Is the Enterprise Ready for a Cloud Invasion?

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

My last post started what will be a long theme on how data is driving big changes in the cloud and systems platforms. Interestingly enough, it is the nature of existing data in enterprises that is driving cloud platforms to live inside enterprises. That's right-get ready for a cloud invasion in the enterprise environment.

It's an observed trend but one that is not unexpected. Customer X says to Cloud Vendor Y, "Hey, I can't deploy to a public or virtual private cloud because my data can't leave my premises." So Cloud Vendor Y falls back defensively, asks for some dev and test business, and plans to wait patiently until Customer X comes to its senses, right? But today's enterprises have a lot of data and compliance rules, so Customer X's concern is serious stuff. Also, enterprises have a lot of existing server hardware they still want to use.

I'm sure it's almost always the case that an enterprise customer would love to bring the functionality of an AWS or Rackspace or Savvis or Carpathia or Azure to their internal systems. To click down a level or two, this means that the customer wants to deploy a set of services that allow for elastic use of the existing hardware across multiple business units in the same way that a cloud company enables elastic computing for multiple companies. In addition, the central IT department would like to present itself to its business units as if it were a public cloud. The "Self-Service IT" trend is based on some of this. Need a VM? Choose one from a library. Check the checkboxes for a set of apps. Your department gets billed. Nice. If it's possible to do this in a public data center for multiple customers, how hard can it be to bring the stuff in-house?

Well, the challenge is that the stuff that runs in one of the clouds was basically built to live there; it's not a set of DVDs that can be shipped to a customer with a few service professionals to get it up and running. It's more a set of technologies, tools and procedures that come together to create that cloud.

In addition, the hardware configuration is going to be very prescriptive. Prescriptive can be a synonym for restricted, and we know that enterprise customers love choice. But prescriptive can be good since it simplifies deployment. There has been no good way to simply lift the cloud off of the public data center and deliver it to an enterprise on arbitrary (a synonym for "whatever I want") hardware.

Companies like Nimbula and came into being to provide this commercial software approach to being a cloud: The notion of a "cloud OS" was born. They are not taking an existing cloud and turning it into enterprise software. They started from a clean slate that had commercial software (you know, the DVD kind) as a design center. The Nimbula crew members in fact are some of the original Amazon EC2 team. Both companies are well-funded by top drawer venture firms and loaded with talent. Early interest in these companies' wares is very high even though the products are early and the hardware support is not wide open. And any time there is interest, more folks show up to the party.

The latest entrant is not just another venture-backed company but is a founder of one of the public clouds: Rackspace, with its OpenStack project. It doesn't completely run on whatever you want (Dell is preferred, it seems), it's a partnership with Citrix to make OpenStack customer-ready, and there is a big Rackspace service and support component. Even so, it sends a signal that the cloud is listening to enterprise customers who want to bring the cloud inside. Who is next?

Frank Artale is a partner at Ignition, a venture capital firm, where he specializes in cloud, core infrastructure, networking, and security investments.  Follow Frank on Twitter: @frankartale.

Neither Frank nor Ignition has any financial interest in any company or product mentioned in this post.

This story, "Is the Enterprise Ready for a Cloud Invasion?" was originally published by Computerworld.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon