Rob Daly: Mining Cloud for Its Silver Lining

Rob Daly, Sell-Side Technology

I began covering the IT industry in the mid-1990s for a PC Magazine offshoot that was sent to about a fifth of the flagship magazine’s readers, and provided semi-monthly comparative lab-based reviews of products that were near and dear to the hearts of network administrators everywhere.

For a history grad who didn’t know Ethernet from a token ring, it was a dive into the deep end of the IT pool.

The first set of reviews I fact-checked were on 10 Mbps Ethernet network interface cards (NICs). Next were Ethernet hubs and routers, and then Fast Ethernet—which, at the time, blazed at a rate of 100 Mbps. I also looked at firewalls, load balancers and high-performance computing (HPC).

As the internet began to boom, the publication did fewer infrastructure reviews as the technology for NICs, hubs and routers matured, and vendors consolidated. The focus began to switch to the applications running on the infrastructure, as well as how to manage it. From a technology perspective we saw fewer CD jukebox vendors as data storage moved away from CDs to servers’ hard disk drives.

Back to the Future
Over the past few years, with the rise of cloud computing, I’m beginning to see a similar trend happening again. This month, NYSE Euronext is supposed to take its Capital Markets Community Cloud (CMCC) live in the vendor’s Mahwah, NJ, datacenter. By providing a hosted environment and access to a number of industry-specific applications and data sets, NYSE Technologies is going to take a lot of pressure off clients’ budgets by moving computing and storage resources into a managed environment.

I’m loathe to call these services “cloud” since many deal with providing dedicated hardware resources as opposed to ramping up virtual computing resources on the fly. Still, I wonder how important delivering these services in a cloud environment is for the end user. As long as the provider meets its service level agreements (SLAs) and keeps its services competitively priced, I bet that most end-users would not care whether it is delivered in a cloud or as a hosted application run on beefy Sparc-powered systems.

How these applications and services are delivered is up to the individual vendors and they should have figured out the most economical way to deliver them. From the client side, the biggest issue will be interoperability. These managed services providers have developed nice walled-garden environments by reaching out to various third-party providers to fill out their service stack. But unless a firm plans to be tied into one provider, interoperability is a must. Considering that a good number of firms manage between 10 and 100 data feeds, and a significant subset manage over 100 feeds according to a recent poll, one-stop shopping is not an option.

Pricing Arbitrage
Moving data and applications between cloud or managed, hosted environments is not just about pricing arbitrage between the service vendors, but access to the vast amount of data residing in their respective clouds.

With the CMCC and Elektron, NYSE Technologies and Thomson Reuters, respectively, plan to store versions of their historical data in the cloud as part of their offerings. It makes sense to have the applications that need to consume that data move between the various environments.

Until we have this application mobility between cloud environments, we will have the virtual equivalent of the CD jukebox. Sure, it works, but the industry is not getting close to the true potential of cloud computing.

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