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Ubuntu 2014 Predictions: The Cloud Gets Interchangeable Parts

VMblog 2014 Prediction Series

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2014.  Read them in this VMblog.com series exclusive.

Contributed article by Mark Baker, server and cloud product manager, Ubuntu

The Cloud Gets Interchangeable Parts

Last year, all corners of the tech industry proclaimed that 2013 would be the year cloud computing truly took hold in the enterprise. Those predictions have proven more or less correct, and despite adoption challenges in highly regulated industries, cloud based technologies are now a mainstay for enterprises as well as personal computing. Just look at recent projections from Gartner that cloud computing will comprise more than half of IT spending by 2016. With momentum like this mounting, those who are still in "cloud denial" are beginning to look like the naysayers from the early days of email who doubted that the fax machine would ever go out of style.

With cloud computing here to stay and growing rapidly, the question now is what course that growth will take, and how the cloud will remain flexible and malleable to the needs of an organization seeking competitive advantage in the face of IT service commoditization. To some it may appear that there is a trade-off to be made: some cloud platforms are tightly defined, rigidly integrated and prescriptive about the components that can be deployed in conjunction with them. The benefit to these platforms is that there are fewer concerns about the compatibility of the pieces - it is assumed that the vendor has this worked out. Another approach is for the end user to design and build a platform themselves using technologies or vendors that meet their needs. The upside to this is a wider choice of components, but the trade-off is that it could take more work to select, architect, build, manage and support such a system.  

But there is a third way and that is, in short, by improving cloud interoperability. In other words, we need to improve how the various cloud technologies and environments from different vendors work together, so that cloud is easy to deploy, use and manage for organizations of all sizes. And, to achieve that, the cloud needs interchangeable parts.

Interchangeable parts are the identical, standardized components used to build and repair machines, and without them, world history taught us, the industrial revolution would have never been possible. Prior to interchangeable parts, every gun, clock, or other complex machine had to be custom made, because there were no standardized components to build them with. Similarly, specialists would need to "wing it" when something broke, and spent long hours piecing a machine back together again. Interchangeable parts changed everything, because they standardized the production process and enabled machines to be built cheaply and quickly on assembly lines - which translated into cheaper and more widely available goods for consumers.

So, what does all this have to do with cloud computing? Well, the cloud today is in a similar spot to where industry was before interchangeable parts. That's because whilst there are several cloud computing standards, vendors offers their own platforms, environments and applications, which sometimes don't work well with each other. For instance, there are highly innovative storage, compute and networking technologies being released practically every week, yet the cloud computing buyer has no assurance that they can use any one of them with the other. The result is that it's much harder, and often more expensive to build and manage cloud infrastructure than it should be.

Rather than expect the cloud buyer to pay large sums for infrastructure consultants to guide them every step of the way, the industry needs to come together and find ways to ensure interoperability exists among all cloud components. Fortunately, there is already significant headway within the industry to achieve this. In fact, a number of vendors participating in OpenStack's cloud community have recently partnered to form an interoperability lab as an initiative to test and validate the interoperability of different infrastructure components. This project is helping the rapidly evolving OpenStack project to become compatible with as many cloud components on the market as possible.

OpenStack and other multi-vendor cloud collaborations are taking a big step toward making interchangeable cloud parts a reality, by assigning standards and certifications to a wide array of cloud technologies, ensuring that they work well with each other. We may not see fully-fledged interchangeable parts in 2014, but the industry is definitely headed in that direction. And, it's a good thing too - interoperability makes cloud products and services more affordable, and more efficient, because they require less customization and management hassle, and less changes to existing infrastructure.

As we look to the next year and beyond, we will truly begin to see a cloud computing industrial revolution, and the first step is to achieve interchangeable parts.

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About the Author

Mark Baker is currently working at Canonical in Product Strategy for Ubuntu Server and Cloud. He has more than 20 years of experience managing business development and marketing at leading software companies including MySQL, Red Hat and Oracle.
Published Tuesday, December 17, 2013 6:24 AM by David Marshall
Comments
Ubuntu 2014 Predictions: The Cloud Gets Interch... - (Author's Link) - December 17, 2013 11:51 PM
Ubuntu 2014 Predictions: The Cloud Gets Interchangeable Parts : VMblog.com – Virtualization News and Information for Everyone | Patrick Bouillaud Blog - (Author's Link) - December 17, 2013 11:52 PM
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