What do Virtualization and Cloud executives think about 2012? Find out in this VMblog.com series exclusive.
rPath's Practical Cloud Predictions for 2012
Article by Shawn Edmondson, Vice President of Product Strategy, rPath
In 2011, IT put many virtual infrastructure shortcomings to rest. With that behind them, IT must be prepared to face a new set of challenges in 2012 -- specifically, the challenge of running practical applications that people actually want and need to use on this infrastructure. Here's what next year looks like from rPath headquarters here in Raleigh, North Carolina:
1. Virtual infrastructure projects will no longer slow down IT. Application configuration and management will be the new bottlenecks to the cloud.
Congrats to the VM community. You're doing a great job. There's a reason industry attention is now shifting to issues higher up in the software stack: the virtual servers underneath it finally "just work," like you've promised all along. Now it's the application teams that have their work cut out for them.
The simplest applications, like print and file servers, were easily handled by VM administrators as part of the server consolidation wave of 2007-2009. And it's obvious that greenfield applications will be deployed with the cloud in mind. But what about the middle ground of complex, manually updated enterprise applications that drive different lines of business? There isn't a clear answer as to how IT will adapt and onboard these applications onto different cloud platforms, whether public or private. We're going to see a lot of IT organizations struggle with this issue in 2012 because right now, it's a mess.
2. Software development in the cloud will not catch on in 2012.
Adoption of software development frameworks that run in the cloud will be slow. I don't doubt that they're coming -- eventually. The bigger issue, now, is how to migrate in-production business applications onto the cloud.
Cloud development will take a few more years to catch on, simply because software development (Dev) and IT operations teams (Ops) are dealing with more pressing issues, and -- no surprise -- they're bickering over it. (DevOps, anyone?) There's a middleware consistency problem at the root of most cloud application complexity today, so launching new development frameworks for the cloud isn't going to help.
The faster path to the cloud is to model and automate how existing applications are packaged and deployed for various cloud software stacks and VM runtime environments. Dev and Ops teams need to agree on how to better manage middleware dependencies so that applications don't break every time they migrate off one platform and onto a new software stack.
It's a tricky problem, so it's no surprise that the IT industry is moving slowly. For example, consider SpringSource. VMware bought the company in 2009 and took a full two years to integrate the product. The result, VMware vFabric Cloud Application Platform, is just now in its early phases. And RedHat OpenShift only recently announced support for Java development in the cloud in November 2011! Translation: cloud Dev will have its time in the sun, but for now we need to figure out what we're doing with the apps we already have.
3. Virtual template sprawl becomes a problem.
Cases of VM sprawl are well-documented, but a new problem will emerge in 2012 due to the centralization of virtualization management: image template sprawl. Especially with higher-level management tools like VMware vCloud Director, image template sprawl spreads fast.
In a typical scenario, an IT platform team creates a base Linux image template. Then the JBoss team clones that Linux image and adds -- what else? -- JBoss. Then an application team comes along and provisions an application virtual appliance based on the JBoss template.
But when the OS team goes back to patch these templates, it can't retire the previous images because they all depend on each other. Six images are already too many, but let's say a new data center opens and the backup agent in each of these six images needs minor, but unique, configurations. Now we have 12 images -- and so on. This is a very simple example; real image template libraries rapidly become large and completely unmanageable.
Now that the IT industry in 2011 has tackled infrastructure on-demand through the cloud, we face a fresh set of more practical issues in 2012: getting applications delivered as fast as the cloud allows and the business demands. The transition will take time, which is why we at rPath expect to see intense industry activity around cloud application deployment and configuration management throughout 2012.
About the Author
Shawn Edmondson is Vice President of Product Strategy at rPath (www.rpath.com), the application engine provider for the private cloud. With 17 years of experience in the software industry, he has served multiple roles in software engineering, engineering management, and product management, including at HP Software (formerly Opsware) and Masergy, Inc., a start-up network service provider in Texas, and at TenFold Corp., an enterprise application framework start-up in San Francisco. Follow Shawn on Twitter at @sedmondson.