Cloud seems to be taking the industry by storm, but how will the technology evolve? We ask local players to cast their eye into their crystal balls and predict what will happen next in cloud computing.
When you talk to Australian technologists about what the likely evolution of the Australian private cloud might be, they will usually tell you that the term refers to a journey and not a specific product or service.
"We see cloud computing as an evolutionary journey to a more dynamic and flexible IT infrastructure rather than a specific product or end state," says Linux and open-source software vendor Red Hat.
And the first step on that path is for Australian organisations to virtualise as many of their applications and platforms as possible, with the eventual aim of hitting the 100 per cent virtualisation mark.
That level of virtualisation has started to creep into conversations with early Australian adopters of the private cloud. Komatsu general manager of IT Ian Harvison mentioned it when discussing his company's ongoing project to shut down its datacentre and shift all of its applications into Telstra's cloud, and so did Corporate Express' IT management when they revealed several weeks ago that they had bought Cisco's Unified Computing System, which has been deployed in several organisations around Australia for private cloud roll-outs.
Australia is currently one of the most highly virtualised countries on Earth. But cases where large organisations have achieved 100 per cent virtualisation of their datacentre are still rare. In the short to medium term, many organisations will remained focused on abstraction through virtualisation as an important goal on their cloud journey.
And virtualisation is really only one part of the bigger picture of what many are coming to call 'datacentre automation'.
"As customers gain experience and confidence by automating their virtual environments they will move their focus into the other 80 per cent of their infrastructure where the real business benefits exist and start to automate the infrastructure that supports the applications that cannot be virtualised," says Paul Allen, the head of Unisys' Asia-Pacific datacentre transformation division.
"The significant business benefits are driving this transformation at a rapid rate. A key to success for vendors as the market develops will be deep understanding of application and data as the complexity resides in the applications and data types, not the underlying infrastructure. Once customers have automated their own datacentre automation (private cloud) they will be able to take greater advantage of public cloud and be able to move to a true hybrid cloud type model."
The shift to public
Another major trend which most pundits are predicting is a long-term shift from private cloud services to public cloud.
"We believe that in the short term there will be high growth in private cloud but over time, private cloud will be superseded by public cloud services in the mid-long term as security and data protection services mature," says Melbourne IT chief technology officer Glenn Gore.
One of the reasons that private cloud is emerging as a strong force in Australia specifically at the moment is due to the legal structures used in technological hubs such as the United States.
When Komatsu shifted its servers into Telstra's cloud, the company built a stipulation into its contract that its data must stay in Australia. "When it's in Australia, we're cognizant of the legislation and we're kept up to date," says Komatsu's Harvison. But in other jurisdictions, it's not so easy — especially in the US, where the country's Patriot Act gives the government certain rights over data which many Australian organisations are uncomfortable with.
Gore — and others — believe that this issue will eventually be resolved through the sheer scale that global public clouds will eventually accomplish.
"The future path of cloud services will mean Australian providers will face competition from massively large cloud environments in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and the Asia-Pacific," he says. "As the standard building blocks for cloud architecture standardises, they will begin to look the same globally. As this happens, Gore says, overseas cloud providers will be able to provide services at a cheaper price — but with similar levels of service.
"While there will be privacy and data protection concerns, the cost differentiation will likely become so great that the savings made on their cloud investments will allow customers to spend on data protection initiatives (encryption etc) to offset those privacy and data concerns," he says.
Adrian De Luca, director of pre-sales & solutions at Hitachi Data Systems, agrees. "Looking further out to 3 to 5 years, public cloud offerings will mature and provide the type of service levels, guarantees and data sovereignty environments to satisfy enterprise organisations," he says.
When you couple IT environments that are 100 per cent virtualised with powerful security tools and cheap offshore cloud computing centres, it's not hard to see why the private cloud will likely act as a lead-in for what many people believe is a more pure form of cloud computing. And it's even possible that regulatory environments internationally will become more standardised in future specifically to support the development of such services.