Cloud Computing Is About Portability: Interop

by Sean Michael Kerner

Skeptical about cloud computing? Despite the hype, there are some real reasons why a cloud infrastructure can deliver ROI.

LAS VEGAS -- The cloud leverages virtual infrastructure, but that doesn't mean there aren't real reasons for enterprises to consider it. In a keynote here at the Interop conference, Kristof Kloeckner, IBM's CTO for cloud computing, argued that the cloud is a viable mechanism for application deployment in the enterprise.

Taking a page from tech pundit Nicholas Carr, Kloeckner defined cloud computing as the "big switch" that will enable organizations to have more choices of how and where to deploy their applications.

"We're moving from being the builders and owners of IT assets to an organization that sources IT solutions," Kloeckner said. "That's the journey of cloud computing."

Kloeckner admitted that he has faced skepticism from clients about the cloud. Some have told him that they were already doing hosting and virtualization and they didn't see a difference between that and the cloud. Yet according to Kloeckner, there is a very real difference.

"What's new is that technology is coming together in a perfect storm to change the way IT services can be consumed and delivered," Kloeckner said.

According to Kloeckner, cloud computing has a number of distinguishing characteristics over previous models. Among them is the cloud's ability to provision on-demand services, ubiquitous network access, location independence and rapid elasticity.

"Our clients are adopting cloud computing based on workload affinity," he said, referring to the question of whether the workloads can move or if they're encumbered by business regulations or other requirements.

But for Kloeckner, the bottom line is that IBM does have large clients moving to the cloud, including the U.S. Air Force and Panasonic, that are improving their efficiency and IT capital utilization.

The idea of workload affinity is closely tied to the issue of portability. In a keynote panel, Simon Crosby, CTO of Citrix's datacenter and cloud division, explained that virtualization portability is the key.

Crosby's company supports the Xen hypervisor, but the actual hypervisor shouldn't be a barrier for virtual application delivery, as there is now a standard packaging format for virtual machines called the Open Virtualization Format (OVF).

"OVF is a packaging format that lets you package multiple tiers of an application and make it workload independent of a particular hypervisor," Crosby said. "Virtualization is a mandate for everyone and no one is serviced by proprietary virtualization application packaging formats."

Crosby added that with application portability enabled by virtualization and cloud delivery platforms, enterprises can put their workload where it's most cost effective. In his view, the job of enterprise IT isn't about building infrastructure.

"IT's mission is to invest resources in the strategically critical components of their business," he said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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This article was originally published on Thursday Apr 29th 2010
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