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Where cloud goes next

By John Considine, CTO, Verizon Terremark, special to Network World
June 10, 2013 05:10 PM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

It's difficult to define what the "cloud of tomorrow" will look like because of all the changes happening in the IT industry -- changes to fundamental application architecture, service models and interactions between components. The cloud continues to disrupt IT in new ways so predicting tomorrow is a perpetual moving target.

Understanding that, a clearer picture of the future of the cloud might be gleaned by looking at the current offerings and identifying how they should change to accelerate the cloud market.

[ IN PICTURES: 10 cloud predictions ]

It's important to recognize why the cloud is different and what -- from a technical standpoint -- drives the disruption it causes:

  • Independent architecture: Historically, enterprises select technologies, partners and vendors and then integrate these (mostly) different elements to form an IT solution. With cloud services, businesses aren't infrastructure decision-makers anymore. The cloud provider makes all of the decisions about the infrastructure and how it can be configured and managed.
  • Multi-tenant infrastructure: Public clouds are inevitably multi-tenant. This is how a cost-effective and scalable architecture is built and it has profound effects on the behavior and capabilities of the infrastructure, and ultimately the user applications.
  • Different control models: When a business designs and manages its own infrastructure, it leverages familiar tools, expertise and technology controls. Internal experts in each and every layer of the infrastructure -- from servers to storage arrays to network switches/routers/firewalls -- are leveraged to manage and monitor this complex stack. In a cloud, almost all of this work has moved to the cloud provider and the "consumer" interaction changes to the controls that the cloud provider exposes instead of those familiar controls from internal infrastructure.

These differences are forcing enterprises to change their cloud use habits and are limiting functionality and what can be done within the cloud. The applications and services that have already made the jump to cloud have most often been Web-based applications specifically designed to work in the cloud.

Of course, there are many applications that have not made transition -- these are mostly enterprise applications such as CRM, ERP, B2D, SCM (and just about any other three letters you choose to combine). These applications are "the hard stuff" that makes a business run.

These applications are deemed difficult because they are restricted by the limitations imposed by cloud architecture. This leaves two choices -- change the applications or change the cloud. As in the technology industry, all things evolve and these applications will eventually be "re-written" or discarded as newer ones are developed. However, there is an opportunity to change the clouds so that they do more allowing us not to wait for the evolution of applications.

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