Clouds are Everywhere…But Where Do I Start?

I just returned from four very interesting and insightful days at Gartner Symposium and IT Expo in Orlando.

It was remarkable to see how quickly the phrase “Cloud Computing” has entered the mainstream IT vocabulary. Clouds were everywhere at the symposium--Public, Private, Hybrid, and many other types were presented, discussed and dissected. If you want a sense of the velocity of cloud, I re-checked the Symposium agenda from 2008 where there were only a few sessions about cloud and application development, but nowhere near the quantity and quality of cloud content of this year’s symposium.

There has been lots of coverage already about Gartner’s proclamation that Cloud is the #1 strategic technology that IT organizations need to look at for 2010, so I won’t rehash that theme here. But I will try to provide some perspective from an attendee that sat in on all the key cloud sessions and had the opportunity to participate in six separate one-on-one sessions this week with leading Gartner analysts who are looking at cloud from an infrastructure and IT operations perspective. (I also won’t start a debate right now on whether cloud is a technology, style of computing, or IT business model. We’ll save that for a later posting!)

Out of the four plus days of content from the conference, I’ll summarize what stuck with me down to a few key points:

  • Cloud is REAL for Enterprise IT, and in particular Private Cloud is key. A couple of data points beyond the hype of the term---in one session on “Server Virtualization: Emerging to Mainstream at Lightspeed” by Tom Bittman, an informal poll was taken from the 300 or so attendees asking “Who in the audience is looking at building a private cloud?” I estimate at least 80-90% of the audience raised their hands (which I think surprised a lot of people). In a second session, Cameron Haight provided a strategic planning assumption that more money will be spent by the enterprise on private (vs. public) cloud through 2012.
  • Bottom line: The private cloud market will happen very quickly as momentum builds, and enterprise organizations need to really start now on their thinking about private cloud, and they need to think about it at both an architectural and experimental level.
  • At an architectural level – your private cloud is the property of the enterprise, not the property of a single infrastructure or application vendor (like some vendors may lead you to believe). It is critical that organizations think strategically about their cloud architecture so that they retain control and ensure they have the flexibility to plug-in the best technologies and solutions into their cloud strategy as the market unfolds. Protect yourself from building vendor specific clouds.
  • At the experimental level, cloud does not equal virtualization (said many times during the week), so as enterprises look to investigate their cloud, it is essential to initiate a cloud project (not just virtualization, not just automation) to explore the technologies and solutions that support their strategic thinking around cloud architecture. You can get started now, but make sure your experiments align with the overall architectural strategy.

Overall, the conference was very worthwhile, and I would recommend attendance for enterprise architects and CIOs who are wrestling with key issues in moving their IT business forward. I look forward to next year’s conference to see how all the cloud hype has been turned into reality for large enterprise IT departments.


Tell said...

Hey Nick,

Yes cloud is real - and quite a lot more sophisticated than what it seems ISF is delivering today.

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