Cloud computing practices represent a fundamental shift in IT

Alex Barrett
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David Linthicum

Sometimes it seems like cloud is just the latest buzzword to permeate all IT conversations. And in some ways, it is. But it’s also much more than that, according to  David Linthicum, senior vice president for Cloud Technology Partners, and  keynote speaker at the Modern Infrastructure Decisions event in New York City last month. There are cloud computing practices that represent a fundamental shift in how IT consumes and delivers compute resources, he maintains.  

Modern Infrastructure: Is cloud computing really that different from other major technology trends to hit IT?

David Linthicum: It’s just one in a long line of macro trends. The moves from [mainframes] to mini computers to distributed systems were about reformulating how we consume and deal with automation within businesses. Cloud computing is nothing more than that--rethinking the models and how we’re consuming them. It has some neat stuff in it, but at the end of the day it’s the storage and the IO and processor and databases and application development --the same things we’ve been wrestling with for the last thirty years.

Mi: People talk a lot about Infrastructure as a Service vs. Platform as a Service vs. Software as a Service. Is that a useful construct going forward?

DL: I think in the next couple of years we’re still going to see SaaS and PaaS and IaaS, but it’s going to morph in to different subcategories and a lot of those terms are going to fall away. I even think the term cloud computing is going to fall away. Not anytime soon, but it will be the model of grid computing and people won’t refer to it as cloud anymore.

Mi: If cloud is just the next phase of computing, what’s the essence of this shift?

DL: The essence is that we’re sharing internal infrastructure better than before. The dirty little secret of computing is that even though people think they’re saturating their systems, average server utilization is still very low. So we’re finally getting better at pooling and sharing those resources and providing auto-allocation and self-allocation and provisioning.

It’s also about getting people to think differently about how computing systems are stood up, and getting people out of the mindset that any kind of new application requires that they spend a million dollars with an ERP vendor, and another million dollars in storage. If they can find those resources online, chances are they are going to have something that is pretty reliable and a lot less expensive.

It’s also about the ability to move faster. IT is awful in terms of their ability to kind of step up and solve business issues, and it’s gotten worse in the last ten years. Cloud gets us to a point where we can get resources online, we can change, add, delete those resources with relative ease and low cost.

Mi: There seems to be a total disconnect between people at the bleeding edge of cloud and people in traditional IT about how secure, reliable and cost-effective the cloud is. Who’s right?

DL: We have studies that come out that say that cloud is insecure, and others that say that it’s more secure. I think it’s somewhere in the middle—it’s as insecure as you make it. We’re still gathering data points right now and a lot of this jumping to conclusions is a little too early.

In terms of availability, cloud-based systems trounce internal systems. People with internal IT understand that. It’s easy to pick on cloud because they have to do press releases on outages that affect many customers.

Cloud costs, on the other hand, tend to be higher than people anticipated, even with the cost of public cloud going down substantially. Most people don’t have a clue about how to cost out a cloud project, and often neglect to include things that they need. The reality is that you’re getting into a complex distributed system, and even though you may not own the hardware, you still have to deal with the architecture and a lot of the complexities of the systems. You still have to hire people who know what they’re doing. You still have to secure your stuff and make sure you’re compliant. The end of that process is usually a few more dollars than people thought they would initially spend.

Let us know what you think. Write to us at moderninfrastructure@techtarget.com.

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