A Simpler Cloud, but Is It Better?

Enterprises want scalable resources and a high degree of data flexibility. Vendors want to sell those capabilities at the lowest price point but the highest possible profitability.

It’s no wonder, then, that there is such a demand push for cloud services right now. But even though everyone’s goals seem to be in alignment at the moment, the perceived complexities surrounding cloud computing are still getting in the way.

The cloud presents unique challenges when it comes to data migration, integrity, security and a range of other issues. And besides, it’s not like you can just click an icon and start up a cloud, right?

Well, maybe not for long. New platforms and toolkits are coming at a steady pace with promises of simplifying the provisioning and management of cloud resources to the point where it is no more complicated than building in-house infrastructure. In fact, there is even a push to make the two indistinguishable for both users and admins.

The latest development is a new mash-up between Nirvanix and Symantec. The two have integrated the Symantec NetBackup suite with Nirvanix’ Storage Delivery Network in such a way that data can be sent to the cloud with a mouse-click. Details are still sketchy, but the companies are promising hands-on demonstrations at Storage Networking World in Santa Clara, Calif., April 4-6.

New tools are also making it easier to shift loads between clouds. VMware offers a free plug-in called the vCloud Connector (VCC) that allows virtual machines, templates and vApps to be transferred directly from one cloud to another — no need to export VMs to a temporary location first. Again, one of the overriding goals is to fully integrate cloud resources into existing infrastructure, making the decision to provision a cloud no more consequential that creating another VM.

And it turns out that the cloud itself is simplifying the overall automation and management of resources. rPath’s latest contribution to this cause is the X6 IT-as-a-Service platform, which offers full deployment and update automation across physical, virtual and cloud environments — once again, with push-button simplicity. The service is optimized for software and configuration automation so that software stacks can be manipulated through simple adjustment of network protocols, storage, IP and other configuration settings.

All of these developments are geared toward the practical challenges of getting the cloud up and running. However, as CTO Edge’s Mike Vizard points out, organizational and policy challenges can be just as daunting. Which applications are most suited to the cloud? What security protocols should we put in place? But even here, updates to systems like Unisys’ Hybrid Enterprise Framework are providing new methodologies to walk enterprises through the process. Most importantly, they spell out ways in which the cloud’s unique advantages can be maximized to improve data operations.

Simplicity in enterprise solutions is a rare and wonderful thing, but in this case I can’t help feeling just a bit uneasy at the level of simplicity being touted. It’s one thing to improve operational efficiency and streamline infrastructure. It’s quite another to remove the distinction between saving valuable data to local storage or transferring it across the globe.

Simple is usually better, but not if it places data at greater risk.

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