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Hype Hurting Enterprise Cloud Confidence

Carol Wilson
8/29/2011

The hype around the cloud could hurt enterprise deployment plans of cloud services, unless the industry can develop a clearer understanding about how business cloud services differ from the more commodity type of cloud.

That's one concern raised by Tony Kerrison, CTO and head of Infrastructure Services at ING Group , and the newest chairman of the TM Forum 's Enterprise Cloud Leadership Council (ECLC), a group of major cloud buyers. (See TM Forum Names Cloud Council Chair.)

Cloud hype has reached a fever pitch, and while that can generate interest in what cloud has to offer, hype also leaves the impression that everything is moving to one giant cloud, Kerrison points out.

"When you are trying to explain to your management the business rationale of why this is an important step, it doesn't help that there are so many definitions around cloud -- and it covers such a broad set of services," he says. "To distinguish between what an enterprise will subscribe to versus cloud services that other individuals may use is a very important step."

That distinction is particularly important when services such as Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN)'s cloud are suffering from very public outages, Kerrison notes.

Spelling out the requirements of the enterprise cloud is one job the ECLC is tackling, although Kerrison expects the process to be an ongoing challenge and not one easily resolved. In addition to standards for the clouds, the group is trying to develop specifics around some best practices, such as defining Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for enterprise clouds, says Aileen Smith, senior vice president of collaboration and research and development for the TM Forum.

What is likely to develop is a set of more black-and-white standards for things such as APIs and cloud interfaces, and for standard applications such as email or general requirements such as security. In addition, there will be best practices for SLAs and separate policies that develop for specific industry verticals, which will have their own requirements. (See Mgmt World: Big Banks Want Tailored Cloud Services .)

The need for industry-specific cloud policies is fueling the ECLC's current effort to expand its membership to include more industries -- many early members and its first two chairmen have been from the financial services segment. The group is also creating alliances with other groups such as the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA) , notes Smith. Already, big pharmaceutical companies and the defense industry are stepping up. (See TM Forum Brings 'Sanity' to SP Clouds and TM Forum Expands Enterprise Input on Cloud.)

One positive note for service providers from Kerrison is that enterprise clouds are not likely to need the very dynamic on-demand capabilities of some commodity cloud offerings.

"Enterprises aren't looking to arbitrage compute cycles on a daily basis; that's not our business," Kerrison says. "We will look for how we get right level of service at the right price with the right flexibility, but our time horizon is longer than what you see in an Amazon example. The cycle time for us to make changes in terms of service providers is much longer."

Kerrison believes service providers are more likely to succeed in selling cloud services when they partner with systems integrators or others with specific applications expertise. Notwithstanding the current explosion of cloud expertise acquisitions by service providers, he thinks there may still be reluctance of some enterprises "to put all their eggs in one basket."

"We took the approach within ING of creating partnerships which covered all elements of telcos, systems integration and the housing of technology and other things," he says. "You want to look at how you can get the strengths of different vendors to come together to develop the solutions that you are looking for. So my advice would be to build a partnership."

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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