Is Your Cloud Open?

Over the last few years, cloud has been talked about threadbare. Although it has successfully moved ahead of its hype phase, yet the adoption curve is beset with many issues. Over the last one year, there is a heightened interest on cloud interoperability and standards.

Before taking the cloud plunge, many CIOs are closely looking at this area and trying to grapple the whole issue of interoperability and exploring choices before them. Clearly, on any cloud roadmap, the CIOs ink, cloud interoperability must occupy a prominent place to avoid reactive strategies post deployment.

Going by the inherent strengths of the cloud, the beauty is that it enables a customer to compose and deploy an application, or even an end-to-end enterprise solution, assembled from the services of multiple providers – with far less effort than required to handle the same degree of heterogeneity in a conventional data center.

Role of Standards

According to experts, customers already recognize this fact and are using, to a growing degree, the distinctive competence of many service providers to assemble composite solutions. Clearly, a service that does not make room for interoperability has the lesser chance to succeed in the long run. Any competitive IT platform should give application developers and customers the freedom to put things where their productivity and capability will be greatest, while putting other things where substitutability is maximized.

Here standards play a big role and the proper role of standards will provide, and preserve, a choice among varied paths.Experts say that as more organizations migrate IT services and systems to the cloud as a result of improved interoperability and portability, the market will reach an economic tipping point.

On an average, it might cost an organization about $500/user to manage an enterprise email system in-house. Compare that to the cost of running a cloud based enterprise email service, which might be around $50/user. That’s a 10-fold economic impact that makes a strong business case for cloud technology.

And it is removing a system from the network that is not directly tied to most organizations’ core competencies. With such big RoI ramifications, interoperability is the key to deriving success on the cloud for various services.

Making it Truly Open

The fundamental premise of the cloud is to bring in a broader set of choices to the enterprise CIO in terms of managing the IT infrastructure. In the conventional in-premise model, the CIO is bound by various conventions and often they face the dilemma when managing multiple vendors and fall prey to vendor lock-ins.

But cloud being a manifestation of agility and flexibility must empower the CIOs when it comes to deploying cloud platforms from different vendors so that vendor lock-ins can be avoided.

Vendor lock-in is not new to the IT industry and why interoperability is discussed on cloud is to preserve the real democracy on the cloud. While CIOs can get tangled with one cloud vendor, but at the same time they have an option to run heterogeneous apps that can be run on multiple platforms if they have clear-cut IT governance policies.

It’s surprising that even vendors like Microsoft are championing open standards and interoperability in the cloud. According to experts, while CIOs are grappling with more common problem on the cloud like security, they first tend to overlook interoperability and they get the feel of things only post deployment. To avoid such instances, experts suggest that CIOs must have a clear cloud roadmap with all the post deployment issues mapped in.

Setting Standards

To overcome this challenge, industry standards must be developed to help cloud service providers design interoperable platforms and enable data portability.

“Security is certainly a very important consideration, but it’s not what will inhibit further adoption. To achieve the economies of scale that will make cloud computing successful, common platforms are needed to ensure users can easily navigate between services and applications regardless of where they’re coming from, and enable organizations to more cost-effectively transition their IT systems to a services-oriented model, says Dr Alexander Pasik, CIO, IEEE and an early advocate of cloud computing as an analyst at Gartner in the 1990s.

Experts suggest that cloud interoperability requires a broad perspective and creative, collaborative problem-solving. Looking ahead, one only hopes that the vendors in the fray will continue to support an open dialog among the different stakeholders in the industry and the enterprise community to define cloud principles and incorporate all points of view to ensure that in this time of change, there is a world of choice and options to the CIO.

Box: 1

Interoperability: Key Questions to Ponder

The key questions on cloud interoperability that a CIO is struggling with are many, but here we list some of the key ones:

How to manage and control data more effectively?

In the end, its all about data and its multiple forms and in a typical public cloud environment the data resides in a 3rd party data center. Hence the cloud vendors must have enough tools that can help them arrive at data integrity even in a third-party environment. Moreover, they must support various data formats and be able to provide a high degree of openness. Therefore its wise to choose the vendors who offer heterogenous management tools cutting across vendors and apps

Does the vendor comply and support cloud standards?
When one talks about openness then there is a need for a set of standards that can govern it. So, clearly standards play a very important role in cloud interoperability. For instance, CIOs need to understand whether the vendor they have chosen supports the standards advocated by entities like Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF).
An entity like DMTF, which has been championing standards, says that standards become a crucial part with increasing pressure to ensure that technology investments remain viable for years to come. Standards allow forward-looking CIOs and IT mangers to select the products that best suit their needs todayregardless of vendorswhile helping to ensure that no proprietary constraints arise when new systems are put in the future.
So, experts suggest that CIOs must look at a cloud platform that conforms to widely used industry standards that can make for smooth interoperability between software and services.

Does the vendor have proactive deployment methodologies?

Here CIOs need to look at how the vendor treats the range of heterogeneous digital assets and transition the identified services on to a cloud platform that can either be one are two or more platforms. Here a vendor who wins is the one who can secure the integrity of on-premise assets, and at the same time provides seamless migration to the cloud with a broad range of manageability tools and on-demand services.

How developer-friendly is my cloud environment?

So, cloud is all about agility and speed and CIOs would be empowered by it in terms of adding and taking out new services. Therefore CIOs need to see how friendly it is to the developers who can develop apps on multiple programming languages and platforms.

Box 2:

Key Takeaways

– The greatest challenge
facing longer-term adoption
of cloud computing services
is interoperability and data
portability

-To overcome this challenge,
industry standards must be
developed to help cloud service
providers design interoperable
platforms and

 

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