Cloud developers unfazed by portability issues

update Software developers "moving aggressively" into cloud computing to exploit opportunities in spite of landscape that's still dominated by vendor lock-in issues, says IBM exec.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

update SINGAPORE--Software developers are striking while the iron is hot and "moving aggressively" into introducing cloud-based apps, according to an IBM senior executive.

Alan Ganek, CTO and vice president of strategy and technology of Big Blue's software group, said: "Contrary to people's perception that developers are hesitant to develop cloud-based apps because of portability issues, I find that they are moving aggressively to exploit the cloud."

Speaking at the opening of IBM's Cloud Lab here Tuesday, Ganek, however, cautioned companies against engaging vendors that provide proprietary lock-in offerings.

To prevent the repercussions of vendor lock-ins, such as additional costs to port programs over to another cloud platform, he said open standards are critical customer requirements.

Ganek, though, qualified his statement by noting that a "minimalist approach" is needed in terms of establishing new standards in the market for cloud computing. The industry should be conservative about introducing new standards and changing existing ones because too many standards could see a splintering and lead to the creation of "proprietary islands of cloud environments", he said.

To prevent this from happening, he added that IBM is supporting existing standards bodies in various domains such as storage, security, networking and service level agreement (SLA) monitoring.

If there are gaps that need to be filled, IBM will collaborate with other industry partners to introduce standards to plug the holes, said Ganek, pointing to the company's partnership collaboration with Zend Technologies, together with other industry players such as Microsoft and RackSpace, to create the Simple Cloud API (application programming interface).

Singapore eyes cloud potential
To encourage cloud adoption, he said IBM is also working with governments, academic institutes and research laboratories around the world through its Cloud Lab program. The new addition here is the company's 11th such facility globally.

"The Cloud Lab in Singapore will help IDA (Infocomm Development Authority) realize its iN2015 masterplan and accelerate the adoption of cloud computing for all organizations to build a smarter Singapore," Ganek added.

Elaborating on this, IDA CEO Ronnie Tay said at the launch that the government agency will work with IBM to "engage in applied research relevant to IDA's objectives to promote cloud computing adoption in Singapore, with the goal of developing innovative, repeatable, first-of-its-kind cloud solutions that address challenges faced by users in both private and public sectors".

Khoong Hock Yun, the IDA's assistant chief executive of infrastructure and services development, noted during a media briefing at the launch that the ongoing next-generation national broadband network (NBN) project will provide the framework upon which independent software vendors (ISVs) here can create cloud applications. The initiative is expected to deliver ultra-high speed broadband access of 1Gbps (gigabit per second) to 95 percent of the local population by 2012.

The IDA today issued an open call for "innovative cloud-based projects", from which successful applicants will be able to tap one of the national grid service providers' compute and storage capabilities to bring their products to market. However, no monetary grants will be awarded, the IDA's Web site stated.

Cloud has 'too much baggage'
But while there are various initiatives globally to drive adoption, Ganek noted that one of the barriers cloud computing faces is the "baggage" the term itself carries.

He said companies and IT vendors are currently too "hung up" over how cloud computing should be defined and what it should encompass. This hubbub does not serve customers well, he added.

Ganek urged companies to instead focus on the core concept of "shared resources in a multi-tenanted environment". From here, they can then pick and choose cloud offerings according to their business needs, he said.

"Cloud computing is not a one-size-fits-all solution and companies need to find out what they need first before buying into such solutions," he said.

IBM has been beefing up its family of cloud products and services, which it has parked under its Smart Business brand and includes a desktop virtualization service.

Big Blue' recent acquisition of Cast Iron also adds to its cloud fray, according to Allan Krans, senior analyst at TBR. In a report Tuesday, Krans said Cast Iron touts itself as a cloud integration company and its core business lies in its ability to "knit together IT systems, many of which are fundamentally different and can physically reside anywhere in the world".

With this capability in hand, IBM has taken a big step in providing the "glue" to tie up the various flavors of delivery options--whether through a private, public or hybrid cloud environment--into a comprehensive products and services portfolio, said the analyst.

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