Every cloud has a data center behind it

A reader sounds off: Cloud computing services don't magically materialize, 'they have to be on somebody's premises.'
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

In my recent post, "Ponder this: traditional data center may rise again, thanks to cloud," I pointed to Judith Hurwitz's contention that many non-core applications may get sucked out of data centers and replaced with cloud-based services, leaving the centers to once again focus on their more traditional roles as keepers of core enterprise applications.

Data Center NASA Photo credit NASA Office of the CIO

A reader, CobraA1, vigorously pushed back against this statement, pointing out that what we call "clouds" are, in reality, services delivered from a data center, somewhere. "They have to be on somebody's premises," the Cobra posits. "This idea of a 'traditional data center' being different from 'the cloud' is a completely arbitrary definition in order to fit the 'cloud' religion."

Judith Hurwitz's point was that there is a difference between running a core function within an on-premises data center (such as ERP), versus commissioning non-core capabilities or applications from off-site service providers outside the firewall (such as email).

But, the Cobra may have a point as well. Applications and services don't just materialize out of the atmosphere; they, too, need to be supported by hardware and software that is built, maintained and provisioned. And -- very important -- people to run it, monitor it, patch it, troubleshoot it, secure it, and keep things at high performance.

Cisco recently issued a study that says the output from most data centers is already we refer to as the "cloud." Within four years, the company said in a recent research report, two-thirds of all data center traffic across the world — as well as workloads — will be cloud-based services. Cloud services are simply becoming the normal mode of data center output -- whether it's for outside or internal customers.

Cisco says it doesn't differentiate between private and public cloud services. But for organizations with abundant data center assets, it means developing greater capabilities to virtualize and service-orient these systems and applications. And again, to Judith's point, many peripheral applications may be offloaded from internal data centers and run on someone else's data center.

Ultimately, we won't even be calling it 'cloud.' It will simply be computing -- no matter who's providing it.

(Photo credit: NASA, Office of the CIO.)

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