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Are Clouds Real?

The theme last week at VMworld was "Virtual Roads, Actual Clouds" which begs the question, are we really to a point that clouds are real? The answer, as always, is "it depends". The determent is dependent on where you sit and what your angle of view is, but for the most part clouds are more real for more businesses than they ever were.
The theme last week at VMworld was "Virtual Roads, Actual Clouds" which begs the question, are we really to a point that clouds are real? The answer, as always, is "it depends". The determent is dependent on where you sit and what your angle of view is, but for the most part clouds are more real for more businesses than they ever were.The user perspective depends often on the size of the business. If your a small business or micro business you are likely a consumer of the cloud already. Most often the use case here is to use cloud storage as a backup service or to provide software as a service like accounting or CRM. One step up on the business scale, when you get to the point that you have your own email, application or file servers you may use the cloud in a hybrid fashion with a mix of local data and cloud data. For example you may have email local but archive it to the cloud. In the Enterprise where you have internal application developers you may be or already have begun writing or extending applications that can be shifted to the cloud as needed to essentially burst into the cloud either for resource balancing or disaster recovery.

As we discuss in our article Cloud Bursting with Distance VMotion, the ability to migrate virtual workloads to the cloud is becoming more realistic as SAN extension hardware becomes more capable and bandwidth more affordable. These infrastructures are most often designed to move specific workloads to another data center owned by the organization. If the organization is not of the size that they need or have multiple data centers there are hosting facilities that allow you to replicate your virtual environment to theirs and then be able to activate those virtual machines in case of a local disaster at your facility.

From the user perspective it does all come down to virtualizing the environment to make those workloads more portable. From the supplier and provider perspective it comes down to advancing the technology so that more of the environment can be virtualized. Typically this is not a limitation of processing or memory resources, it is more one of I/O bandwidth, network management storage management and tools to manage the virtual environment.

One of the biggest challenges for the large enterprise and the cloud supplier/provider is network management. The limitations of level 2 networking with spanning tree protocol is well documented. We will cover one of the potential solutions, TRILL, in our upcoming webcast "TRILL - The Most Important Storage Term in 2011". In addition to new standards like TRILL there are solutions available that will extend your virtual investment further than ever. We have discussed these in the past and with the close of VMworld we will explore more of these solutions on the virtual road that make the cloud real.

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George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Find Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement here.

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