LAS VEGAS—Ask pretty much anybody who is in the process of moving some business operations to the cloud exactly what they think the cloud is, and the chances are you’ll get a different answer from each one. This is, as you might expect, a problem when it comes to moving critical business functions to the cloud.
“The cloud doesn’t have to mean the public cloud,” Margaret Dawson told eWEEK in an interview at the Interop conference here. Dawson, who is Hewlett-Packard’s vice president of product marketing and a cloud evangelist” for the company, said that the misunderstandings of what the cloud is and how it works play a significant role in slowing cloud adoption for many companies. This is because a surprisingly large number of people assume “the cloud” means the “public cloud.”
In reality, Dawson said, most companies don’t, and shouldn’t, use the public cloud for their operations. The public cloud has performance issues, security challenges and risks that far exceed levels that most companies are willing to accept. But she also noted that many, perhaps most, companies can make good use of private clouds. She also suggested that there are a number of situations in which companies can benefit from using hybrid clouds, so that some work is done in the cloud, while critical processes remain in the data center.
Dawson said that changes in the way data centers can benefit from both virtualization and by access to the cloud have created an opportunity in which the IT department and the data center can be a strategic advantage to a company. “This is the era where IT can be the hero,” Dawson said.
“We’ve had all these advancements in the data center. You’re dealing with multiple data centers,” she said. But she noted that there is another source of confusion that the industry needs to clear up. “How do you have common implementation of the cloud?” she asked referring to the extreme complexity that goes with many cloud implementations.
Dawson said that many of the management tools on the market that would provide help for cloud operators and IT departments do indeed have the ability to make a move to the cloud manageable. Such cloud automation systems promise to take over the process of provisioning security appliances, managing multiple hypervisors or managing data centers. But these automation systems can become very complex on their own accord.
Making matters worse, the added complexity and the proprietary nature of many such tools have their own disadvantages, including a potential increase in security risks.
Road to Cloud Computing Obscured by Confusion, Marketing Hype
The malware creators can study the detailed code of the proprietary security appliances and then learn exactly how to defeat them. She said that a move to open source for cloud management and security, as well as for other cloud functions, works better because you have an entire community working to make sure it stays secure.
This confusion is to some extent our fault, meaning my colleagues and me in the tech news media who are too quick to adopt the latest trendy marketing terms that are in reality simply new ways to say things that are already being done, or to supplant terms that are already being used.
But much of the reason lies at the feet of an industry that is always looking for an edge, a difference, a way to separate themselves from the competition by claiming their approach to virtualization or network management or security is somehow newer or more cool than the stuff with the old boring terms.
What this means to you, the IT manager, is that it’s time to demystify some of those endless pieces of marketing jargon that ooze out of the vendors in the cloud community. Ask yourself every time you see yet another vague cloud term in the claims of VMware, Microsoft, or even Wedge Networks to explain what it really means. Chances are you’ll learn soon enough that this new, trendy, term is just another way of saying something you’re already saying.
Why the emphasis on clearing the fog out of all the marketing blather from cloud companies? The fact is that for your company to see how the cloud, and your IT department, can be a strategic advantage rather than a cost center, you have to be able to explain it in terms your executives understand and relate to. If you’re going to be the IT hero that Dawson describes, then your management needs to know what you’re doing, how you’re saving money, how you’re making your data center more responsive to their demands, and how you’re helping your company compete more effectively.
In the process, you need to find a way to reduce the appearance of complexity, whether it’s through the use of automation, or simply by reducing the number of steps between finding the need for a solution and delivering it. Remember, the cloud is not a new idea and neither is the virtualization required to implement it. They’ve been around for decades. The new idea is finding a way to use it to make your company work better.