What makes cloud computing truly unique from the computing frameworks of the past? Here are two key characteristics that NIST defines as:
- On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.
- Measured service. Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resources usage by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.
Without the characteristics above, I don’t believe that an environment really qualifies as cloud computing.
There are many companies successfully providing public cloud computing platforms, most notably the SaaS players like Salesforce.com. And there are service providers like Savvis with its Symphony platform and Rackspace and Amazon that can provide a hosted, off premise private cloud.
But what about private clouds within the four walls of a large enterprise? And I’m thinking more of an enterprise of the Fortune 1000 variety. How many have actually implemented these two key characteristics of on-demand, self service and measured service that makes the cloud truly unique?
Part of the “cloud-fusion” is that many vendors hype cloud computing solutions to enterprises when, in fact, they’re putting cloud lipstick on their product. That’s not to say that the technology vendors are completely off base but I think they would come across more credible if they positioned their products correctly–and we’d have a more realistic view of cloud adoption in the marketplace.
Technology vendors are overstating things when they suggest they are providing a solution. I would suggest that, for years now technology providers have been providing the key building blocks for creating a cloud computing environment. These building blocks have successfully addressed the other three NIST characteristics for cloud computing including:
- Broad network access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms.
- Resource pooling. The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand.
- Rapid elasticity. Capabilities can be rapidly and elastically provisioned, in some cases automatically, to quickly scale out and rapidly released to quickly scale in. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited and can be purchased in any quantity at any time.
Broad network access is ubiquitous. Resource pooling is a key component of virtualization and is becoming quite common–the multi-tenancy aspect of pooling is not as widespread but is becoming simpler to deploy and more secure with architectures like SMT from Cisco, NetApp and VMware. And the third, Rapid Elasticity, is becoming more common as the virtualization plateau is overcome in corporate data centers and as the server consolidation movement progresses. While early in its maturity, orchestration software is becoming more prevalent and provides for elasticity in the infrastructure.
So, while many of the building blocks exist today, how many large enterprises have pulled it all together? Not just the “easy” elements of cloud computing but all five. And, if so, “How did they do it?” Looks like a subject for another post.
Which leads me to the question: “What percentage of the Fortune 1000 do you believe are providing a true private cloud with the NIST-defined On-demand Self-Service and Measured Service?”
Please take my unscientific poll below and feel free to use the ‘Share This’ button to spread the word via email and Twitter. (I’m counting on WWT’s consulting engineers and technical architects to lead the charge in voting!)
I’ll share the results of the poll in a future post and my thoughts on what it all means. Thanks for participating!