We attended the Data Centre World conference and exhibition in London, which took place between 29 February and 1 March 2012. The event was primarily aimed at data centre operators, so issues such as energy consumption and cooling were covered extensively. However, we were more interested in some of the other topics. Cloud services have been a hot topic for the past couple of years, and have been the subject of much debate and speculation. Now that the early adoption phase is over, it is possible to analyse the state of the market.
Private cloud is driving the adoption of cloud services by large enterprises
A growing number of organisations are adopting cloud services, attracted by benefits such as lower financial outlays to deploy applications, speed to market and agility. A survey of enterprise IT managers carried out in August 2011 by Precise, a supplier of application performance management software, highlighted that a substantial percentage of large enterprises were moving various types of applications to the cloud in 2011, as shown in Figure 1.1
Figure 1: Large enterprises moving applications to the cloud in 2011, by application type [Source: Analysys Mason and Precise, 2012]
The main business models in the cloud services market are as follows.
- Private: Dedicated cloud infrastructure for use by one organisation; the solution may be internally or externally hosted.
- Public: Shared cloud infrastructure hosted by an external provider, which is typically available over the public Internet to a multitude of organisations.
Precise’s survey revealed that large enterprises do not feel the same about private cloud storage as they do about the public Internet; whereas 37% of large enterprises would eventually migrate at least 61% of their applications to a private cloud, only 6% would do so on a public cloud. Public cloud services are typically reserved for non-core applications or new projects.
Putting applications into the cloud adds a lot of complexity, and many organisations consider the virtual environment to be less stable than the physical one, making them reluctant to leave applications and underlying infrastructure in the hands of third parties. Security is high on the list of concerns that enterprises have about the cloud, particularly in instances where business assets are moved to a third party. These security concerns, combined with the fear of the unknown, hold back the adoption of cloud services, notably the public ones.
Hybrid cloud increasingly seems to be the way of the future
At the Data Centre World 2012 conference, it seemed that the debate is slowly moving away from public or private cloud, to the possibility of having a public and private cloud, known as hybrid cloud, where internal enterprise data centres and cloud continue to support mission-critical business processes, and public cloud is used to enable on-demand hosting capacity for less critical assets.
The key benefit of a hybrid cloud is the ability to ‘burst’ computing resource as needed, in order to cope with peak requirements without having to dimension underlying infrastructure accordingly. One of the key challenges is the integration between the two clouds, which can be addressed to some extent by adopting standardised interfaces to enable application and data portability. When Loughborough University wanted to replace its legacy data centre with a scalable hybrid cloud solution, systems integrator Logicalis and vendor NetApp elegantly resolved the integration problem by ‘containerising’ their applications, so that they could seamlessly be moved between the private and public clouds as required. We will be covering this in more detail as a case study within our Enterprise research programme.
1 Virtualization Trend Makes Application Problem Resolution Harder Than Ever, press release by Precise, Redwood Shores, California, USA, 1 September 2011.