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Interview: Deconstructing cloud computing

Zafar Anjum | June 8, 2010
Mark Settle, CIO, BMC Software, discusses the real challenges CIOs face in implementing cloud computing.

Mark Settle, CIO, BMC Software

Despite all the talk about cloud computing, there are no standards for integrating cloud computing systems. Do you see that as a big challenge for CIOs?

Its true that there are no universal management solutions for integrating public cloud resources with the internal assets located within a companys existing data centre.  We are still in the very early stages of public cloud computing. There are a variety of emerging public cloud providers and each one has its own architecture, operating model, pricing, etc. I think its premature to expect management standards to exist anytime soon but I dont think thats necessarily a deterrent to leveraging the capabilities of the public providers.

A cynic might argue that many companies have failed to establish integrated management practices for the resources that currently exist on their data centre floors, so its a bit of a stretch to assume that standards will emerge to govern the management of public cloud resources within the forseeable future.

In my opinion, current obstacles to public cloud adoption are more legal and financial in nature.  Most of the cloud providers are not prepared to sign contracts that commit them to specific performance service level agreements (SLAs) or to financial indemnities for security lapses.  

Standard technical interfaces for integrating public cloud assets with internal data centre resources would undoubtedly speed the adoption of cloud computing, but Im not sure that the lack of standardisation is a major obstacle to public cloud adoption. Some of the larger and more sophisticated public cloud vendors are establishing public interfaces for integrating the management of their resources with the private cloud resources that exist within a companys existing data centre. The vendors are also developing technical procedures for managing security and performance within the shared public cloud environment.  

What are the real challenges CIOs face in implementing cloud computing: - pre-, during and post-implementation?

There are two flavours of cloud computing in most organisations: the construction of a private cloud that makes maximum use of internal data centre assets and the ability to procure public computing assets on an as needed basis.  

As you go about constructing a private cloud, you start taking equipment away from individual functional groups and pooling those assets so that they can be optimised for use by the overall enterprise. You are trying to achieve the maximum return on the capital that has been invested in those assets by using virtualisation techniques to achieve the highest degree of capacity utilisation. The biggest hurdle in this process isnt technical its political. You have to break down the sense of ownership that the functional groups have over the equipment that has been purchased to support their systems. A second key challenge, post-implementation, is agreement with your CFO to purchase additional capacity in advance of demand. If you dont maintain surplus capacity in your internal cloud, those same functional groups will demand dedicated resources the first time you are unable to satisfy their requirements from the shared pool of internal resources.  


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