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Are Enterprises Ready for Cloud Computing?

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cloud

Cloud computing is the mutation - the revolution. Enterprise IT and Corporate CIOs/IT Managers will jump on the opportunity to evolve as they always have when revolutionary technology mutations have occurred.

So, here’s an example of a scenario of how the evolution will happen.

During the next couple of years two things will occur.

First, enterprises know that the hardest things to plan for with regard to capacity, performance, etc., are on line applications offered on the web. They really have no control over who may log on, how many may log on, when they may log on, what they may do once they log on, etc. So, the natural evolutionary step to mitigate this is to run those applications on massively scalable infrastructure that scales up and down dynamically as needed, using resources on demand, always there when needed and only paying for what is consumed. These infrastructures are what we are now calling Clouds.

At the same time, the mission critical data and systems of records that are the enterprise life blood residing in their datacenters need to be isolated from these on line applicatons exposed to every internet user. This will be accomplished through the use of secure virtual gateways in the Cloud, connecting, in a loosely coupled manner, rather than a fully integrated manner, to the enterprise datacenters, their databases and systems of record.

These gateways will take many forms. They may be SOA gateways using XML and virtual XML firewalls, virtual messaging systems such as MQ, virtual EAI appliances or customized appliances encapsulating organizations’ proprietary techniques for reliably and securely communicating among systems (and anything new that comes along to supplement or replace these things).

Second, infrastructure/architecture agnostic Cloud platforms (what we at 3tera call Cloud Computing Without Compromise) will be installed in enterprise datacenters. There will be two factors that will drive this.

(1) As more and more apps are offered on line, those same apps will often be used internally by the enterprise employees. Why incur the cost of having separate experiences for employees and customers who are accessing the same information and functionality. Also, when connecting the on line apps in the Cloud to the datacenter and SORs, having them on similar platforms will make it seamless and efficient. ‘

(2) A Cloud infrastructure done right, behind the corporate firewall, enables the enterprise to run their datacenters as metered utilities. It enables them to more efficiently use their hardware resources by provisioning what is needed for each application on demand and releasing those resources when no longer needed for other applications to use. It enables them to more efficiently use intellectual capital by shifting IT administrators from managing machines to managing applications. And, most importantly, it greatly decreases time to market because the lengthy provisioning, configuring, etc., of hardware and infrastructure resources is, pardon the pun, virtually eliminated. So albeit humongously significant, forget all the talk about cost reduction and avoidance. Cloud Computing in the enterprise has the potential to greatly increase revenue and beat the heck out of competitors implementing like products using traditional datacenter deployment methods.

OK - so what’s the next step in the evolution?

At the same time that enterprises are growing comfy with apps in Clouds and realizing the upside of dynamic provisioning and scaling, they will be developing new applications and replacing/changing existing ones. They will start building the new apps in Clouds and as they change existing apps, will consider migrating them to the Cloud in the process. This will afford them the advantages of much faster times to market, the ability to run applications on demand in multiple datacenters (globally if appropriate) creating their first truly complete disaster recovery abilities and concentrate on their core businesses which may be financial services, health care, manufacturing, etc., but certainly is not datacenter operations (they will leave that to the companies whose core business IS datacenter operations).

Now the final step (well, as my limited vision can see it - of course there will be much more beyond this):

Enterprises will find themselves with datacenters that only contain data. Finally, a datacenter will be what its name implies. All of their functionality - all the non-data tiers of their services, will be in Clouds connected to the datacenters’ data. At that point, evolution will have to start behaving like the datacenter is an appendage. Over time, the corporate data will move to the Cloud just as many smaller businesses without datacenters are using storage services in Clouds today. The corporate datacenter will be a vestige, and eventually evolution will cause it to disappear.

Discussion of this step always raises questions of privacy and security. I maintain that when corporate data is in the Cloud it will actually be more protected than it is in the enterprise datacenter. But I’ll save that for a separate, devoted future posting.

In short, the corporate datacenter is not a stupid useless entity. There have been no alternatives. My hat is off to the brave men and women who devote their careers to thanklessly operating them. They are profound necessities. But neccesity truly is the mother of invention, and the corporate datacenter, with all of its overhead, has bred Cloud Computing.

So, as I started this with a PC comment, I feel like ending it with one. As I composed this, I did realize that there are many people out there that discount Darwinian evolution in favor of Creationism. I assure you that I have the utmost respect for all beliefs, no matter how different from my own. And my references to evolution here, obviously have to do with the evolution of technology, not of the human race. Furthermore, I am very happy to depict the corporate datacenter as the eventual dinosaur with a saddle on it’s back being ridden by a member of the Cloud Computing species.

More Stories By Barry X Lynn

Barry X Lynn is Chairman and CEO of 3Tera, Inc. He has a storied career in data center innovation and a deep understanding of enterprise customers and applications. He has over 37 years of executive experience in the IT and financial services sectors in Fortune 100 companies and as an entrepreneur. Early in his career, he was with Wells Fargo, where he was executive vice president and head of Investment Operations before becoming chief information officer (CIO) of Wells Fargo and Company and president of Wells Fargo Technology Services. In 1995, while at Wells Fargo, he built the world's first Internet online banking system. He was also president of Wells Fargo Securities Clearance Corp. and founder and president of Wells Fargo Securities, Inc. Prior to 3Tera Lynn founded Be eXceL management, Inc., a management consulting firm, which incubated early stage technology companies. Additionally he's a general partner of SVP II, a fully invested venture fund managed by Shoreline Venture Management LLC, and is a frequent speaker at IT events in US and internationally.

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