Cloud computing is on its way to being the dominant means of accessing IT in the 21stcentury, and so a major source of revenue for IT resellers, integrators and service providers. The reasons for this are clear: the cloud can offer a flexibility and scale of IT services and implementations that are irresistible to most organisations.
Increasingly resellers and integrators are seeing the benefit of providing customers products and services from the cloud, with an ease-of-use and cost efficiencies that are impractical, if not impossible, in the traditional model of IT. They get the all-important recurring revenue stream and meet the demand for increased flexibility. However, in order to build trust and increase adoption of the cloud model, the channel must ensure the foundations of its cloud infrastructure are not built on quicksand.
As the channel moves to providing services from cloud infrastructure it must become expert in the supporting technologies. Of all of these, virtualisation has done most to help make the cloud a viable solution. Without virtualisation, implementing the vast bank of physical servers needed to underpin a strong, reliable and most importantly flexible cloud infrastructure is a costly exercise. However, management of this virtual cloud infrastructure is absolutely critical to long-term success. Without the appropriate management the risk of failure is greatly increased.This could cripple a public cloud and ruin the reputation of its provider.
Many businesses are now realising that virtualisation cannot be adequately controlled using the same tools and techniques that have served so well for physical environments. In comparison to the several hours it takes to build a physical server, a virtual machine (VM) takes literally minutes: indeed, IDC has predicted that virtual servers will outstrip physical for the first time in 2010. Without adapting to the virtual environment, performing traditional management tasks such as backup and recovery, adding and removing machines, and monitoring and allocating resources becomes extremely slow and cumbersome.
This massive time lag not only increases the potential for failure (e.g. slowing the ability to identify and remediate a problem occurring in a vast sea of virtual servers)but is also extremely costly in terms of the number of administrators needed to effectively service a cloud infrastructure. With this in mind, margin will quickly erode if the channel has to keep employing more people to build and maintain a cloud as the business grows.
Resellers looking to transform their business by building a cloud platform using virtual data centres could quickly find themselves going to the wall if they apply physical world management techniques to virtual world problems. Before making any such commitment, resellers must ensure their dreams of the cloud are thoroughly grounded with solid management tools and techniques.
This was first published in January 2011