Forrester analyst James Staten recently authored a pair of reports on cloud computing that do something increasingly rare in the world of cloud analysis: give useful advice. Rather than talk about cloud computing as an all-or-nothing proposition where the only options are the status quo or Amazon EC2, Staten actually recommends deploying an internal cloud, leveraging public clouds either as part of a virtual private (hybrid) cloud strategy or for cloud bursting. If cloud computing is ever going to take off at the enterprise level (Forrester shows enterprise adoption at only 4 percent), large companies need to know they can get almost the full cloud experience without throwing away the millions they already have invested in their data centers. In fact, they can squeeze even more out of those investments.
The IT world was given a taste of this concept last week when VMware cloud computing operating system garnered a large amount of coverage, but VMware is not alone in its quest to bring public cloud-like capabilities to data centers. A non-exhaustive sampling of vendors providing building-block software for private clouds includes IBM, HP, CA, Appistry, GigaSpaces, Cassatt, Egenera, DataSynapse, Platform Computing, 3Tera and Citrix Systmes. These solutions enable everything from dynamic resource allocation to automated power management to migrating applications and workloads across cloud environments. With these capabilities at their disposal, organizations can create service-oriented shared infrastructures, ensure on-demand access to resources, drastically increase server utilization and even save lots of money thanks to the efficiencies enabled.
The problem is that (with the exception of VMware), these companies and their solutions often get overlooked, as in the recent McKinsey study calling Amazon EC2 cost-inefficient while dismissing private clouds as “not by definition true clouds.” Perhaps it is because the prospect of computing literally in the cloud is more captivating, but the result is that many analysts and pundits seem to have blinders on, looking only to the where of computing while ignoring the how. Smart enterprises undoubtedly will perform due diligence while searching for ways to maximize their IT budget dollars, but they need the full range of information (coming from someone other than vendors) in order to make truly informed choices. Hopefully companies that read Staten’s reports are enlightened, and hopefully those reports serve as a signal that it’s alright to talk about all the possibilities that fall within cloud computing’s broad scope.