SSD Cloud Computing News and Industry Blog

Interoperability: Will the Cloud Work with Existing IT?

Posted on April 06, 2012
Posted by Gerben Meijer in Industry News 0 Comments

Will the cloud solution you choose be compatible with the technology within your existing IT infrastructure? The cloud industry is moving toward standardized cloud solutions for this exact reason. Here, we’ve included a solid list of questions to ask when integrating cloud-based technology into your current IT environment.

Standards and interoperability are a chief concern for IT managers and CIOs evaluating cloud options. Highly customized internal applications and technologies may not work with pre-configured cloud options, and siloed cloud solutions may lead to vendor lock-in.

Want to be sure your IaaS is interoperable? Read on.

Compatibility and the Hybrid Cloud

The first step toward the cloud is typically virtualization, which can be a struggle for some legacy systems, and in some cases too costly to implement. In the article Legacy Systems: Plan AppropriatelyFedTech’s Dave Shackleford (@daveshackleford) explains that, in certain cases you may have to work with a virtualization vendor “to upgrade or convert code, or make highly customized and specific hardware emulation changes to virtualization platforms” when working toward a more interoperable IT environment that can transition to the cloud.

In addition, most enterprises have security concerns and strong financial commitments to their existing data centers, therefore will not readily move all their data to the public cloud. As a result, private clouds are growing in popularity, with 78% of attendees at Gartner’s 2011 Data Center Conference indicating they plan to build one by 2014.

The belief, however, is that many of these private clouds will eventually evolve into hybrids. The hybrid cloud offers the best of both worlds in terms of balancing security and control with reduced cost and efficiency. Under the hybrid model, both the cloud and traditional infrastructure are drawn on for maximum success to provide accessible, secure, reliable, and scalable IT solutions.

The key issue with hybrid clouds, is that no standards exist to readily integrate private and public architectures.

The Need for Standards

Open Virtualization Format (OVF) is currently the only interoperability standard in place, but it focuses on software for virtual machinesOther standards aren’t expected for some time, according to Forrester’s James Staten (@staten7) in ComputerWorld’s Cloud Interoperability: Problems and Best Practices.

That said, some vendors and industry organizations, like the IEEE, are working on developing standards in response to customers’ need for:

  • Universal management tools that incorporate multiple cloud environments—both public and private—from multiple vendors.
  • The ability to easily transport data from one service to another to avoid vendor lock-in.
  • Shared data between cloud systems, creating a truly integrated hybrid cloud.

Ensure a Seamless Transition

Without universal standards in place, what can organizations do to ensure interoperability and avoid vendor lock-in? We recommend performing your due diligence when evaluating your IaaS provider’s strength. Questions to ask include:

  • What is your organization’s overall strategy and outlook toward interoperability? Toward the cloud? Consider both immediate outlooks and short- and long-term IT strategies, and make sure any potential cloud providers are on the same page.
  • Does your IT environment play well with others? Consider how it would integrate with other private and public clouds. How will integrations be handled? Look for matched tech industry certifications and accreditations in your current IT environment and potential providers’ offerings. Make sure integration is addressed in capability presentations and service level agreements (SLAs).
  • What is your exit strategy? How much downtime will you experience if data is transferred to another cloud provider, and do you need internal or third-party resources for your continuity plans?
  • How would VM images be transferred if another cloud provider uses different virtualization technologies?Make sure potential providers can illustrate a detailed process, or ask how they’ve handled for current customers.
  • Will potential providers help your organization effectively transition legacy or complex internal systems onto the cloud? What support is offered when you present an assessment of your current IT environment?

What steps have you taken to make your systems more interoperable, and what challenges do you face? Share your experiences

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