Cloud 101: Cloud Computing awash with cloudy concepts (Part Three)

In this three part series Computerworld examines some of the very real risks and shortfalls associated with Cloud Computing and also identifies which areas have the most potential to completely transform the enterprise.

As the most hyped concept in IT today, Cloud Computing has taken spin to a whole new level. Vendor marketing is awash with the benefits of Cloud Computing with little mention of the pitfalls.

See: Cloud computing 101 -- The risks of Cloud computing (Part 1)

See: Cloud Computing 101: Cloud awash with cloudy concepts (Part Two)

In this three part series Computerworld examines some of the very real risks and shortfalls associated with Cloud Computing and also identifies which areas have the most potential to completely transform the enterprise. Cloud Computing has unleashed a whole new set of acronyms from Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to Database Platforms as a Service (dbPaaS).

Part Three in this series examines Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings, which are set to completely alter the way software is delivered to the enterprise.

But don’t expect this always-on, high productivity environment to deliver big savings. IT costs will not decline they will simply be re-arranged.

Part Three also looks at Public Cloud Storage and explains why this offering requires a hefty investment in both time and money to make it work.

PaaS not so passé

Platform as a Service (PaaS) refers to the middle layer of the Cloud technology stack. Gartner calls it application infrastructure services.

PaaS suites include application servers, database management systems, portal products, application and data integration, business process management, messaging – all formatted and offered as a service.

At this early stage there are no providers with such a comprehensive offering but Gartner predicts it will happen by 2015. Today, Gartner describes the PaaS market as chaotic because various technologies are offered as services with varying degrees of Cloud characteristics.

As a result, users should carefully evaluate vendor claims about these offerngs. IBM, VMWare, SAP and Red Hat have all introduced strategic offerings in this space.

Because there is no complete offering, Gartner is advising users to use services from multiple vendors and combine them with application and platform technologies on-premises to form a hybrid computing environment. Users delaying the adoption of PaaS should invest now in building expertise in Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).

Gartner analyst Yefim Natis said in an on-premises scenario users can take a best of breed approach when selecting component technologies from different vendors. In the Cloud, he said the winning scenario will be where many platform requirements of an application are provided out of one data centre footprint of one Cloud provider.

This always on, high productivity PaaS environment will change the way the enterprise delivers software but don’t expect cost savings. Mr Natis said the enterprise will become much more responsive but the cost of IT will not decline.

“Instead they’ll be rearranged, with more spending going to Cloud service providers in he form of subscriptions and more internal IT spending focused on the management and integration of the enterprise’s IT resources as well as custom engineering of specialized family jewels software,” he said.

Public Cloud Storage

This offering is an excellent example of Cloud hype. Only a couple of years ago there was plenty of interest in this service driven by a demand for low cost storage alternatives.

But a growing awareness of the technology’s limitations has led to a serious reality check. In the past 18 months three major Cloud storage vendors have pulled out of the market.

Public Cloud Storage is basically a utility offering based on a pay-per-use model. It is software agnostic with reservationless provisioning and is provider owned.

Gartner expects Australian users to take a cautious approach to this delivery model because of security issues which could lead to legal exposure.

“Unpredictable monthly costs due to usage variability and the current lack of sufficiently differentiated storage services will also affect the absorption rate of the market,” according to Gartner analyst, Ms Michele Caminos.

“Evaluate Cloud storage as a low-cost option for certain applications, such as archiving and backup, because they are not mission critical workloads and can tolerate long latencies better than transactional workloads.

“Also security requirements may dictate the cost and management expense of data encryption both in flight and at rest.”

It’s worth noting that some vendors are offering on-premises appliances providing data deduplication, thin provisioning, encryption and further security capability that will assist with security and latency concerns.

On the plus side, Ms Carminos said vendors are addressing cost concerns by offering a variety of pricing models that allow user to align their storage costs with their usage rates.

On the downside, users should be aware that considerable investments in time and money will often be required to integrate Cloud storage options into current applications and environments.

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