The Route to Full Enterprise Cloud Adoption: Offer Enterprises a Limo, Not a Bus

By John Vincenzo (Profile)
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Wednesday, July 18th 2012
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If you pay any attention to technology, you can’t read anything that doesn’t reference “the cloud.” As a marketing executive I have a love-hate relationship with the cloud. I love the characteristics it represents, because I like things I can get on-demand, to pay only for what I use, and solutions that are flexible enough to adapt as my needs change. At the same time, I hate how every company - both large and small - claims to be offering “something” that is either in the cloud or “enables” the cloud. All the noise gives me a headache.

The bottom line is the cloud represents a new, agile delivery model for IT, and some day the term “cloud” will go away (I hope) and everything it stands for will just be IT. In order to get to that point it is important to discuss what it will take to drive broader adoption, particularly in the enterprise. One key element is finding a way to offer more than just shared services, particularly when it comes to the infrastructure.

Today, many enterprises are willing to outsource to cloud service providers (CSPs) for non-critical applications, including development and test, because best-effort performance and features and the low cost of shared services is adequate. The problem becomes evident when it is time to move an application to production from that shared environment, or when they consider moving an existing, business-critical application to the cloud, suddenly the risk of shared instances outweighs the reward.

To date, virtual compute and storage products for the cloud have evolved and allow for the delivery of both dedicated and shared instances of these services. However, when it comes to the network - particularly the network services that enhance the performance and security of these applications such as load balancers, firewalls, VPNs and SSL offload engines - existing solutions are severely lacking or non-existent. The network is a critical element of data center infrastructure, but its lack of agility and its high costs (both Capex and Opex) make it a bottleneck.

For broad enterprise adoption of cloud-based applications and services to take hold, networking solutions must offer the rapid provisioning, elasticity and cost efficiencies you expect from the cloud and the scale-out performance and reliability you expect from traditional data center infrastructure. There must be a way to deliver both shared services/infrastructure and dedicated services/infrastructure because there is clear value in each. The trick is to be able to seamlessly move from one to the other without disruption depending on customer demand.

The early adopters of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) are primarily CSPs. They sell these network services to enterprises, but have not been able to maximize the business opportunity due to limitations of the products currently available to them. They can sell a shared service to some customers and dedicated services to others. However, they cannot offer either type of service efficiently and they certainly can’t help customers move seamlessly from one to the other. As a result, true enterprise adoption is lagging behind.

Let’s take a closer look at both shared and dedicated solutions.