What Is An Advanced Cloud?
Not all computing clouds are created equal. To be clear, there is no actual cloud in cloud computing. As we have said before, the cloud gets its name from the curly cartoon circle that network engineers have always used to represent ‘clouds’ of connected network resources.
So naturally and logically then, not all clouds are equal because any combination of various network resources, tools, performance boosts and optimizations could be brought together to coalesce into the abstracted space that any one particular cloud ‘instance’ takes up on a server hard disk, in a datacenter or in an ‘on-premises’ environment.
What is an advanced cloud?
If no two clouds are necessarily the same, can we call some clouds basic standard-issue clouds and some clouds advanced clouds? In theory, we can, but this has become a very difficult topic to research because every cloud computing consultancy from here to Ougadougou either wants to call itself Advanced Cloud Services by name, or it wants to use those three words to denote the nature of its services offerings in the field.
Given this challenge, let’s go ahead and define advanced cloud services (in lower case) anyway.
In the real world, enterprise organizations often find that they need to connect a variety of departments, divisions, different headquarter locations and a plethora of field personnel together. This leads to highly fragmented clouds that span multiple global locations.
Highly fragmented clouds aren’t naturally as good at integration, because they’re highly fragmented, obviously. Highly fragmented clouds are also harder to manage (in terms of making sure they’re all patched for updates, cleaned for data de-duplication and so on) and harder to guarantee resiliency and uptime on because they’re strung out around various servers in different data centers.
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One useful notion of advanced cloud services then is highly fragmented clouds that are capable of retaining full integration, resiliency and uptime all within the boundaries of the governance and compliance restrictions they need to adhere to.
This means that advanced cloud services exist as virtual entities (as do all clouds, essentially) whose final form is built upon a shared infrastructure. Because compute clouds are virtual, we can change their shape more easily (in reality, many cloud services are sold in quite firm unchangeable form especially in the case of so-called ‘reserved instances’, but that’s another story), so advanced clouds must be clouds that are eminently scalable (both upwards and downwards).
Steak & fries logic
Advanced clouds are also very much off the à la carte menu i.e. we (the customer) should be able to have a bit this and a bit of that exactly how we’d like it served.
In lunching terms, this means having the medium-rare steak, a side of organic tenderstem broccoli plus the triple-cooked fries and the Bernaise sauce and extra Dijon mustard. In cloud computing terms this means having offices A & B in Europe served with high-performance cloud services optimized for heavy transactional data throughput, while, at the same time, also having offices X, Y and Z in North America served with additional data storage power (office X), additional data analytics engine call capabilities (office Y) and increased memory performance (office Z).
In practical terms, advanced cloud services may be something of a fanciful notion i.e. nice to have if we could have everything the way we wanted, but pragmatically hard to pull off and practically tough to afford at an affordable price point given most Cloud Service Provider’s (CSPs) proclivity for charging extra for specially tuned cloud instances.
“You could think of ‘advanced’ in three dimensions where the first is the breadth of services and geographies offered — and the second is the flexibility by which they can be combined. A cloud offering a choice of hot (fast) or cold (cheap) storage in combination with VMs in two geographies is more advanced than one offering hot storage in one geography only, and no option of cold storage for VMs. And so on. Even todays biggest cloud providers have significant restrictions in that many services are only available in a subset of geographies, and new services might only be possible to use in specific combinations. The third dimension would be how easy it is to understand and manage the services and flexibility offered—something that is critical to achieve secure and robust operations of a business relying the cloud,” said Dan Matthews, chief technology officer at IFS.
VP of strategy at cloud and data-centric business applications company Progress is Mark Troester. Pointing out that regardless of any single organization’s personal level of advancement of the cloud, Troester notes that the reality for most organizations is that they will have a combination of clouds and on-premise applications and data. So, logically then, some will be more advanced than others.
“Even if a single cloud infrastructure is used for custom app capabilities, a different infrastructure for reporting and analytics will be required, not to mention SaaS apps that are on different cloud infrastructure. This reality is further complicated by a mix of access methods – SQL, NoSQL, REST, proprietary APIs – which stand in the way of integrating these different workloads. Organizations need to think about their API approach and consider hybrid data connectivity that leverages standard protocols for communicating across clouds or between clouds and on-premise workloads,” said Progress’ Troester.
So the debate is open then. Clearly not all cloud are the same and many are sold as specially and specifically tuned to operate in one way or another. The industry doesn’t often use the word ‘advanced’, possibly because of the whole branding-labeling issue we mentioned at the start here.
We may get to more advanced cloud offerings as the decade progresses, but for now, if you’re super hungry, you might be better off just going for the set menu and extra A1 sauce.