Sunday, April 15, 2012

Emerging Cloud Trends – Impact on IT


A recent Gartner Report identified five Cloud computing trends which could affect the cloud strategy through 2015. While Cloud Computing has a significant potential impact on every aspect of IT, the uncertainty, confusions and misunderstandings continue to exist and the five sub trends would be accelerating and need to be factored into the planning process. This means that the CIOs would be inclined to revise the cloud strategies to align with these trends. This will also mean that the enterprises would need IT workers with skills that could help in making this strategic shift successful. Here are the five sub trends and the skills that these trends would demand.

Formal Decision Frameworks facilitate Cloud Investment Optimization

The benefits of cloud include the shift from CAPEX to OPEX models, reduced spending, greater agility and reduced complexity. These benefits do not come just like that and they come with some challenges in the form of security, lack of transparency, performance & availability concerns, vendor lock-in, licensing constraints and integration needs etc. It is important that these benefits and concerns are carefully mapped against the needs of the enterprise and an appropriate decision is made and necessary monitoring and management processes are put in place. Each of these benefits needs to be quantified considering the organization’s current and future priorities and constraints. For instance, a financial services firm may find the greater agility as a challenge as well (as against a benefit), because, greater agility could mean more frequent changes, which would have an impact on the reliability and stability of the applications. Realizing such impact in mid-course could result in rolling-back from cloud adoption and the resulting impact is obvious.

Over the next few years, organizations would be putting in appropriate decision frameworks, more specifically for the cloud adoption so that the benefits and risks are known upfront and decisions are taken appropriately. The skills that this trend may demand include Risk Management, IT Security, IT Governance, Estimation and Metrics.

Hybrid Cloud Computing as an Imperative

As there are enough reasons for enterprises not moving all their IT on to public cloud, Gartner sees a unified cloud model, where a cloud of clouds is a possibility, in which a single cloud may comprise of multiple cloud platforms part of which could be it internal. As everyone know, the key challenge with hybrid cloud computing is the integration of application and data between on-premise and cloud applications.
This calls for existing internal applications being enhanced to support integration with external cloud applications and at the same time the cloud applications should expose APIs for consumption by other cloud applications and / or the organization’s internal applications. Applications on public cloud need to adhere to industry standards and best practices, so as to support varying integration needs of its customers. The skills that an IT professional would start seriously looking at to get on with this trend are EAI (Enterprise Application Integration), SOA (Service Oriented Architecture), ETL (Extract Transform and Load) and EII (Enterprise Information Integration).

Cloud Brokerage will facilitate Cloud Consumption

As cloud adoption proliferates, so does the need for consumption of assistance. Gartner believes that Cloud Service Brokers (CSB) are one of the most necessary and attainable opportunities for service providers, service distributors and internal IT organizations. The CSB model provides an architectural, business and IT operations model for enabling, delivering and managing different cloud services within a federated and consistent provisioning, billing, security administration and support framework. This will help the unification of the cloud services delivery and management. Gartner has designated Jamcracker as a “Cool Vendor in Cloud Service Brokerages”.

This trend will call for the IT professionals to have a great deal of knowledge on SOA in addition to various standards, practices and tools on service provisioning, delivery monitoring, billing and management.

Cloud-Centric Design becomes a necessity

Migrating existing workloads with highly variable resource needs to cloud platforms is among the immediate opportunities that many organizations are looking at utilizing. But this will not make the cloud adoption complete, as it will result in using various work-around approaches to make it work with existing applications, by-passing standards and best practices. This might work in the near term and but may not scale and yield the real benefits in the longer term. Organizations should start looking at development of cloud-optimized applications that exploit the potential of the cloud. Even internal applications should be designed with cloud-centric model, so that it can exploit the private cloud platform and would make the integration with public cloud applications easier over hybrid cloud computing platforms.

This trend will expect the application and solution architects to start acquiring necessary cloud skills, so that the solution that they architect is cloud-centric and will have identifiable service end points for use with various other internal and external applications and also factor in the support for Cloud Service Brokerages. The design patterns, standards and practices around cloud-centric design is evolving and it is important for the IT workers to keep a watch in this area.

Cloud Computing influences future Data Center and Operational Models

In public cloud computing, the providers have implemented such a model so that the ability of provisioning, delivering and managing the services is optimized and automated to a great deal. This also ensures optimal utilization of the underlying hardware and also minimizing the energy and other operational costs. Enterprises are attempting to implement the similar models within their data centers and have private clouds setup for the consumption of their own internal consumers. This trend is increasing and Gartner predicts that in the next few years any data center (small or big, internal or external) implementation would follow the cloud model.

This trend will expect the Infrastructure Architects to be cloud aware and be familiar with the underlying tools and technologies, which form part of the cloud service provisioning, delivery and management.

Reference: Gartner report "Five Cloud Computing Trends That Will Affect Your Cloud Strategy Through 2015." The report is available on Gartner's website at http://www.gartner.com/resId=1920517.