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Federating the Cloud: The Best of All Worlds

Federating the Cloud: The Best of All Worlds


A contributed article by Ellen Rubin, Founder & VP Products at CloudSwitch.

At last month’s VMworld 2010, it was clear that connecting to the cloud has become a top priority. In particular, there was tremendous interest in hybrid clouds, where on-premise environments are integrated with public clouds for on-demand computing resources. From Paul Maritz’s keynote through many sessions and product announcements, the hybrid message came through loud and clear.


Hybrid clouds are being driven by market demands, where the combination of internal and public clouds is more powerful than either alone. A new model for enterprise computing is emerging, with internal clouds supporting a company’s core requirements while the vast resources available in public clouds address requirements from a broad range of complementary use cases — spiky apps, load/scale testing, short-term marketing campaigns, and much more. The ability to merge the two environments provides a compelling argument for virtualization that resonates with customers and prospects (at least as strongly as traditional reasons such as data center optimization).  


But what if a customer’s internal infrastructure isn’t compatible with a preferred public cloud? As enterprises discover this new environment, they want to use it without barriers, and with the tools and policies they are accustomed to internally. They demand flexibility to choose from a range of cloud environments (including both internal and external clouds), whether for desired performance, QoS, scalability, security or price points. And in the emerging hybrid model, they want the ability to pick up their applications if necessary and move them back to the data center with minimal effort.


For enterprise cloud computing to succeed, solutions will have to enable this portability and interoperability across many disparate environments. It’s a world where multiple cloud providers, APIs, and hypervisors co-exist and must be factored into an organization’s cloud strategy. (VMware said as much in their vCloud Director presentation, noting that the cloud is not a homogeneous entity, but covers a broad landscape of computing environments that need to be managed in a unified way.)  


Early steps so far have focused on making common APIs available and trying to provide some level of standardization. While these measures are necessary, they’re not sufficient and unlikely to happen fast enough to address market needs. Before you ask customers or cloud providers to adopt a new, costly and extensive set of technologies, they need to know that multiple cloud environments are able to work together. In fact, the current hybrid approach defeats the agility that cloud computing is intended to achieve by locking the customer early on into a specific set of choices.


A case in point: both Eucalyptus and VMware’s vCloud Director let organizations build private clouds while interfacing with public clouds to create hybrid cloud models. Both use different APIs for their hybrid models — Eucalyptus uses Amazon APIs to integrate with EC2 while vCloud Director leverages vCloud APIs to work with compatible public cloud providers. However, the solutions do not span the varied hypervisors and APIs used by different clouds, restricting users (or locking them in) to a subset of available offerings out there.


Bridging Disparate Environments

While current hybrid solutions are a major step forward, customers are looking for more. They want the ability to deploy applications across multiple virtualization infrastructures with point and click simplicity. They demand the ability to run applications "as is" in any cloud that has the resources to support it, without a custom development and integration effort to meet the requirements of a particular cloud. The only way to meet their needs is with a truly federated cloud environment, using an architecture that bridges disparate environments to make enterprise cloud computing as seamless and straightforward as it needs to be.


Several key elements are required in order to make this cloud federation work:


§  Application mapping: The key to a federated solution is the ability to automatically map new and existing enterprise applications to cloud resources, spanning multiple server platforms, OS versions, APIs, network settings, and storage options. This allows customers to move and run servers from their data center across multiple hypervisors in public or private clouds without modifications to their application — keeping the same IP/MAC address, storage controllers, subnet information, etc.   

§  Network extension: To make the mapping work, an overlay network is required that extends from the data center into target clouds. All cloud connectivity needs to happen automatically, including managing address settings and adapting to changes in the cloud provider’s network. Ideally, the network should be layer-2 to support capabilities such as broadcast and multicast that are common internally but rarely available in public clouds.

§  End-to-end security: Applications and data need to be encrypted end to end, from inside the corporate firewall, across the Internet, and within the cloud — in storage, during processing, and in transit through the cloud network. The cloud can then become a trusted element of the enterprise IT environment, with the cloud provider seeing only an encrypted connection running into its servers, and encrypted data flowing to its storage devices.


§  Integrated management plane: Finally, federation requires a common interface that provides integrated monitoring and management spanning external clouds and the local environment. External clouds become a seamless extension of the enterprise data center, allowing all applications and resources to be managed with the same flexibility, security, and control regardless of physical location. This also includes self-service provisioning and role-based access control, using existing rules and applying them consistently.


More Flexibility, More Resources on Demand

Data center virtualization and internal clouds are a good beginning, but hybrid clouds are emerging as the dominant approach for meeting the needs of enterprise users. Federation technology is a critical component in making hybrid clouds a reality. Federation opens the door to a wide range of valuable scenarios that leverage the capabilities of many different clouds, while preserving enterprise-class security and control over all environments. Customers can select resources on demand that make the most sense for a particular workload, without being limited to a particular architecture, hypervisor or configuration. Perhaps most important of all, everything “just works,” with point and click simplicity. Federated solutions are already taking hold, giving enterprise customers the flexibility and resources they need, and allowing the cloud to fulfill its promise. 




About the Author


Ellen Rubin is an experienced entrepreneur with a proven track record in founding innovative technology companies and leading strategy, market positioning and go-to-market. Prior to founding CloudSwitch, Ellen was Vice President of Marketing at Netezza (NYSE: NZ), the pioneer and global leader in data warehouse appliances that power business intelligence and analytics at over 200 enterprises worldwide. As a member of the early management team at Netezza, Ellen helped grow the company to over $125 million in revenues and a successful IPO in 2007. Ellen defined and created broad market acceptance of a new category, "data warehouse appliances," and led market strategy, product marketing, complementary technology relationships and marketing communications.

Prior to Netezza, Ellen founded Manna, an Israeli and Boston-based developer of real-time personalization software. Ellen played a key role in raising over $18 million in venture financing from leading US and Israeli venture capital firms, recruiting the US-based management team and defining product and market strategy. Ellen began her career as a marketing strategy consultant at Booz, Allen & Hamilton, and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree magna *** laude from Harvard College.

Published Wednesday, September 22, 2010 4:30 AM by David Marshall
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