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Cloud Driving On-Premise IT Commoditization

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Contributed by Michael Thompson, Director, Systems Management Business, SolarWinds

Cloud Driving On-Premise IT Commoditization

Back in December, I wrote a guest post as part of the VMblog Virtualization and Cloud Prediction Series on how the savings from the commoditization of the availability and performance management software market would free up money that could be invested in innovation to drive better business results. As I've been talking to customers over the past seven months since I wrote that post, I'm hearing more and more of another related commoditization trend that falls in line with my first prediction.

As companies continue to evaluate cloud as an option and alternative to paying for and maintaining an on premise IT environment, it becomes clear that the economics of moving to the cloud are very dependent on things like scale, existing IT staff expertise, security and availability requirements, etc.; and that one size does not fit all. For companies where these factors make many of the existing cloud options too expensive, they are stuck in a difficult position where cloud vendors and competitors are using commodity hardware and converged IT capabilities at scale to drive down IT cost, but they themselves historically haven't been able to do that.

However, many of these new factors are helping such companies build and manage their internal systems much more like how the big cloud vendors have done so, thereby driving down costs. Here's how:

Commodity Hardware

Differentiation in the server hardware space is becoming harder and harder to come by. For a long time, what differentiation there was had been built into code managing the CPU, memory and disk. Now much of that capability is built into available software that doesn't require specific hardware, such as virtualization software that can add things like failover, clustering and mobility on top of commodity hardware. Similar things are happening in storage. For example, some of the storage management features that Microsoft includes, such as Storage Management Blocks (SMBs) where software can manage local disk much like a virtual storage area network but without the built in array logic.

The additional options for commodity hardware are important from a capital expense point of view, but it also helps provide a more unified resource environment where all the hardware in a given space can be more easily pulled together in a single control plane.

Unified Management

Large scale cloud providers tend to have unified management capabilities that provide visibility across the infrastructure being used. Large scale, almost heterogeneous cloud or hosting vendors can afford to develop custom management capabilities that are not only optimized for their environment, but can also span the managed environment so problems can be seen in the context of the service being provided.

There has long been third-party management software that can manage across a heterogeneous environment, but the problem was that it was so expensive and complex it eliminated both the hardware cost advantage and killed usability and flexibility of modern on-premise environments. Now, vendors like SolarWinds are providing solutions that can provide application context and visibility across silos while maintaining modern ease of implementation and usability with the economics that go along with them.

IT and Business Integration

One thing the cloud and in particular SaaS offerings have done is make the business service that IT systems deliver very distinct and well defined. Businesses can look to third-party offerings and easily talk about the service they are trying to get from the provider. From the view point of the business leader, it might even appear that the IT team isn't even needed in the equation. However, when the first big problem occurs with a vendor's service, it quickly becomes apparent that it is important to ensure many of the things the internal IT team did - provide access to troubleshooting status and time to repair info, maintain backup and failover plans applicable to the application priority, etc. - are still required from someone within the business. Such knowledge can also help IT teams and business leaders have a better dialogue about the cost and benefit tradeoffs of leaving it to business leaders to have "at arm's length" discussions with third-party providers.

Years of experience with virtualized systems on premise combined with many of the trends driven by hardware and management commoditization and cloud adoption can help IT teams build much more cost effective on premise solutions. These capabilities can compete with cloud options, especially if they are done at scale or are built with higher level requirements around availability, security, data handling, etc. While this concept is probably most applicable to larger companies today, as the technologies and know-how continues to expand it is likely to spread to smaller environments with time.

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About the Author

Michael Thompson is the director of the systems management business at SolarWinds. Michael has worked in the IT management industry for more than 12 years, including leading product management teams and portfolios in the storage and virtualization/cloud spaces for IBM. He holds a master of business administration and a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering.
Published Wednesday, July 23, 2014 6:52 AM by David Marshall
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