The Cloud’s Next Killer Apps
I think the new cloud killer apps for enterprises will leverage cloud-integrated data centers (or true hybrid cloud adoption), and will strategically transform IT operating models. Those killer apps will include cloud-enabled agility, protection and scalability.
Cloud-Integrated Agility (Strategic Agility)
VMware introduced virtualization-enabled x86 agility in devtest and then production environments as a way to increase data center and hardware efficiency and to reduce growing application/server management costs. Perhaps their cultural influence on IT has been even more powerful than their impressive growth in revenues. They, in fact, likely set the stage for an unprecedented IT cultural revolution simply by decoupling the lock-in between OS and apps and hardware. That decoupling ultimately became the software-defined data center, and proved how agility could drive data center transformation.
VMware in recent years has perhaps had as much impact on the evolution of IT as IBM when it introduced mainframe timesharing. Yet the hybrid cloud model is delivers today is really the equivalent of a two car garage (with perhaps a Tesla and a Mercedes) than a single unified environment (true hybrid) environment. With recent acquisitions, VMware is no doubt on the way to delivering a true hybrid architecture.
Private cloud, however, is tactical agility. Cloud-integrated agility is the ability to run apps and services seamlessly across data centers and clouds, with enterprise-grade services and controls and without lock-in. It is strategic agility. Think of the cloud-integrated data center as a natural evolution of the software-defined data center.
Cloud-integrated agility is strategic agility. It enables unprecedented pre-production AND production infrastructure flexibility with enterprise-grade services and controls. The ability to create and tear down apps and services and move them between data centers, pre-production and production environments and multiple cloud providers or zones is a killer app. It offers the ultimate decoupling of the application and services from any specific premise or cloud. It can do for entire clouds and zones what virtualization has done for x86 servers.
The public cloud has emerged as an excellent devtest (or cloud devtest) environment, yet the hybrid cloud offers even more agility and the promise of production-grade emulation of the environment. Apps and services can be tested in a true representation of the production environment, versus a close reproduction. They can also be more easily moved into production.
Hybrid cloud operating models will enjoy the advantage of strategic agility across pre-production and production environments, a new inflection point for IT and development productivity.
Cloud-Integrated Protection (Continuous Protection)
Building out duplicate data center and colocation environments (for potential or even rare use) has a very weak business case, especially in comparison to investments in innovation, security or scalability. As CIOs are increasingly reporting to CFOs, traditional facility-bound disaster recovery and business continuity solutions are under increased scrutiny. The rise of the “pay as you go” cloud model has attracted new interest in leveraging the cloud for N+1 protection instead of maintaining and updating redundant physical infrastructures and even facilities.
Unfortunately public cloud providers have not been adept at addressing these needs and the services that would be typically required for ensuring uptime. High profile outages, even with marquee customers, has lowered cloud availability expectations; and the inability for a customer to easily move from one zone to another has resulted in a lack of attractive DR and failover/continuity solutions in public clouds, despite the obvious economy.
Today the public cloud is not an enterprise-grade solution for continuous application protection. It is an isolated environment with limited integration with the data center and other zones/clouds. That “take it or leave it” isolation with resultant lock-in restricts the continuity potential of the public cloud.
The hybrid cloud (or cloud-integrated data center) has inherent strengths which compensate for public cloud weakness, especially in the area of the strategic agility needed to deploy duplicate infrastructures quickly in new clouds or zones and then fail-back when the primary location/site is restored. The hybrid cloud is a superior architecture, which enables new levels of agility which enable new levels of application protection and scale.
The hybrid cloud offers “pay as you need” continuous protection -which is far more efficient than maintaining duplicate fixed infrastructures- with the services and controls of the data center. That combination is a far superior option for business continuity and disaster recovery (compared to today’s public clouds and redundant physical infrastructures).
Cloud-Integrated Scalability (Continuous Scalability)
Cloud bursting has been one of the most discussed hybrid cloud killer apps. Yet because it requires agility first and foremost it may be introduced after agility and protection issues are resolved. It allows users to “own the base and rent the spike”. I’ve heard from many insiders close to the development of highly scalable data center environments that the top innovators are using the equivalent of advanced private cloud infrastructures to simulate cloud bursting but have not yet introduced seamless scalability via cloud integration. Again, cloud integration is the natural evolution of both public and private cloud. Being able to own predictable workloads and rent occasional loads is a far superior operating model for most companies.