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2nd Watch 2015 Prediction: Future of Public Cloud Workload Management


Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2015.  Read them in this series exclusive.

Contributed article by Kris Bliesner, co-founder and CTO, 2nd Watch

Future of Public Cloud Workload Management

Perspectives on cloud infrastructure have changed dramatically in the past year. Whereas companies originally turned to the public cloud as an experimental space for managing specific workloads, now, its potential has expanded into a core infrastructure strategy. It is now possible and viable for companies to host the entire data center layer in the cloud. While that's promising for supporting IT innovation, it's also perplexing for CIOs and IT managers. When no longer owning the hardware or unsure how to set up hybrid workloads, IT departments don't always know how to best move forward. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that line of business applications have moved into the cloud far more quickly than companies had originally envisioned. Managing performance and end-user experience is now critical to business survival.

The new era of workload management

In many respects, cloud computing has made workload management easier. Just a few years ago, companies were procuring and managing systems from 10 or 20 vendors to run the data center. Even with the onset of virtualization, things didn't improve much in the way of complexity. Infrastructure vendors for the most part still don't work well together and this loosely coupled hardware environment has been time-consuming and expensive to manage.

Now, even a Fortune 500 company could choose to host their entire data center infrastructure from a single IT vendor - such as AWS, Azure or CenturyLink. It no longer matters who makes the storage device, only that the cloud provider is taking care of deploying and managing all the pieces: storage, networking, compute, virtualization, databases and so on. Yet, there are some key shifts that need to occur within corporate IT departments to succeed in the transition to public cloud infrastructure:

1. Transition legacy and hardware-specific skills. The history of IT up until recently has focused on hiring individuals with technology and vendor-specific skill sets. Now that this paradigm is changing, with cloud providers managing the technology complexity, what does a company do with its SAN engineers and SAP managers? Companies will need to invest in retraining and redirecting employees into cross-functional roles addressing cloud security, performance and business initiatives. Specialists will need to shed their Cisco and Microsoft hats and become proficient in emerging cloud industry platforms such as AWS and OpenStack. The good news is that the returns on retraining can be powerful for the business. Instead of three-month cycles for deploying infrastructure, provisioning in the cloud takes 30 minutes. That frees up time for IT engineers and architects to focus on what the business really needs: great performance for their websites and applications.

2. Harness the "Mile-Wide" infrastructure

With affordable and relatively painless provisioning of infrastructure in the cloud, has come another problem: sprawl. General Electric, as just one example, is planning to be all-in for public cloud infrastructure.  They currently deploy 90% of their new applications in public cloud and have plans to move legacy applications as well. The next frontier for managing workloads is establishing best practices for managing and optimizing the massive application profile in the cloud. While there are plenty of sophisticated tools for managing individual technology components, there are far less for managing IT from the business perspective, such as tracking the KPIs that are crucial to business productivity and customer relationships. Vendors and service providers have been emerging to help companies monitor and measure these business metrics, such as Apptio. Our company has also released tools to help customers manage costs and improve business performance on AWS. We expect this space to grow dramatically in the coming years.

3. Make tighter connections to the business

With more and more infrastructure going to the public cloud, IT infrastructure people are no longer hampered with tuning and configuring hardware and troubleshooting network problems all day. Instead, there's a golden opportunity to interface with business leaders like never before. This is a game changer.  CIOs and CXOs have been talking about "IT and business alignment" for a decade or more, but now it's actually possible. Instead of dealing with hardware and software vendors, IT people have time to help the business brainstorm on best approaches for an important marketing campaign or strategies to grow sales on the website. The "anything is possible" mindset of cloud computing is a huge cultural shift, taking IT away from the cost center mentality of the past into a true business enabler. CIOs and IT directors, however, need to help their system administrators and engineers in this transition. These employees, formerly hidden behind computer screens all day, must now learn how to navigate business departments, discuss IT in terms of strategy not nodes, and use creative problem-solving to help achieve business objectives. This is not an easy shift for the average technical employee, but it's a critical one for companies that are investing heavily in public cloud.

4. Move away from VMs.  The field of workload management is changing dramatically. For instance, concepts such as containerization will have a transformational impact on cloud workload management. Containerization is a resource-efficient way to run workloads in the cloud; it eliminates the need for hypervisors and VMs, instead allowing applications to run in "containers" on the physical server, using a shared instance of the operating system. 

Enterprise adoption of the public cloud is still in its early days, but is growing swiftly. The massive integration and migration challenges from big company projects have created enormous market opportunities for startups that offer tools, services and expertise in the field of cloud infrastructure and application management. CIOs and CXOs should be on the lookout for continued innovation in this field. This will force IT departments to look beyond traditional virtualization vendors to new "web services" based cloud service providers to build the next generation of IT infrastructure. IT leaders also need to spend time and money helping their organizations transition to workload management in the cloud through skills development and a new business orientation.


About the Author

Kris Bliesner is co-founder and CTO at 2nd Watch, the public cloud workload management company.
Published Friday, October 31, 2014 6:31 AM by David Marshall
@VMblog - (Author's Link) - February 10, 2015 7:00 AM

Once again, how great is it to be a part of the virtualization and cloud industries? 2014 was another banner year, and we witnessed a number of fantastic technologies take shape and skyrocket. And I, along with many industry experts and executives, media

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