To Cloud or not to Cloud, Better Yet, What is a Cloud?

While doing a quick Google search to find what a Cloud is, I have found several different definitions which depend on which vendor site you pull up.  One thing is for sure despite the frequent use of the term, it still means different things to different people and or companies. For my reference point I am going to use the National Institute of Standards and Technology definition referenced by Texiwill’s NIST Cloud Computing Definitions Final article.

If you look at some of the different cloud providers like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and VMware they are each building their own version of the cloud. Some methods will utilize virtualization and others will not.  One thing I know for sure is that the cloud will need to be dynamically scalable and will need to be delivered on demand over the internet.  A believe most, if not all of these cloud providers will be running hybrid clouds that will be made up of public, private and quite possibly community clouds as well.

I have spent some time in my career working for different companies providing managed services for their clients.  The idea of managed services is like outsourcing your IT team to a third party to administer and maintain your infrastructure. In this type of setting a blanket security policy and deployment procedures are in place for all managed clients with the ability for the client to create exceptions in that policy based on the needs of that company.  In the current form every client is kept separate and isolated from all the other clients. These client computers maybe on or off site and all racked up together and caged off in the datacenter.

Is the cloud going to redefine how managed services are handled for the different clients moving forward?  I have not seen any company’s services combined in any way yet and in fact even different businesses areas or companies within a parent company are still being completely segregated. In some cases different business units of a parent company have segregated services that they all use.  Email and virtualization are two prime examples of services that could be combined managed, maintained and shared in a cloud but yet the political landscape and the politics involved have forced these and any other services to be segregated and running on separately maintained and owned hardware.

Services, like Google’s Gmail, would not be segregated and all the clients would be run in parallel on the same cloud infrastructure separated by security procedures and policies put into place.  Will the larger Fortune 500 companies be more willing to share services with others or will they prefer to not play with others?  I think this will really depend on if the cloud would be for all infrastructures and services for the company or if the company is just going to have a specific service, like email, managed by the third party.

From what I see today, where I work, there is not much interest in combining segregated business areas. In fact, so far from what I have seen personally the only true interest has been to consolidate support services in places like India and Argentina. In the time that I have been working in managed services I do not see the direction of consolidating services into a shared cloud. In the future I see things ending up that way, with the Cloud Security Alliance working on defining the policy and procedures of the segregation of the services or application within the cloud to offer more opportunity for consolidation as well as a better return on investment from not having multiple servers all doing the same thing. In that same thought wasn’t this one of the big selling points of virtualization to begin with?  In some ways the cloud is an extension of the thought processes and methodology of virtualization; As stated at the latest Boston VMware vForum keynote “the Cloud is virtualization with automation.”

With technology moving at the speed of light and the big push for the cloud happening all around us it will be interesting to see what the future entails.  What do you see happening in your environments?

Posted in SDDC & Hybrid Cloud, SecurityTagged , ,