Watch this space: How to improve your cloud?
The world of cloud computing is rapidly evolving into the world of platforms. For consumers this is already taking shape. You are either Google, Apple or Microsoft. Your email, your agenda, your appstore and your identity are part of the chosen eco-systems and switching between the platforms is difficult at best; it requires a different login code and your data is not automatically synced. A meeting in Outlook.com will most likely not be visible in your Google calendar.
There are several reasons for this situation; most of them are driven by the vendor's lock in scenario which they like, although you as a user might not like it. it is the result of the free-services model; you give up some privacy and freedom to choose and in return you get access to the system of your choice.
In the context of simple things like email, scheduling and casual gaming this type of buy-in is not really a problem (not counting the privacy aspect). But when we look at enterprises and complex business models the aspect of integration between information systems is a serious matter. So, when enterprises are bringing more and more applications 'to the cloud', how do we address this aspect of integration?
A white paper of the Atos Scientific Community was already published some time ago on the subject of 'Cloud Orchestration' and now a new white paper is becoming available that looks into the transport layer between clouds: "Cloud Messaging".
"At a fundamental level, Cloud Orchestration acts as tool for connecting heterogeneous clouds and the Internet of Things (IoT), whereas Cloud Messaging acts as a communication platform and enabler of interactions across the orchestrated environment"
Let’s look at an example; a company chooses to utilize a public SaaS solution for their sales process, pay rolling is outsourced, an external insurance company is used for employee travelling and for email and calendar there is a company contract with Google. Finally, they have deployed an Enterprise Social Network on a private cloud.
Based on this you can imagine that there will be several company processes that will touch multiple systems. New employees, people leaving, insurance claims, doing sales reviews for big proposals and not to forget the setup of the yearly company sales meeting in a nice resort announcing the top-performers, are all using these systems.
"...can lead to complex hybrid delivery models, where workflows and data flows may span multiple public and / or private clouds. Process inefficiencies and disconnects arising from the implementation of disaggregated cloud services present a significant risk to the integrity of established business operations."
IT engineers and architects that will be responsible for making all these systems work together will have a real puzzle on their hands - even for a simple thing like making sure that every employee has only 1 identity in each of the applications.
The paper addresses these topics from the communication layer point of view and mentions three important areas that need to be addressed:
- Cloud Portability and Persistence - the assured continuity of workflows when moving application workloads from one cloud to another.
- Quality of Service delivery and management - Performance, reliability, end to end Service Levels etc.
- Messaging standards - enable simple, unambiguous translation of instructions across different platforms (both synchronous and asynchronous), security of message routing, integrity and encryption.
Each element has its own set of design patterns and some of them are explained in the paper - also some real life examples are described in detail.
While companies are embracing mobility, internet-of-things and cloud computing, we will continue to see pressure to keep certain information systems nearby, on premise and operated in a traditional IT mode. At the same time, each of these systems need to adopt a certain openness and communication capability to interact with more public implementations of business applications. We can also expect that the business will want to mix-and-match public cloud offerings from multiple vendors, each of them not immediately focused on opening up their platform for other vendors to integrate.
The idea of cloud orchestration and the communication layer needed as explained in the Cloud Messaging paper is addressing a business need that both vendors and integrators need to embrace.
Update! The white paper is finally available here.