The real power behind cloud is processes, and those don’t come out of a box

vmworld_2009 VMworld, in case you’ve been out of touch, is approaching fairly quickly. As with any trade show/conference there’s likely to be a lot of announcements about this and that and oh, of course, that too. What is interesting about cloud computing and virtualization is that most of the really exciting announcements are not going to be about new products or new features.

You heard me, they aren’t going to be about new products or features.

The foundations for cloud computing have already been laid; the products required to build a scalable, on-demand cloud computing architecture exist, today, out there in the “marketplace.” What doesn’t exist is the glue – the integration, the collaboration – between the disparate components that make up a scalable, on-demand cloud computing architecture.

And it probably won’t ever exist, so don’t hold your breath. For the same reason business process re-engineering failed and business process management (BPM) systems were created, so too would “canned” cloud products that require adherence to a particular set of operational processes fail.


That’s because what makes a cloud “cloud” are the processes that drive the infrastructure to be able to scale, on-demand and adjust, in real-time, to a variety of conditions in the network, the applications, and the environment (a.k.a. “context”). Those processes are, necessarily, unique to each and every data center whether it belongs to a provider or a data center. Like enterprise application integration (EAI) in the past and business image_thumb[6]process management (BPM) and enterprise service bus (ESB) there is no holy grail, no ultimate product that provides this in a turn-key fashion because, well, it can’t. Not without professional services and as soon as you bring them into the picture then the solution is no longer turn-key.

Like application integration – whether traditional or SOA – the integration of the network infrastructure with the application infrastructure requires the codification of unique processes that incorporate business and organizational specific variables that cannot be accounted for by vendors. Thais is, in essence, the whole purpose for a dynamic infrastructure – an adaptable, programmable, and collaborative framework provided by application and network infrastructure vendors alike that allow the complete solution to come into being. What providers and organizations need is a foundation for implementing those processes, not canned operational processes that may or may not make sense with a given IT organization.

Cloud isn’t a product and in many cases it doesn’t require new products. Oh, image vendors can slap “cloud enabled” stickers on their products and call them new if that will make you feel better but in almost all cases there isn’t a need for new products or even new functionality. What’s exciting and innovative is the way in which existing products like virtual machines and unified application delivery platforms and IPAM and storage are being integrated to enable the functionality that thus far we’ve only written about as if they’re some kind of science fiction fantasy dreamed up by Asimov or Sagan or Heinlein.

That’s why if you watch the excitement building around VMworld and cloud in general it’s not about products it’s about capabilities. It’s about integration and collaboration. It’s about leveraging the intelligence and collaborative features of infrastructure along with virtualization solutions and mashing them up in new ways to automate processes. That’s what makes cloud “cloud”, and where the biggest value and benefits come from: the automation of operational processes enabled by a dynamic infrastructure and virtualization technology.

If you’re keeping an eye on cloud and virtualization and only watching for turn-key, packaged solutions you’re going to miss the cloud.


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