The growth of the cloud is providing fertile ground for new forms of collaboration between vendors, says Lori MacVittie.
Late in October, chip giant Intel announced it would be working with enterprise application firm SAP on cloud computing and sustainable IT. Then a few days later Cisco, EMC and EMC subsidiary VMware unveiled their own cloud joint venture.
What is clear from these events is that the emergence of the cloud is creating an opportunity for vendors that normally operate in the background. They now have a chance to collaborate with application and cloud computing providers on research into new products and capabilities.
Intel's recent push into the cloud with SAP, as well as the Cisco-EMC-VMware alliance, are examples of how vendors that provide the foundations for cloud computing can join forces with the more visible cloud computing providers. And this shift towards collaboration could result in services becoming cheaper and easier to provide, with obvious benefits that should be passed on to the end user.
Cloud providers are continuing to build their infrastructure to support the needs of organisations taking advantage of the cloud. That growth, in turn, places demands on the infrastructure and on application vendors to tweak, change or update functionality and features to meet specific needs.
But being in the cloud gives core infrastructure and systems vendors a chance to explore what is really going on in their sphere of influence. For example, what might Intel discover through its joint venture? Perhaps it will find that certain workloads make heavier use of specific functions in the CPU.
That discovery could, in turn, lead to specialised CPUs to improve the processing of such workloads. The development could lead to more efficient use of computing resources, which may produce different pricing models based on the kind of processing used by an application.
Similarly, publicised and undisclosed ventures between infrastructure vendors and providers lead to a better understanding of the challenges faced by providers and end users. Being in the cloud with providers gives vendors an opportunity to understand and address requirements through improvements that providers can also use to offer better services.
One of the stumbling blocks to cloud adoption, according to a recent study from hosting provider Peer 1, is a perceived lack of control. Some 21 percent of the 200-plus respondents indicated that "lack of control outweighs the benefits of cloud hosting". That lack of control is due, in part, to the difficulty providers experience in integrating elements of infrastructure that have never before been required to collaborate.
An efficient cloud environment relies on shared information and the integration of routers and switches with application delivery controllers, virtual machines and storage systems.
For any one vendor to build an environment in which all the disparate pieces of the cloud computing puzzle come together would be nearly impossible. But by forming partnerships, alliances and collaborative ventures with other vendors, each can take advantage of their joint expertise, as well as share the cost of research and development.
The collaboration required to enable an efficient, flexible cloud computing environment will lead to a better understanding of its integration and collaborative needs. Consequently, integration will result in easier provisioning of functionality, which will allow providers to offer the push-button provision of higher order services.
Collaboration among vendors that provide the infrastructure on which cloud computing environments are built should result in better integration and new services that trickle down to the end user. That is, until providing a broad set of enterprise-class services becomes a far simpler process.
Lori MacVittie is responsible for application services education and evangelism at application delivery firm F5 Networks. Her role includes producing technical materials and participating in community-based forums and industry standards organisations. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as in network and systems development and administration.