Interop: Citrix, Terremark, VMware Examine Cloud Computing Triggers And Obstacles

What triggers the move to the cloud? Conversely, what is keeping some enterprises from making the jump?

At Interop Las Vegas 2010, a panel of three high-profile cloud executives convened to break down what's fueling the cloud and why some are yet to embrace it.

The general consensus is that cloud computing and the shift to portable applications starts with, among other factors, virtualization and the separation of applications from operating systems.

"Everything starts with virtualization because you have to unlock the application from the hardware," VMware Vice President of Product Management Vittorio Viarengo said, adding that "virtualization is just the beginning." He said other triggers for application portability and the cloud include consolidations and mergers and acquisitions and the need to combine infrastructures.

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"I don't think portability was the original driver of virtualization, it was a side benefit," added Randy Rowland, cloud infrastructure provider Terremark's general manger of managed hosting and cloud computing services. He said portability is a byproduct that gives users a choice of cloud providers.

And with portability and interoperability comes the ability to make workloads independent of hypervisors, a true need, as organizations fear lock-in to proprietary systems.

"Virtualization is a mandate for everybody," said Simon Crosby, CTO, Data Center and Cloud Division at Citrix Systems. "Nobody is served by proprietary stacks."

And while portability is a key driver it can also act as an obstacle to the cloud. To address the concern of vendor lock-in introduced by application portability, the Open Virtualization Format (OVF) standard has been developed. OVF is a platform-independent distribution format for virtual machines that makes VMs mobile and gives users vendor and platform independence.

"People are afraid of lock-in ... they want something more open," Rowland added, noting that it's difficult to seamlessly move applications to the cloud, especially as it related to networking.

Next: Obstacles Keep Organizations From The Cloud

Meanwhile there are other obstacles keeping organizations from moving to the cloud, with control and security chief among them.

Crosby, however, said cloud providers have massive data centers, fortified underground, flanked with armed guards and subject to stricter compliance regulations. Basically, Crosby said, data is safer in the cloud than on-premise in many cases.

Rowland agreed, noting that in his experience losing control of data has fallen by the wayside as a main concern. If anything, Rowland said, users now see an improved, more secure platform and get better insight into their environments, which in some cases can offer more control."

"Embrace this change because it's coming," Viarengo cautioned.

Rowland also warned that if companies don't start developing a cloud strategy, the end users may take up the task on their own. That's when control can really be lost.

"The longer you resist having a real strategy the more people will buy SaaS and take out their credit cards and you lose control," he said.

Viarengo called that "software-as-a-service anarchy" and noted that "IT is not a monopoly."