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BLOG: CIOs' cloud strategy must include public cloud

Bernard Golden | April 27, 2012
For all the apprehension they may bring, public clouds demand a position in the enterprise IT strategy. columnist Bernard Golden explains how CIOs and business leaders can make their peace with the public cloud, and how it's not incompatible with the much-revered private cloud.

Over the past year, it has become clear to IT management that this public cloud computing "fling" has become a serious commitment. Apps are now in production and cannot be disrupted by transferring them to an internal cloud. Moreover, business units are impressed with what they're offered by public clouds -- no lengthy lead times for resource availability, no need for upfront capital investment, and the list goes on.

Consequently, it has become increasingly clear that public cloud use is going to be a significant part of every company's computing strategy. While many (if not most) companies will implement an internal private cloud, every company will need to incorporate public cloud computing into its operating environment.

CIOs Must Accept That Public Cloud Isn't Drifting Away

As I noted at the beginning of this piece, this fact has led to a significant shift in IT cloud computing strategy. A year ago, most CIOs accepted public cloud computing, but their internal assumption was that eventually the dalliance would end with a return to centrally hosted facilities. Given that expectation, experimentation with Amazon Web Services was tolerated as a temporary aberration, but only until the internal cloud was ready.

Today, I'm seeing more and more senior IT executives recognize that the assumption that simply creating a private cloud would extend the traditional, wholly-owned-and-operated infrastructure into the cloud era is unworkable. The reality is that every IT organization is going to have an "and" strategy: Infrastructure will be a mix of private and public cloud computing. For most, that will mean some mix of private resources and Amazon Web Services.

This, of course, raises all kinds of challenges. For one, most internal IT organizations rely heavily on VMware virtualization. Amazon Web Services uses a customized Xen virtualization layer. While many cloud providers offer VMware-based solutions aimed at supporting a common public and private infrastructure, most analysts I've heard from argue that the uptake of VMware-based public cloud computing lags behind Amazon Web Services.

More crucially, most of the VMware-based public cloud providers are not targeted at application development, which makes them less satisfactory for business-unit purposes, since most decisions from the business units are based on individual application issues, rather than general infrastructure choices.

A second challenge grows out of that virtualization difference. If an organization's vision is that applications should be able to be deployed in either a public or private cloud environment (and that should be the vision), how can the organization achieve that? While there are virtual image import products and services, this is not satisfactory as a long-term solution. Applications are long-lived and life-cycle management is crucial. Bit conversion of virtual machines is a one-time event, while application release is an ongoing process.


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