Service providers once looked to enterprises to figure out how to build their data centers. In the cloud era, the opposite is true.
"In the first seven years, we were always looking to the enterprise and trying to mimic what they were doing. Nowadays, enterprises are looking at us and they do look at things we're doing as a model, Rackspace CTO John Engates said during a panel at the recent InterOp. "The high-end [of computing] was called enterprise class. Maybe we need to call it cloud-class now."
It's still early in the game, but most cloud providers believe the blended, hybrid cloud model is here to stay.
So how do service providers advise enterprises these days?
1) Know what cloud computing is and is not. Virtualization is the underlying platform for cloud computing but it is only one aspect of cloud computing. Engates said the fundamental difference between virtualization and cloud computing is the degree to which you're applying automation and self service to workloads and the elimination of old processes that caused single servers to take up to six weeks to deploy.
"Sitting at a console and creating virtual machines is not cloud computing," Engates said, noting that enterprises must change internal processes and harness a combination of public and private cloud platforms to provide their audiences with on demand services.
At the recent show, executives from Rackspace, Verizon-owned Terremark and NetScout said service providers have Infrastructure (IaaS), Software (SaaS) and Platform (PaaS) services up and running. Cloud providers are now grappling with the complexities of offering next generation storage and networking services.
2. Enterprises will have to embrace a hybrid cloud computing model but they should experiment with public clouds to get a feel for the benefits before deciding on a blended cloud model. There's plenty of time: very few mission critical applications run in the cloud today because performance and QoS tools have not matured yet.
"Enterprises think it'll take five years to catch up with what you have and they want to leverage that, but it's a level of experience you can't simulate quickly," said Ellen Rubin, vice president of cloud products at Terremark, a Verizon company. Rubin advises enterprises to take it slow and start by deploying one workload on a public cloud and experiment with the flexible scaling and self-service benefits before going full board with a hybrid cloud platform.
Once they are ready to begin developing a hybrid cloud infrastructure, that is, building an on-premise cloud and leveraging public clouds such as Rackspace and Amazon EC2, enterprises must face some challenging business and technology questions before architecting a blueprint.
3. Corporations (and SMBs, for that matter) must figure out which applications and data should reside on a big public cloud, and what should remain private, Rubin said. Some I/O intensive applications might run better on premise than on a public cloud. The only way to know is to experiment. Providers advise customers to run a bunch of difference applications and test them for performance and end user experience.
4. Then, they must determind how to wrap other necessary services around them, such as security services, and how to connect their private cloud with the public cloud. Enterprises ought not "see the cloud as an isolated thing. You need to think about the cloud in the context of security services and professional services," Rubin added. "You need to try and make sure that interconnectivity between them is as easy as possible."
5. Enterprises must also choose the right development tools and platforms that meet their objectives, service provider executives note. New applications should be written so that they run the same on the public cloud and in the private cloud. "Portability is at the heart of angst about hybrid cloud" because enterprises have in-house applications that they want to run later [on the public cloud] and that seems scary ... if you can move workloads around easily it removes the tension. "
To cash in on the real benefits of cloud computing -- flexible scalability and capacity -- service providers employ automation across the entire application lifecycle, including the provisioning of virtual machines and hypervisor upgrades -- so they're not touching individual servers. Cloud providers are also designing multi-tenancy servers so that IP addresses can be used reused safely and securely for different workloads, over and over again, Rackspace's Engates noted.
6. Enterprises must figure out how to best benefit from the automation and provisoning services of cloud providers so that they don't have to reinvent the wheel and sink tons of money into building their own cloud services that are becoming commodity services at public cloud providers.
Cloud providers will differentiate themselves on the orchestration of services; core infrastructure, software, platform, storage and network services will be commodity over time. What enterprises need from SPs is what some industry watchers are calling an "operating service agreement (OSA), a successor to the standard SLAs to ensure performance metrics of applications, Rubin noted.
7. Enterprises need to figure out how they're going to manage on-premise cloud and across the hybrid cloud. There are different tools emerging to solve the problem. Traditional enterprise systems management companies are still grappling with this so it's still early. But ensuring a view -- and possibly a common console -- across the hybrid cloud is important, as is end-to-end management, said Steve Shalita, vice president of marketing for NetScout, a cloud management company.
8. Enterprises should demand transparency and openness from their cloud service providers, Rackspace's Engates said. Splintering data and applications beyond the data center and across multiple cloud providers creates big worries for enterprises; cloud providers can help dispel concerns by inviting enterprises to see how a cloud data center operates, Rubin noted.
"Sometimes cloud providers feel like [their cloud] is super secret and they want to keep it hidden. It's like the black arts.. no one knows how their data center works," said Engates, who helped create and backs the OpenStack open source platform for public and private clouds. But this "veil of secrecy" breeds doubt and fear in the minds of customers, he said. "We take a different approach. We want the software to be open and data center design to be open."
9. It's difficult for enterprises to decide on a vendor platform because the APIs and standards are in their infancy. There's OpenStack and CloudStack, Amazon, and others. Which APIs survive is really a matter of the ecosystem that develops around them and there's plenty of room for multiple stacks, cloud providers say.
Enterprises don't need to bet on one horse. They should experiment with public and private clouds and watch how APIs evolve. As the shakeout occurs, the APIs will develop, and compatibility, reliability and latency issues will be resolved. More enterprises will feel comfortable deploying mission-critical applications on the cloud.
10. The hybrid cloud is overhyped, but as a concept it's not going away, Rubin said, noting that enterprises are going to have to figure out how to create connections between multiple cloud providers, traditional data centers and different pools of virtualization residing in many places. The good news, cloud providers note, is that enterprises don't have to rip and replace. They can deploy legacy and modern applications on the cloud without rewriting them and they can do it a little at a time.