Don’t Fear the Cloud (the Cloud is Good)

This article was originally posted on the VMware vCloud corporate blog. I am re-posting here for the convenience of the readers of my personal blog.

I have been working in IT for about 15 years now, nine of which I have spent working with customers to get the maximum out of VMware enterprise technologies in the x86 space. I have always said that virtualization has been a cornerstone in this “PC space”. Yes, some still call this platform a "PC," go figure. As part of this journey, I have heard many professionals ask, "is this the latest buzz-word or is there something substantial to the Cloud?” Yes, there is something substantial to it.

I really think that the word Cloud has gained a bad reputation among some IT people simply because it's been used (or I should say abused?) a lot. That's why, whenever I enter into such debates, I tend to move the discussion towards what I believe Cloud really means. Cloud may mean many different things to many of you but fundamentally the word Cloud resembles a number of very tangible aspects you deal with (or you would like to deal with) on a daily basis within your data centers. To name a few, the most relevant are:

  • Self provisioning of resources;
  • Pay per use;
  • Automation;
  • Independence of IT resources location.

There are obviously more but these are among the most important. Talking to people, I have the impression that most of them associate the word Cloud with the concept of being able to consume resources from outside the organization’s boundaries. Not necessarily wrong, but Cloud is much more than that. As a matter of fact, there are really good discussions within enterprises today about creating Private Clouds within the data center boundaries – the exact opposite of the typical Cloud "perception" (i.e. provisioning resources from the outside). There are many other things that define a Cloud (see the list above) which goes well beyond the "Independence of IT resources location".

One of the things VMware has been very active with is the definition of standards in the Cloud space through the vCloud APIs. These describe a standard way for end-users to consume compute resources that are provided by an external organization (a.k.a. service provider). Leveraging this concept, one of the thinsg we are very obsessed with at VMware is the possibility to provide federation (through the standard vCloud APIs) between Private Clouds and Public Clouds, effectively empowering organizations with a single homogeneous view of distributed resources. Those resources can be tin their own facility or in service providers’ facilities. Do you think this is just a recent Cloud marketing hype? Have a look at the following picture:

At first it doesn’t really look shocking as it summarizes many of the concepts we have already digested in the last few years. I am referring in particular to the powerful concept of decoupling applications and workloads from the physical infrastructure (servers, network and storage). What it is interesting though about this picture is the fact that it’s a slide from a deck I presented back in 2004 at an IT congress. Not only that, specifically interesting is the comment in red at the bottom of it: “On-demand ready: you can buy it, rent it, share it (or a mix of this)”.

Isn’t that one of the many attributes (“Independence of IT resources location”) we are pitching today for Cloud computing? The point I am trying to make is that this is not hype. This is what virtualization enables you to achieve! It’s for real. I wasn’t trying to create hype back then. I was just working with customers to redesign their datacenters using virtualization technologies. We could easily see, six years ago, where this foundation would have brought us to from an architectural perspective. If you are skeptical about the word Cloud please try to take a step forward and dive a little deeper into what the Cloud really is. You may very well find out that what we call Cloud is the collage of functionalities you have been dreaming about for the last 10 years. At that point you may find it a bit less of a hype… and a bit more of a end-goal for any organization. Don’t fear the Cloud. The Cloud is good.