in IT these days, and IBM forecasts that 50% of organizations will have some sort of hybrid cloud arrangement by 2017.
IBM has expressly committed to open cloud architecture as a way of avoiding proprietary ghettos and preventing any single vendor from controlling the evolution of the standard. To this end, they recently joined with other industry notables such as ActiveState, CenturyLink, EMC, HP, Rackspace, SAP, and VMware in sponsoring the Cloud Foundry Foundation for open governance (Cloud Foundry is a locally deployable open-source PaaS that plays a significant role in IBM’s cloud offerings).
By coming together in an open governance model, all these companies will be able to shape the direction and development of Cloud Foundry while at the same time accessing and using its code for their own products.
One of the mains reasons for openness, of course, is to promote innovation and facilitate exchange between people and organizations who might otherwise have been hampered by technological incommensurability. The sharing of ideas, ownership, and resources between people and organizations is becoming increasingly accepted in the culture at large, as the success of companies such as Zipcar and QDesk demonstrate.
When it comes to IT, collaboration and openness have the potential to increase capacity and velocity—two other buzzwords that are frequently associated with the cloud. IBM’s most significant announcement at Pulse, the rollout of an in-the-cloud platform for developers called BlueMix, operates on all of these principles. BlueMix promises lightning quick application development for traditional, social, or mobile apps by allowing developers to compose incrementally from various integrated services and functions.
Apps created with BlueMix will support big data requirements and boast reduced provisioning needs, flexible capacity, automated technical tasks, and varied workload types. As an IBM spokesperson pitched it during one of the analyst Q&A sessions, BlueMix is a way for organizations to go from “two developers to 20,000.”
Admittedly, all of this sounds pretty good. But organizations need to make sure they aren’t swept away by the cloud’s “velocity.” Here, then, are six factors to consider when thinking about how your organization might leverage the opportunities presented by the cloud:
- Governance and management still matter.
Cloud orchestration must be policy driven, and effective automation begins with well-defined patterns and workloads.
- Security is different in the cloud.
The old perimeter-based paradigm is insufficient for the complexity of the cloud, and organizations need to move toward a defense-in-depth strategy focussed on remediating application and database vulnerabilities while at the same time properly encrypting and classifying/segmenting data.
- Openness requires trust.
With the increased openness of the cloud, the necessity for trust increases exponentially as well. Choosing the right vendor, reading contracts thoroughly, and establishing well-defined SLAs are all important. And remember that in some cases committing to work with a vendor inadvertently means relying on their third party business partners as well.
- Infrastructure is still important.
Whether on premise or off, tomorrow’s infrastructure needs to accommodate big data (continuous data loads, enormous I/O bandwidth, grid energy storage, high performance flash memory, low latency) and be defined by software for the cloud. Whether equipping for your own hybrid cloud or moving entirely to an IaaS solution, recognize that infrastructure is moving toward heightened composability, cognitive systems, unpredictable workloads, increasing mobility of data, dynamic services, and a wide variety of devices.
- Privacy versus utility.
How will your data be used by the vendors who are becoming connectivity hubs in the cloud provider world? What are the privacy requirements and expectations here? It’s well within the realm of possibility that people’s data will be used to sell them new products and services in the future. If the utility is high and the price is right, this might be a scenario in which everyone wins.
For instance, the ability to collect real-time data from millions of Android users who – either knowingly or unknowingly – allow their mobile devices to transmit their location lets Google generate the traffic conditions overlay in Google Maps. Organizations need to be aware of the privacy details and ramifications of any agreement they enter into, and must consciously accept any privacy-for-utility trade-offs that may be involved.
- Consider the long game when it comes to pricing assumptions.
What happens when existing on-premise infrastructure in hundreds of thousands of organizations is retired and replaced by off-premise IaaS? The conventional wisdom seems to be that this shift will keep costs low for users, but it’s possible to conceive of a rush-to-the-cloud supply and demand scenario that tips in favour of service providers instead.
Check out Info-Tech’s Cloud Strategy World Class Operations workshop for more on mitigating the critical challenges and taking advantage of opportunties in the cloud. These materials and exercises can be handled in a facilitated five day workshop, as a do it yourself project, or via a series of Guided Implementation calls with Info-Tech analysts. (Click the image below for more).