Q&A: The Hybrid, Multi-tenant Cloud

When should enterprises consider public and private clouds, and what should they consider when deploying the technology?

As cloud computing matures, new ways to use the approach to help IT have blossomed. Among them: infrastructure as a service (IaaS). What does IaaS and what are its benefits? What's involved in deploying such a structure, and what role does open source play in the technology? To learn more, we turned to Peder Ulander, CMO at Cloud.com. The company's product, CloudStack, is an open source software solution that accelerates the deployment, management, and configuration of infrastructure cloud services.

Enterprise Systems: Why is cloud computing an important trend and what are the benefits an enterprise can reasonably expect?

Peder Ulander: The cloud computing market is still very much an emerging one, but one that is growing rapidly and represents a major shift in data center computing. Cloud computing delivers higher efficiency, limitless scalability, and faster and easier deployment of new services and systems to the end user, thereby changing the economics of the data center by shifting the delivery of IT resources to an on-demand model.

CIOs and service providers are attracted to the cloud infrastructure because of its promise to lower costs, increase agility in order to meet client demands, enable better utilization of compute resources, and provide the ability to instantaneously scale up, out, and/or down. Virtualization laid the ground work for how CIOs and service providers are looking at cloud computing as the technology that enabled their teams to offer shared platforms at a fraction of the cost of a comparable physical machine. Mapping this to the cloud model, which scales beyond the rack to the whole data center or network, means the cost savings can be even more significant.

What does infrastructure as a service (IaaS) mean and what elements does it include?

Infrastructure as a service refers to the delivery of a computing infrastructure as a fully outsourced service versus an in-house sourced model. Rather than purchasing software or networking equipment, clients purchase those resources as a fully outsourced service. IaaS includes: dynamic scaling (this gives the users the ability to increase or decrease several aspects of the environment as business needs fluctuate), usage-based pricing (users can purchase the exact amount of infrastructure they require at any specific time, preventing them from wasting resources), and reduced capital and personnel costs. It can provide access to superior IT resources that would otherwise not have been available.

What should IT think about when deploying an infrastructure as a service cloud?

Today, enterprises and service providers trying to build their own IaaS clouds face a daunting challenge. They must integrate a patchwork of software including hypervisor, management software, user interface, network virtualization, and storage management. Once the software stack is put together, they are faced with a costly requirement to build using specialized storage and networking equipment that supports proprietary extensions required by hypervisor vendors. Enterprises and service providers should look for solutions that will allow them to implement an IaaS solution that seamlessly integrates into their existing environment. This will dramatically decrease costs as well as save on time spent by IT management building the new environment.

What role has open source played in the momentum of the cloud computing market, and specifically in the IaaS market?

An open source solution, no matter what type of solution it is, motivates users to try it out for two reasons -- cost and its open, non-proprietary nature. Developers are more likely to try a cloud computing solution if it is open source because it allows them to learn and share with a community and build new solutions on top of it. We think that open source cloud computing solutions have accelerated the adoption of cloud computing and will only continue to do so. We believe open source will ultimately play the same role in the IaaS market.

What is the benefit of IaaS open source efforts to service providers and enterprises?

In general, open source promises better transparency, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to proprietary vendor lock-in. For open source IaaS, the first and most obvious benefit is the cost savings potential. Although IaaS already represents a cost savings, adding the open source element increases this savings tenfold. In addition, IaaS open source eliminates vendor lock-in, enabling enterprises and service providers to take advantage of the freedom and flexibility of choosing from a variety of hardware components, virtualization technologies, storage architectures, and deployment models.

What misconceptions does IT have about open source IaaS?

Open source presents significant opportunity within the data center; however, sometimes it still has to overcome the argument of whether it is ready for the types of deployment expected within a commercial environment. With reliability, scalability, and security being top of mind, there are still reservations as to whether open source fits the enterprise model. In reality, tremendous success of companies such as Amazon, eBay, Google, and Yahoo! demonstrate that building a cloud infrastructure that managed to meet the requirements of scale, security, cost, and flexibility was fully possible based on open source software running on commodity hardware in the data center.

What role does open source play within your solution, and how does it fit into your strategy?

The fact that our solution is open source empowers both service providers and enterprises with a foundation for transforming the way that they deliver and consume IT resources. We are dedicated to providing users with the necessary tools and support to deliver a highly reliable and scalable elastic cloud service, which is why we have released a community edition of our product. We believe that the open source community gives literally anyone the ability to build and create their own cloud infrastructure.

What mistakes does IT often make when moving to an IaaS platform?

The number one mistake IT makes is believing that cloud computing is a green-field deployment and one that requires an entirely new mindset on how systems are built and provisioned or how applications are written and managed.

Building an IaaS service outside of the strategy already implemented by IT organizations just leads to increased complexity, additional tools, and ultimately increased cost associated with moving to this new model. Cloud computing, from an infrastructure perspective, should be an extension of your existing strategy, an adaptation of your existing tools. It is not designed to replace one model with another, and the number-one pitfall is to attempt to build it in isolation.

What best practices can you recommend to avoid these problems?

Built correctly, cloud computing provides significant cost advantages and provides users with the ability to become more agile and efficient in how they consume IT resources. That being said, there are many options for enterprises to consider when making the decision to move to a cloud-based architecture and choosing to deploy on publically hosted clouds, private internal clouds or a hybrid environment.

There are a number of considerations that go into selecting which model is appropriate for their needs, and each has trade-offs. Ultimately, most enterprises will use a mix of models to solve more than one problem. The best practices to follow when making these decisions are to find providers that enable you to leverage your existing IT investment. That might be by enabling you to use your existing management systems and tools, allowing you to extend your current cloud strategy by providing you with an open framework and APIs to enable portable and reliable usage of your IaaS platform, regardless of whether your resource is being consumed from a local private cloud or a remote public cloud.

What role does Cloud.com play in the hot cloud computing market?

Cloud.com just introduced an open source-based integrated software solution so users can deliver IaaS clouds with the ability to build, deploy, and manage multi-tier and multi-tenant cloud applications. The CloudStack extends an existing cloud strategy by implementing common cloud frameworks such as the Amazon Web Services API, Citrix Cloud Center API, and VMware’s vCloud initiative. The CloudStack enables administrators to offset the daily management of services to the end client with a powerful service portal that gives the day-to-day management tasks to the user, enabling administrators to focus on more business-critical issues while giving the client more control and agility over the service.

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