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The need for automation in cloud computing

Attendees at OSCON discussed the need for automation in the cloud beyond the ability to spin up new server instances and focuses on workload redistribution, monitoring and scaling.

SAN JOSE -- One of the common threads in the "Private Clouds -- Why They Matter" session at O'Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON) on Monday was a general frustration with the level of automation available to cloud computing users. The need discussed by the session participants goes far beyond the ability to spin up new server instances in the cloud. It really touched on several concepts: interoperability, workload redistribution, monitoring and scaling.

Interoperability is about a frictionless and reliable set of standards to allow users to write once/run anywhere so they can build applications and deploy them internally to, RackSpace or ... you get the picture. Interoperability is not automation, but it dramatically eases the automation process.

Workload redistribution is about being able to move an existing process from one cloud to another in a seamless and relatively quick set of steps. It relies on interoperability, but it goes beyond that with a set of tools to enable users to move their workloads to the cloud environment that makes the most sense for financial, performance or other reasons. Tools are being developed to support this. Cloudkick is a Y Combinator-funded company with support for Amazon Web Services and Slicehost that is working on Cloudshift, a multicloud migration tool.

Another startup that may be working on something for workload management is CloudSwitch, which claims to move workloads back and forth within the enterprise, as opposed to the concept of a cloudburst, which implies a unidirectional flow.

Monitoring and scaling automation for clouds is a bit more mature, with RightScale leading the pack. IBM and Hewlett-Packard are also adding cloud monitoring to their systems management suites.

The cloud automation space is likely to be very interesting for the foreseeable future, and based on the comments of OSCON attendees, the demand is real.

John Treadway is an enterprise and Web 2.0 technology veteran, and he has created two companies built on open source technologies running in a cloud infrastructure. Treadway is a blogger on cloud computing and enterprise technologies and is the lead local organizer of CloudCamp Boston.

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