Will Cloud Computing Kill the Data Center?: Page 2

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According to Simpson, organizations are attracted to outsourcing intellectually. However, once they factor in things like compliance, bandwidth costs and increased latency, the intellectual foundation starts to crumble.

“The ASP companies who survived turned to things like hosting Microsoft Exchange,” Simpson added. “There are some applications that lend themselves to that model, but there are even more that don’t.”

Simpson gave the instance of databases. At first glance, they seem like a logical thing to move to the cloud. “Yes, they’re all running SQL Server, but they’re all totally different in terms of the underlying database design and the tables. It’s much more difficult to create a standardized database server instance that you can rent out in the same way you can with Exchange,” he said.

Google, for its part, is not blind to these issues. “The data center isn’t going to fully go away,” Sheth admitted. “There are always going to be applications that organizations do believe are part of their core businesses.”

These, Sheth believes, probably will stay internal, although he believes there will be fewer and fewer in-house corporate data centers as time goes on.

The Need for New IT models

Despite reports claiming great costs savings when applications are moved to the cloud, that’s not always the case.

Virtualizing applications as they are today and moving them to the cloud probably won’t make sense. Costs won’t go down. You’ll still have to maintain those applications and the underlying operating systems, while keeping up with patches.

“It’s a mistake to take a model designed for a private data center and move it to the cloud,” Sheth said. “Moving to the cloud gives you the opportunity to do things differently and gain massive efficiencies.”

He pointed to Gmail, which was designed much differently than traditional email. “We designed it to run over thousands of systems and maintain the mail of tens of millions of users. We designed it with a multi-tenant architecture. As a result, we can do a variety of things to make it more efficient.”

Sheth claims that for the enterprise, Google can bring down the typical cost of email from $250-$300/user/year to $50/user/year.

What Do the Traditional Data Center Vendors Think?

Many traditional data center vendors have a cloud strategy. But whether it’s just a marketing strategy or a real technical one is a different matter.

When I spoke to Brocade CTO Dave Stevens, I expected to hear a lot of warnings about the risks of cloud computing. Stevens surprised me, saying that the cloud-computing model as it applies to the enterprise is truly revolutionary.

“In terms of infrastructure, however, it’s evolutionary,” Stevens pointed out. “You don’t need a new switch or a new disk drive to do any of this.

“As a technology, cloud computing has been around for quite some time, as has virtualization. You’ve been able to virtualize network infrastructure for ten years. It’s not hard to take a router and cut it up into multiple virtual routers. You can do the same thing with switches and firewalls. There’s an awful lot of virtualization technology that is standard today.”

The trick, though, is moving from plumbing up the stack. Ideally, an IT organization would have an easy, intuitive software layer that allows it to reach into pools of infrastructure components and combine them, through software, into an IT-deployable system.

That’s easier said than done. Then when users access those resources, you have to bill them or their business unit for it. Again, not a simple proposition.

For public clouds, another huge obstacle is data movement. It’s one thing to move a few megabytes of data; it’s quite another to move a terabyte. Moving the application is the easy part. Moving huge chunks of data is much harder.

Stevens also brought up compliance. “If I’m moving data with medial information across a public WAN, how do I maintain HIPPA compliance? From an auditing perspective, I’m responsible for protecting that data. The cloud vendor isn’t.”

Google believes that the security, compliance and reliability issues are much less than worrisome than everyone is led to believe.

Next Page: "Your competitors are waiting until 2012...”

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Tags: cloud computing, Google, Microsoft, virtualization

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