Yes, you read it right. No, it is not what you think. To understand cloud computing, one need to open the hood and take a peep or a long look inside. Much has been said about cloud or cloud computing. With so many vendors and multifarious experts advocating cloud computing, sometimes the information becomes so transmogrified that it has became hazy (pardon the pun). Unless you are living outside Earth (with the exception of the international Space Station), virtually (pardon the pun again) all folks in the corporate and IT world are aware of it.
The way I look at it, it is sophisticated but should not be complicated. I mean, for cloud computing. By right, most cloud technologies are sort of similar and almost reaching the point of dime a dozen. You have Amazon Web Services, Oracle Cloud, IBM Softlayer, Google Cloud and what-not. These are just either the platforms or the infrastructure (actually PaaS and IaaS) provided by cloud providers. There are other types of XaaS ('Anything' as a Service), such as SaaS (Software as a Service), DBaaS (Database as a Service), AMaaS (Application Management as a Service) and even EV Charging as a Service (EV = Electric Vehicle, and I am not sure whether this is really a cloud solution).
As you can see, I can forgive the man on the street (or a reasonable person, a term used by the legal fraternity), who is confused by all these terms obfuscated by the advancement of cloud technologies. That said, the select cloud platform or the cloud provider may not be as paramount as how one or the enterprise leverage it to form part of their strategic arsenal of business weapons.
Perhaps, one does not simply (pardon the meme) choose the cloud option based on the price or the cost, but rather understand the impact and benefits of the option before any decision is made. One good perspective to augment this decision is to look at some upcoming facets of cloud computing, via 'under the hood' perspective, which are believe are crucial in the near future.
Hyperconvergence in the Cloud
Converged systems basically consist of best of breed compute, storage and networking systems that are pre-configured and pre-engineered to work well together, cohesively and with tight coupling. This reduces the 'time to market' for such an infrastructure to be deployed in the IT environment. No trial and error. No worries on internal compatibility.
Hyperconverged systems go up a higher notch. The converged systems 'evolve' to become modular systems or even appliances which are optimized and highly engineered. Any growth is performed by scaling out the number of appliances, meaning, just add more appliances. So if the enterprise needs to increase speed, CPU or storage space, they just need to scale out, instead of discarding the current box and then upgrading into a bigger box (or instead of scaling up).
The resulting stack of appliances is simplified infrastructure with centralized administration. Virtualization and integration would be straightforward. Of course, it is not perfect. That said, it is a great technology that would strengthen the deployment of cloud computing, with optimized virtualization platforms, lower costs of integration and reduce infrastructure administration overheads.
Automation in the Cloud
Actually, automation is actually new but it has come a long way. Fundamentally, it is now a key feature of a cloud deployment because it alleviates the complexity of virtual machine lifecycle management and facilitates the administrator by orchestrating resources deployment in the cloud environment. It provides tools and templates to quickly deploy an optimized virtual machine configuration, yet flexible enough to adapt to required changes in configuration.
This allows self-provisioning of servers and virtual machines to meet business needs and changes on demand. And yet without involvement (or minimal) of any IT personnel. Any workload could then be implemented quickly to support any elastic demand of the computing resources. Automated delivery will become the norm, not the exception. In turn, instead of just 'keeping the lights on', the business is able to innovate itself rapidly to beat the competition.
The above sounds bizarre but indeed it is what it sounds like. To be agile in the no-holds-barred competitive environment, it takes more than clever strategy but also smooth execution of any cloud workload deployment. Essentially the key feature of cloud-native applications revolves around the concept of applications assembled as microservices in containers. Docker, the open source project, is one such container technology.
It mandates a broad set of components that work together, to enable the such applications to work in the cloud. Moreover, the applications are designed such a way that they are decoupled from any specific physical resource, hence the use of containers. It will leverage API heavily to allow better interaction between the services.
In terms of the architecture, there is a paradigm shift. The architecture has to depart from the traditional monolithic applications architecture, as well as service-oriented architectures to cloud native architecture. With such an architecture, the applications are already built for cloud, which means, the agility to innovate and adapt the workloads on the cloud to support the business swiftly. Indeed this is so vital such that Cloud Native Computing Foundation has just been recently established.
"It creates an environment where business users can get immediate access to the resources they need. It eliminates cost through automation. It enables developers to deliver applications in record time". These are excepts from a paper developed by CSC. For more information, please check out this paper entitled "Cloud Platform Enables Business Agility'.
Once again, let me iterate that cloud strategy and deployment is a journey. Imagine that it is a road trip on a firm ground but with no signs or a well-built road, as depicted in the picture above. However, you do have a compass, rations, a travel guide and companion, as well a vehicle to bring you to the next stop. God willing, you should reach your target destination, the rainbow.
In a nutshell, by stripping the cloud under the hood and appreciate the intricacies of the upcoming facets, enterprises could better leverage on the trending cloud technologies and how to adopt them. Bear in mind that cloud computing is still evolving. Hopefully, by having to look at the crystal ball, the business is able to strategize the next move on the chessboard and confidently checkmate the competitors. One thing for sure, the question is not if cloud adoption will be ubiquitous but when and how.
Photo credit : Atmospheric Phenomena