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Hybrid Cloud Opportunities: Is IT Ready?

10 Tools To Prevent Cloud Vendor Lock-in
10 Tools To Prevent Cloud Vendor Lock-in

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Cloud computing poses a challenge, not necessarily to well-staffed, polished and accomplished IT shops, but to those "who didn't necessarily fully deploy the previous generation of on-premises network and systems management," said Jeffrey Kaplan, managing director of ThinkStrategies, an IT consulting firm.

Kaplan moderated the opening day workshop, "New Tools and Techniques for Managing Hybrid Cloud," at Cloud Connect, a UBM Tech event in Santa Clara, Calif. The show started Tuesday and runs through Friday. For struggling IT staffs, hybrid cloud computing promises to deploy an additional layer of computing atop the complexity it is already trying to master, Kaplan told about 40 attendees of his half-day workshop.

Spending on external cloud services will take over 14.5% of the IT budget by 2020, according to an estimate by Research and Innovation Estimates, cited by Kaplan, whether IT staffs want it to or not. Developers tend to lead the way to the cloud from inside the enterprise, using credit cards to commission servers from public cloud providers rather than allowing their projects to be delayed for days waiting for internal IT provisioning.

Gatepoint Research/ScienceLogic asked IT managers whether they needed new tools to manage cloud computing, either on-premises private clouds or public clouds. Sixty-four percent said they needed new tools, 30% said they "weren't sure," while only 6% said new tools were not needed. Kaplan was puzzled by why nearly a third were undecided, but Gatepoint researchers said the data indicated that these fence-sitting or neutral answers weren't really neutral at all. When a large group answers "unsure," it means they're dissatisfied with existing tools but don't know what should take their place, he said.

[ Want to see one option for building a private cloud that could work with public clouds? See Nebula One Debuts: OpenStack As Hardware. ]

Kaplan turned to Dave Bartoletti, senior analyst for infrastructure and operations at Forrester Group, to discuss some steps to bring an IT shop into a position where it's better able to adopt hybrid cloud -- a combination of private cloud, where users self-provision and scale out virtual servers as needed and then are charged for their use, and public cloud, where standard, non-sensitive workloads or overflow demand are sent to supplement the private cloud.

Bartoletti said interest in public or hybrid cloud computing is widespread, but 38% of 1,058 IT decision makers surveyed by Forrester said they had no formal strategy or plan for adopting it. That figure, however, is expected to drop to 15% by the end of 2013, according to the Forrester Forrsights Services survey conducted in the fourth quarter of 2012.

In a Forrester software survey of 2,444 IT software managers at the end of 2012, 50% of companies said they will be using some form of infrastructure-as-a-service by the end of 2013. That compares to only 14% in 2010, Bartoletti said.

The movement to the cloud is being lead by developers who are going around IT to get the virtual servers they say they need and can't wait for in their development projects. Sixteen percent of IT decision makers said in the Forrsights Services survey they saw business making unsanctioned use of outside cloud resources, but they said that figure will drop in 2013 to 9%.

"Developers are much more aggressive about cloud than any other part of the organization. Developers are bringing sensitive data, your core IP, to the cloud. Whether they're doing it with your permission is another question," warned Bartoletti. He expressed skepticism about the IT managers' confidence that unsanctioned cloud use would drop significantly in 2013. "I think that's funny data. I think those are highly optimistic answers," he said.

As cloud use evolves toward a hybrid combination, IT has the opportunity to take charge of both sanctioned and unsanctioned use, if it can position itself as delivering what the business users, and the developers working for them, need.

"Reach out and offer to be the cloud operator for anyone using cloud services," he advised. "Give developers what they want: a self-brokered service with autonomy from IT," not a service laced with a series of IT-imposed delays and approvals.

But IT can also impose chargeback, so developers and business users are accountable for the resources they're using. "You can make sure they're getting the best deal" and manage their bills for them. But like Alcoholics Anonymous, "you first have to acknowledge that it's happening," he added.

The longer range goal for IT is to unify the tools used to manage the internal private cloud and public cloud use. That probably will be done by the holder of a new job title, the cloud administrator, who may (or may not) rise out of the ranks of virtualization administrators already in the IT organization. He will learn from the example of public cloud providers, ration the number of virtual servers offered on-premises and in the public cloud, and find a way to monitor and manage both from a single management console.

"You have to be concerned about building another silo of management tools," the bane of the previous generation of specialized and isolated resource providers, he said.

Big iron is under relentless pressure to prove its value in an x86 world. We look at five ways to bring it into the distributed data center. Also in the new, all-digital Mainframes In The Age Of The Cloud special issue of InformtionWeek: Five steps to a better wireless LAN. (Free registration required.)