My thoughts on what cloud computing and the future of the data center has changed a bit in the last 3 years. When I first started working on a cloud computing project for a large bank in America back in 2008 I was convinced that soon every enterprise would create their own private cloud and use xCAT (or something). Then I thought they would instead all use OpenStack. But I figured every organization would indeed build its own private cloud. This has not panned out. Not even close and its 6 years later.
Eventually, I thought, all enterprises would migrate to one public cloud provider, and it never occurred to me that people would see fit to use more than one public cloud provider. I did form a concept of the InterCloud back then so I’m not too far off the mark. But my vision is evolving and becoming more clear. I finally see where IT is going. (Or at least I think I do)
In my small sector of the world hardly anybody has a private cloud. And when I say private cloud, I mean self service portals with completely automated provisioning. Yeah, that’s just not happening. The truth is, I don’t think it will for most organizations. There’s not enough need there. The only people that need VMs in a self service portal for most organizations are the VMware admins themselves and they are savvy enough to right click and make that happen without all your bloated self provisioning tools, thank you very much.
What I am seeing is that more and more are going to the public cloud. This started out more as a shadow IT initiative, but more of the people I work with have in fact embraced it at central IT. But its managed as a one off and people are still trying to figure it out. People aren’t ditching their own data centers, and just like they’re not ditching their mainframes, in large enterprises there will always be some footprint on premise for IT services.
The other thing that seems completely obvious now is that people will want to use more than one public cloud provider. The reason being some public clouds specialize in different things. For example: I might run Exchange/Office 365 on Azure, but I might run some development applications on AWS. Similarly, I might have a backup as a service contract with SunGuard. But I may not trust my data to anyone but my own 6 node Oracle RAC cluster that’s sitting in my very own datacenter. Can you see where this leads us?
Central IT is now responsible for sourcing workloads. The data center is distributed. My organization’s data is all over the place. My problem now is managing the sprawl. Getting visibility to where the sprawl is and making sure I’m using it most effectively.
Another misconception I see is that people think using two or more public clouds means VMs move between data centers. Today, that’s pretty impractical. Migrating VMs between data centers takes too long, even if the network problems weren’t a problem. And besides, when you think that way, you are thinking more about pets in your data center instead of cattle like the future of applications is. So forget about that right now.
Instead, focus on the real issue that needs to be solved. And this is where I think Cisco can make big things happen. That is: How do you connect distributed data centers?
The Nexus 1000v InterCloud, or InterCloud Fabric I think is what Cisco is calling it now starts down this road. It allows us to communicate with VMs in a public cloud with our own cloud using our same layer 2 address schema. This is pretty cool, and a good start, but we’ll need more. For example: We might have our data base servers reside in our own data center. (No self service portal here). Then we’ll develop apps that will be hosted in public clouds. The application servers will need to communicate with each other and with the database. The different applications may be in different clouds. The real issue is how do they talk and communicate effectively, securely, and seamlessly. That is the big issue that needs to be solved with distributed data centers.
Is this where you think we’re headed? I feel like for the first time in five years I finally get what’s happening to IT. So I’ll take comfort in that for now, until things change next month.