The ‘Cloud’ is the next hottest vehicle for IT to deliver value to the enterprise. At its heart, by empowering end users to rapidly access resources, you can accelerate the time to deliver new products, reduce issues caused with misconfiguration and react more swiftly to capacity constraints. This is why many enterprises are making Cloud one of their top initiatives in the next 12 months.
Most Cloud offerings focus on virtual machine (VM) availability, access control and charge back. While a self service vehicle to provide pre-built systems to users can add value, it ignores the most important part of the puzzle, the application stack. As the Director of IT at a large financial player noted, what good is empowering end users to access systems if those systems don’t actually do anything. In many cases, it can cause more harm than good. The big question is why don’t most offerings handle this?
The reality is that most Cloud suites have little visibility into the application tier. Applications are their own beasts with their own rules. J2EE apps need to be managed differently than databases. Relying on users to build and maintain this content is a guaranteed failure. For an infrastructure player that simply understands some components of the full offering, they have no hope of enabling end customers to actualize the value of the Cloud. For example, I worked with an enterprise where their Cloud vendor was arguing to create a full VM for every slight application variation that existed (literally every schema variation in development would be another virtual machine). Of course this was impossible to maintain and the customer quickly recognized that it would never be practical.
The key to enabling the Cloud is full stack functionality – from system deployment, to app deployment, to database deployment to change management. This, combined with a well constructed, multi-tenant, self-service offering, is the killer application that will truly make the Cloud vision a reality. Without it you are left with a partial solution that will breed chaos. We may see clouds in the sky but if they don’t produce rain, we’re all in big trouble.