Future of the cloud is hybrid
Mix and match data centres
Cloud Unless hosting is your business, it is unlikely that the premises your organisation occupies was chosen with its use as a data centre in mind. Far more likely, space was carved out of the premises, bringing issues of power, cooling and square footage to the forefront when adding new equipment.
For small to medium enterprises (SME), the chance of moving buildings to address these issues is statistically slim. Full-blown hosted cloud services lack the warm fuzzies of having your own data on hand, and raw co-location can get quite expensive.
What is needed are technologies that allow businesses to keep their data in hand but make the heavy lifting, and associated power, cooling and space issues, someone else's problem.
This hybrid approach, not the oft-touted vision of fully hosted cloud services, is the future of IT.
The hardware layer required for private clouds has been commoditised. From SME offerings to data centre-in-a-can, enterprise virtualisation now comes shrink-wrapped with a remote monitoring service thrown in.
Data centre design – including power and cooling – has been offered as a shrink-wrapped service for ages. So long as Intel continues obeying Moore's Law, the hardware side of the equation will offer no surprises.
The real tricks are in the software. Hypervisors are becoming more than a dumb layer between the metal and the bits. They are the service management layer.
Eight years ago, live migration of a workload between two physical servers without interruption was the bleeding edge. Just as this neat trick became old hat, the latest hype – private/hosted migration – will also one day pass pass into the realm of tickbox features.
Environmental awareness is the missing piece of the puzzle. The ability to fling workloads to and fro amounts to nothing if you those workloads don't move when they need to.
Network-enabled sensors exist; software just needs to make better use of them. When the uninterruptible power supply serving a host reports a battery problem, a humidity issue or a thermal excursion, workloads should automatically be moved to other systems.
Workloads could be programmed to be moved into the hosted cloud if they pass a given activity threshold and push up the data centre's temperature too high, or even if the local spot price of electricity rises above the cost of hosting.
These technologies exist and some are production-ready
A fully environmentally aware hybrid cloud is not pre-canned reality just yet. To truly realise this vision with today’s technology requires a lot of scripting and a great deal of diverse experience. These technologies do exist, and most are even production-ready.
This is the next generation of back-end IT, the inevitable evolution of what is already in scattered use today. Software and services able to recover gracefully from failures, or even to offload compute-intensive tasks to a remote instance while keeping the data local.
Over the rainbow
To see this over the horizon is important, as the flexibility of these technologies offers a competitive advantage.
More than simply driving down the costs associated with data centre expansion, true hybrid cloud systems will enable applications to be launched first in the cloud and then migrated internally when the server refresh gives you more local processing power to work with.
That these technologies are still a few years from mainstream should not be taken as incitement to apathy. It will take time to prepare. Workloads that haven't been virtualised need to be, legacy applications need to either be updated or jettisoned.
Yesterday’s private cloud technologies helped to make the operating system less of a barrier to servicer delivery. Today’s public cloud offerings enable systems administrators at companies of all sizes to work around the data centre’s hardware limitations.
Tomorrow's hybrid offerings will change how we think about data centres altogether. Will you be ready? ®
It's NOT the cloud
Can everyone stop calling the Internet the cloud? It's just the Internet. "The cloud" is a marketing term dreamed up by someone who wanted to make the Internet sound more mysterious or powerful.
I would suggest at that point that your PHBs should take some night courses. I recommend risk management as a place to start. Managerial accounting - with a focus on the concept of "false economy" - would be my next recommendation. It could save the company a lot of money, and the PHBs a lot of embarrassment.
For every individual who says information should "stay" in the cloud I have two critical questions:
1) How much per hour does loss of access to that service cost you?
2) Does that IT service contain any information that would damage your business - or expose it to legal liability if the information were compromised?
The more vital the service, or confidential the information, the better the case for hosting it in house. Some services can be tossed in the public cloud “forever.” Others…well, there are strong arguments against that.
Before the hosted cloud can ever take off, hosting in the cloud needs to provide people with "warm fuzzies." No matter how many studies come out that "prove" that the hosted cloud offers superior security to the local cloud, /everyone/ prefers to have someone to flog when something goes pear shaped.
Take a look at modern cloud providers; they present a very narrow flogging profile to the customer. Hosted cloud providers have their own risk management experts; they try very hard to ensure that they take on zero risk when hosting another company’s information. SLAs that actually mean something are stupendously expensive…in the rare instances they exist at all. For most people, that simply won’t do.
Since hosted providers don’t seem to “get it,” only the most uneducated of management would trust to the hosted cloud services the loss of which would present a truly negative impact to the business.
If you’re a consultancy, or other non-retail/non-real-time organisation, then the loss of your accounting package for a day or two probably isn’t the end of the world. You can use paper backups, and enter the information back into the system when it comes back online. If you are a company that requires access to those systems for every single operating hour in order to make a sale to your customers, then you are losing money for each minute it is unavailable.
If you are The Register, wherein you don’t collect a lot of personally identifiable information on your customers, then the loss of customer information isn’t the end of the world. Embarrassing yes, but a very low risk of legal ramifications. If on the other hand you are the aforementioned retail shop, you likely collect and store credit cards for your regular customers…the loss of that information could have catastrophic legal ramifications.
So I argue then that which aspect of the cloud (hosted, private or hybrid) matters to an organisation can never be dictated externally. The hosted cloud isn’t for everyone, and neither is the private cloud. I do however suspect that the hybrid cloud – a combination of hosted cloud services and carefully guarded local company services – will become the norm. I also think that as technologies and applications mature, moving services and data between the private and hosted clouds will become easier and far more commonplace than it is today.
Personally, I don't think that any company with a server room of at least 5 servers will end up with less CPU cycles on the next refresh. They'll end up with the same (or more) locally, and buy some time from a hosted provider to boot.
yeah but yeah but...
"true hybrid cloud systems will enable applications to be launched first in the cloud and then migrated internally when the server refresh gives you more local processing power to work with."
Once working in the cloud that's where it will stay.
The only thing that would persuade PHBs to bring it back in would be real identifiable cost savings, something very difficult to arrange. Especially persuading the PHB with CapX to spend money so the PHB with OpX can save some.
The next server refresh will result in less not more processing power.