The cloud computing debate is often focused on IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. IaaS lends itself to two options: a private cloud or a public cloud . PaaS and SaaS are typically considered public clouds. IT people, particularly in larger enterprises lean towards the private cloud, so the debate mostly ends up around the implementation of a cloud platform on which they will migrate their existing applications. The business people are mainly focused on obtaining specific services, which lend them to SaaS and public cloud services.
When talking to CIOs and business people the different viewpoints become evident very quickly. Shouldn’t we start from what needs the enterprise has and how those can best be addressed, taking into account the objectives of each party? And then there is obviously a legacy that should not be forgotten as large sums have been invested over the years in building it.
Business users are looking at services that speed their operations and allow them to respond faster to challenges and opportunities. They look at a series of functionalities that are integrated so they can take best advantage of the information available to them. And as we discussed earlier, the services they are looking for can be rather complex.
One cloud delivery type does not suit all
For each of the service elements, the CIO is confronted with an interesting question. Where can he source the service from at the lowest cost (cost has been an important driver for IT for many years now), while limiting the risk for the enterprise. It’s definitely not “one size fits all”. The nature of the service makes it more suitable for a private or a public cloud. If you decide to use Salesforce.com, you will de facto go to a public cloud service, for your financials you may want to look at legacy or a private cloud.
Converged cloud provides a consistent user experience
So, the debate is not whether to use a public or a private cloud, but how they can be integrated to provide the business users with a consistent user experience. And that is what the converged cloud is all about.
Before highlighting this more, let me describe a scenario. Assume an online retail company that has been in business for a number of years and collected a sum of information on its users. That information is very much at the core of the company as it allows the retailer to provide a more personalized shopping experience.
Converged cloud use case: public and private cloud working together
About a year ago, the retailer gave its customers the opportunity to share their Twitter handle in the retailer’s profile. Now the retailer wants to take advantage of this information to categorize its customers better. It has embarked on an analysis project that will focus on understanding the public profile of its customers and their experiences with the retailer. The retailer will use Twitter information for that, which makes a lot of sense as Twitter information is public. And because this is a one-off project, the retailer will use a public cloud to perform a detailed analysis of their customers using the Twitter handles they collected. This information, available in the enterprise environment, is shared with a public analysis service (see a list of Twitter Analysis tools) and each of the handles is analyzed. The profile and sentiment analysis results are then returned to the CRM system within the enterprise environment where they are matched with the internally available information.
This is the converged cloud in action; a demonstration of how you can combine proprietary and public information to augment enterprise data to improve the way you do business with your customer.
Converged cloud use case: Stress testing in the public cloud then transferring back into the data center
Let’s look at a second example. Now you are a service developer within the IT department. You are using a private cloud environment to develop a new service and improve the user experience on your website. You keep provisioning development and testing environments during the process, but now, prior to take the service in production, you really need a stress test. Will your new service be able to handle the thousands of customers you have on your peak days?
Ideally, you’d set-up a large environment to do that, but unfortunately that’s not available within the enterprise at the moment. So, you provision the appropriate environment in a public IaaS service, and then anonymized operational data to create the test data. You transfer the data and perform the test. If it’s conclusive, you can now rollout the new service in production, but obviously you do not want to do that in a public cloud, but rather in your own environment. What you would like though is that you don’t have to stage the whole service up again in a different environment. You would like compatibility between the public service and your own private service. That is what converged cloud is all about.
Transparent cloud computing with converged cloud
Using multiple cloud services has become commonplace, if we believe an article by Stuart Johnston, titled “IT pros forgo simplicity, use multiple cloud services”. RightScale claims that 87 percent of its cloud usage comes from companies with more than one cloud service provider and more than one cloud type. Gartner includes hybrid cloud as one of its five cloud computing trends. But business users are not really interested in knowing which cloud is delivering the service; with converged cloud, it’s all transparent.
What makes up a converged cloud?
Converged cloud has three characteristics:
- One portal experience where the user can choose the service he/she requires. This implies a common portal and service catalog, and relates to the “cloud broker” concept developed by NIST. The services are described in the catalog and link back to the source of origin. This portal should be accessible via multiple devices ensuring users can be online anywhere anytime.
- Compatibility between the multiple clouds that deliver the services, facilitating the integration of those services in offerings as described earlier, and allowing services to migrate between clouds as and when appropriate
- An integrated management and security framework ensuring end-to-end management and security of each service instance.
As we saw in the examples, information needs to be accessible across cloud boundaries. Multiple approaches are possible including copying information from one cloud to the other, accessing information remotely or using synchronized back-up copies on different clouds.
A call for cloud standards
To address this, at HP we see a pressing need for standards to support cloud computing. These standards need to provide a framework for a cloud operating system that will support enterprise use cases for development, deployment, management and security, through the application and service lifecycle and across multiple clouds. A converged cloud has to be standards based to integrate more easily with other clouds. Standard APIs are a must, but developing a standard cloud platform provides a better opportunity to migrate workloads across clouds.
As companies migrate to cloud and look at consolidating their traditional datacenters and transform them to private clouds, they may look at modular designs such as the HP EcoPOD, following the lead of the US Army.They can be the basis for the private resources of your converged cloud.
Converged cloud security
The one important element to keep in mind when looking at a converged cloud is how security is addressed. Security increasingly becomes all about risk management and the definition of the precautions to be taken to ensure the enterprise is not subject to unacceptable risks. This requires first a detailed analysis of the sensitivity of applications and information, then the identification of the appropriate target platform(s) and finally the integration between applications and with data. Lastly, integrating the management of the converged cloud components provides the environment where security threats can be tackled and the risk managed.
The converged cloud is an exciting vision of where we go. Not all pieces are there yet, but this is what our customers are looking for. The base building blocks for converged cloud from HP are in place and several are announced today. We continue building on this vision, so stay tuned.
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