A new dawn for cloud computing

With HP and Microsoft poised to sell cloud computing by the pound, competition to lock in both public and private cloud customers begins in earnest

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What of the incumbent cloud leader, Amazon? It already has a private cloud equivalent: Eucalyptus, one of the earliest private cloud software stacks, which evolved independently using Amazon Web Services APIs without so much as a wink from Amazon. Perhaps the new, more competitive landscape was behind Amazon's decision to give its formal blessing to Eucalyptus two months ago.

Today, the benefit of going with closely related public and private cloud solutions is really about leveraging skills: If you have developers and admins who know their way around Amazon Web Services, you might be inclined to have them deploy Eucalyptus as your private cloud. If you're so into VMware that you've bought a laundry list of private cloud management software from the company, Terramark might be worth considering as your IaaS provider, if you can afford it. Obviously, that connection is easily trumped by the specific requirements of certain workloads and which platforms stand to support them best.

Where we're headed and why it matters
The future will be different. The idea of "bursting" from the private to the public cloud, where you fire up a chunk of IaaS from your provider automatically to scale out big workloads, is still a dream -- but perhaps not such a distant one. I'm starting to hear two years out as the time frame for bursting, as well as the generalized ability to manage private and public cloud infrastructure of a piece.

The private/public play sounds like the mother of all lock-ins, doesn't it? That's one reason that, sometime soon, you might consider a preliminary evaluation of these two-pronged platforms. You'll hear all sorts of noises about interoperability standards to make cloud workloads portable among different cloud flavors, but I wouldn't bank on them. With OpenStack, at least, the same open source software will run on many different providers' public clouds, potentially offering greater freedom of choice for IaaS customers.

It may seem as if I'm outlandishly bullish on IaaS. Not really, though I'm excited by the entry of HP and Microsoft into the race. In enterprise computing, change takes forever, and as far as I know the predictions -- and the dollars spent -- for IaaS fall pretty short of hockey-stick growth.

But over the long haul? We're living in a software world, where your entire data center, from monster 10 gig switches to virtualization provisioning, is becoming programmable. Someday you'll probably physically touch your hardware just once, when the truck rolls in. When you follow a similar software configuration procedure in the cloud, except with more options, the objections to moving the lion's share of workloads to the public cloud begin to melt away.

This article, "A new dawn for cloud computing," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog, and for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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