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Interoperability: A Key Challenge for Cloud Computing

Light Reading
2/11/2009
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Cloud computing evolved rapidly during 2008, with infrastructure-based computing services and broader cloud application development platforms emerging to fill specific positions in a solidifying market structure. That structure encompasses the provision and management of rapidly scalable, remote, virtual computing resources charged according to usage and the additional tools needed to manage those resources and develop applications to run on them.

The rapid take-up of some services, particularly those for infrastructure, has surprised several providers we have interviewed; but, while the concept has found favor with many types of application developers, it is also clear that work is needed on issues of interoperability – to allow applications to be ported between clouds, or to use multiple cloud infrastructures – before critical business applications are delivered from the cloud.

Interoperability is important because many enterprises will not want to tie their most important applications to specific providers' remote infrastructure or platforms – particularly if there is proprietary technology deployed. As some cloud providers we have interviewed have pointed out, it is important for developers to understand what the barrier to change your mind looks like. Also, some of the most exciting opportunities for cloud computing require the use of multiple clouds. For instance, cloud "bursting" (using remote resources to handle peaks in demand for an application) requires seamless, effective interworking between an enterprise's own computing resources and those of a cloud provider.

It is too early in the market's development for formal standardization of many aspects of cloud computing – except in the area of virtualization technology – but industry leaders recognize the importance of interoperability: Salesforce.com Inc. 's Force.com platform, for instance, now enables developers to use its cloud application development platform alongside Amazon Web Services Inc. 's infrastructure and storage services. Amazon Web Services itself supports an increasing number of application environments.

Complementing these bilateral developments is the work of fledgling industry associations such as the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum (CCIF), which has involved significant players in the industry. While many cloud providers' solutions for extending applications between physically distributed resources are still at the concept stage, we expect significant developments over the next few months by hosting providers of services that bridge the gap between dedicated application hosting and cloud-based infrastructure services.

The latest Light Reading Insider, "Cloud Computing: The Fog Begins to Lift," explores and analyzes the most significant aspects of the cloud computing sector. It presents a map of the emerging market structure, showing the relationship between critical enabling technologies and cloud services. It reviews the needs of various types of users of cloud services, highlighting drivers of and barriers to the adoption of services. It also draws conclusions about how the market will develop, and what the opportunities are for those in the telecommunications sector. Finally, the report presents a competitive analysis of 15 example providers of enabling technologies and services, as well as profiling the key players.

— Danny Dicks, Analyst, Light Reading Insider


Cloud Computing: The Fog Begins to Lift, a 21-page report, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Light Reading Insider, priced at $1,595. This report is available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.lightreading.com/insider.

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Light Reading founder Steve Saunders talks with VMware's Shekar Ayyar, who explains why cloud architectures are becoming more distributed, what that means for workloads, and why telcos can still be significant cloud services players.
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