The last few days have seen a raft of cloud announcements from major players in the technology industry. First, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer called on the company's partners to take the step into the cloud with it, citing the cloud as 'where things are going to happen'. This was quickly followed by an announcement from Citrix on its acquisition of Cloud.com, an open source cloud platform provider, while VMware started their day by announcing the cloud infrastructure suite, created to help organisations "build intelligent virtual infrastructures".
It is clear that the move to a greater investment in cloud services is well under way and the repercussions this will have on the way organisations use IT resources has already been widely documented. Even if only a fraction of these services actually takes off over the next year or so, it will fundamentally change the role of the enterprise network from a mere cost centre to a strategic enabler, and will dictate new requirements around service capabilities and reliability. What is less clear is whether the telecommunications infrastructure that needed to deliver these services is yet up to the task.
The fact of the matter is that cloud computing is fast gaining momentum as a transformational force in the IT industry, with Asian and global CIOs naming cloud computing as their top technological priority in a recent survey by Gartner*.
Changing with the times
But cloud computing will happen only if the right underlying infrastructure is in place and if that infrastructure is capable of evolving as cloud services evolve. In the cloud world, demands on capacity and connectivity are fluid, entirely dependent on businesses' specific requirements at any given time. The network supporting those requirements needs to be able to reflect their fluidity with intelligent bandwidth capabilities that allow it to be as elastic, programmable and, in a sense, "virtualised," as storage and servers are today.
The ideal to aim for is a fully integrated infrastructure and service offering, combining flexible, SLA-assured, secure computing power with elastic and scalable storage, supported by a high-performance backbone and bandwidth-on-demand. With these technologies in place, service providers will be able to deliver the cloud services that organisations such as Microsoft, VMware and Citrix are looking to provide. Those providers that get in first with a truly flexible cloud infrastructure stand to make the most of the vast range of opportunities cloud service providers are set to offer.
*2011 Gartner Executive Programs (EXP) CIO Agenda survey, Terick Chiu, executive partner, Gartner Executive Programs. Source - http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1729814
Anthony McLachlan is vice president and general manager for Asia Pacific, Ciena
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