IT Management

Perhaps the most misused term in the IT industry today, “cloud,” has become a buzzword that virtually every IT company has attached itself to in some way. Here I will help you sift through the hype and give you the what, where, why, and how soon.

The “why” is easy: cheaper, quicker, easier, better, and OPEX instead of CAPEX; the promise of those words has every organization at least thinking about cloud for its future. 

But “what” is everyone really talking about? The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)  defines it this way: “Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

The cloud most referred to is the public cloud. Accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime, from virtually any device, this public cloud exists on the premises of the cloud provider. In addition to the public cloud, there’s the private cloud, the community cloud, and the hybrid cloud. They have these essential characteristics in common:  

  • Broad network access: Available over network through standard mechanisms
  • On-demand, self-service: Consumer unilaterally provisions automatically
  • Rapid elasticity: Rapidly and elastically provision automatically to quickly scale in/out
  • Resource pooling: Resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned/re-assigned per consumer demand.

The “where” can make a key difference. Private clouds can be on-premise or off-premise, but private cloud essentially includes your own infrastructure supplying cloud services to the users selected by cloud owners. A number of organizations have been running mainframe-powered private clouds for many years (and love the fact that cloud, virtualization, etc. are hot “new” things in IT).  

Community clouds are an interesting eco-system in which they share infrastructure between several organizations from a specific community with common goals and concerns (i.e., think of a huge retailer with numerous suppliers to work with every day). The costs are spread over fewer users than a public cloud (but more than a private cloud), and the community gets some, not all, of the possible benefits of cloud computing.

That brings us to the hybrid cloud, whose infrastructure is a composition of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures (usually private and community or public) that remain unique entities, but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load balancing between clouds).

There’s a real force in play here that’s driving all enterprises with a mainframe toward hybrid cloud. Many of the business-critical services being targeted by enterprise CIOs will likely be cross-platform services and their cloud must therefore be heterogeneous and flexible. Combining the irreplaceable efficiencies and other attributes of the mainframe with the low cost and other attributes of public cloud is an obvious decision for CIOs and other IT leaders, and I believe all these enterprises will eventually adopt a hybrid cloud strategy. If I’m right and the tremendous control/cut costs pressure on CIOs continues, this means the question of “how soon?” could (and perhaps should) be this year or next for most of you.

  • The good news is your already secure and efficient mainframe is ideal for the private cloud piece of your eventual hybrid cloud and your organization can begin realizing benefits during the journey to your hybrid cloud destination by embracing the next generation hybrid architecture from IBM;
  • integrating cross-platform, cross-enterprise management (where possible now);
  • exploring how to enable your mainframes to be used in private (and hybrid) clouds now; and empowering a more cross-enterprise, converging IT workforce.

With new technologies such as the zEnterprise and other cross-enterprise and cloud-enabling solutions, organizations and their IT leaders can today begin to address another key question facing them: “How do I get started?”