Bridging The Gap

The following is an excerpt from the recently published SolidFire whitepaper, Beyond Test & Development: What virtualization can teach us about the next phase of cloud computing. This is the fourth post in a six part series that will be published each Monday. The whitepaper in its entirety can be found  here.

While the x86 server virtualization market evolution has presented us with an intriguing template for what could lie ahead in the cloud computing market, it is not yet concluded that things will materialize in a similar fashion. Certainly the early parallels between the test and development phases of these markets are too compelling to ignore. But continued innovation needs to occur across the cloud ecosystem to yield similar growth rates versus what was experienced in the production era of server virtualization.

In a recent whitepaper, Citrix accurately captured the current state of the market, reminding service providers of the gap that must be bridged between early adopter use cases and the production application opportunity that lies in front of us:

“To fully seize the cloud computing opportunity, service providers must be prepared for shifts in industry adoption and application readiness as the market matures. While startups and Web 2.0 use cases constituted much of the earliest adoption of cloud computing, recent growth in IaaS has been dominated by enterprise adoption of cloud services for a wide variety of production applications. This trend is expected to continue. Whereas Internet companies, the earliest users of cloud computing, were aggressive in their adoption of new technologies and trends-including mobile and social applications, REST-based web services and NoSQL databases-the vast majority of enterprise applications do not yet embrace cloud era architectural principles. Rather, these traditional workloads, such as SAP ERP, Oracle database apps and Microsoft® Exchange, are based on n-tier application architectures that predate the cloud.”

The unspoken reality underneath Citrix’s application-centric conclusions is that most of the cloud infrastructure isn’t suited to address the requirements of enterprise (i.e. precloud) applications. A possible solution to this problem is to rewrite legacy applications to embrace “cloud era architectural principles.” Unfortunately, enterprises often find it difficult to justify the time and investment behind this undertaking. Even if they did, this type of movement would take years to reach any sort of critical mass, certainly longer than the market is willing to wait. Consequently, expediting the migration of these applications from on-premise to cloud is a burden that should be placed more on the supporting application infrastructure (i.e. the underlying hardware and software that support these workloads) rather than the applications themselves.

Of course, buying into this scenario requires two tightly coupled assumptions:

  1. The capabilities of the underlying application infrastructure can evolve faster than the pace at which these applications could be rewritten.
  2. Cloud service providers will deliver an infrastructure that can strike a balance between the performance, resource isolation, and availability requirements that are the lifeblood of enterprise applications, with multi-tenancy and commodity infrastructure traits of a profitable cloud infrastructure.

Up for grabs

IT departments are increasingly subjecting applications to “cloud first” scrutiny, similar to the “virtualization first” mandate that helped drive the majority of incremental workloads to virtualized environments. With this type of adoption stimulant in place, the opportunity for cloud providers to help facilitate the production era of cloud computing is there for the taking. For the market to have any chance of realizing its full potential, service providers must be able to confidently, and economically, address the more stringent demands of mission- and business-critical applications. In the server virtualization market, VMware answered the bell. In the cloud computing market, the time is now for service providers to do the same.

-Dave Cahill, Director of Strategic Alliances

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