Should You Mix Cloud Services or Go All-in-One? - Page 2

When you examine a cloud-based solution, should you use a mix of multiple cloud services or work with a single vendor that runs the whole stack? EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet explores the pros and cons of each approach.

By Brian Proffitt | Posted Jul 5, 2011
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Cisco, for one, has been a big proponent of this idea. It obviously has the network part of the stack covered, and their Internetwork Operating System (IOS), handles the operating system duties quite well. Hardware is covered, too, which really just leaves the PaaS layer. Their Application Extension Platform (AXP) is their effort to introduce PaaS-like features into their cloud offering.

HP and IBM each have similar approaches to the cloud as well, and there are clear signs that Dell wants in on the cloud stack game, too (including some speculation that Dell should just up and buy Cisco.) Until Dell can get a solid network offering in their cloud kit, though, don't expect much from them in this area.

Which Cloud Service Approach Is Best?

As a customer, which approach would work for you: all-in-one or mixed stack? Like most things IT, it really comes down to how many in-house resources you want to devote to managing the final solution. All-in-one offerings from Cisco, HP, and IBM can deliver nearly turn-key private and hybrid cloud solutions at a fairly well-defined pricing structure. Their service is more encompassing, too, which is only right since they own the whole stack.

But like any other single-vendor solution, you could find yourself with a less-than-flexible solution should your needs change. With cloud, this shouldn't be a big deal technologically, since the very definition of cloud includes "on-demand." But you might find yourself looking at less attractive use costs if things change too much.

Mixed cloud solutions may be a better way to go for you if you have a good batch of in-house expertise that understands clouds and provisioning and don't mind getting their hands dirty once in a while. It would not be a huge effort -- automation is also at the heart of a cloud -- but they would have to know how to operate the cloud correctly.

Using different vendors at each cloud layer would afford your company maximum flexibility and scalability, though you would need to make sure all these vendors worked well with each other. The cloud is still a pretty small community, relatively speaking, so everyone usually knows everyone else and incompatibilities are not common. You will be able to price things as you ultimately want, but billing may be a bit convoluted. Support might be patchwork, too, but again, a lot of these vendors have partnership arrangements with each other that can usually smooth support and billing issues.

Ultimately, the small amount of extra hassle may be worth it. The nice thing about all of the different layers is that there are a lot of different combinations your company can use and less chance of getting locked-in by a single vendor. But it's a really subtle difference at this stage, as everyone is still approaching cloud with flexibility in mind.

That is, after all, the whole point of using the cloud, which even all-in-one vendors still understand.

Brian Proffitt is a technology expert who writes for a number of publications. Formerly the Community Manager for Linux.com and the Linux Foundation, he is the author of 20 consumer technology books, including the most recent Take Your iPad to Work. Follow him on Twitter at @TheTechScribe.

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