Nearly 20 years ago, a main topic of conversation at IT conferences was something called unified network management. Definitions differed by vendor, but the gist was this: Software was urgently required to unify and manage burgeoning distributed networks, which threatened to multiply out of IT's control.
Despite lots of progress, the problem never went away. It just emerged over and over in different scenarios, and an announcement today from IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) showcases its latest battleground: the hybrid cloud.
IBM's offer of hybrid cloud software based on its May 2010 acquisition of Cast Iron Systems points to the specific enterprise problem. When a company chooses a "public cloud" for [fill in the blank]-as-a-service, IT loses control over the management of the data and applications associated with that service. Meanwhile, back at the datacenter, IT continues to struggle with a growing roster of disparate systems and applications associated with its "private cloud."
The problem is how to integrate and unify the management of private clouds. Mary Johnston Turner, research vice president at
IDC , says the problem is growing:
IDC's research indicates that the majority of enterprise IT organizations expect to operate hybrid datacenter environments spanning private cloud, legacy, and public cloud resources for a number of years. As a result, IT management staff will increasingly need tools to help optimize not only the provisioning, but the capacity planning, service level, and security management of workloads across these varied resources. Cloud service providers will have similar needs.
Tom Nolle, CEO of the consultancy
CIMI Corp. , said in a lecture last August, "Hybrid cloud is to me the critical issue in cloud computing." He noted that integration of hybrid clouds depends on the specific setup chosen and can usually be achieved with the use of "SOA [service oriented architecture] principles."
IBM and other big vendors have been improving on that approach. They've anticipated the challenges and have acquired as much integration technology as possible to meet them. Back in 2007, SAP acquired Business Objects. In 2008, Oracle bought BEA Systems, and last year, IBM snapped up Cast Iron Systems.
At the same time, vendors such as Tibco and Verizon's Terremark say business in hybrid cloud integration is booming, and they're not alone.
"HP Cloud Service Automation 2.0 has some similarities, as does the BMC Cloud LifeCycle Manager," says IDC's Turner. "Also, a number of startups such as Nimbula or Gale Technologies are targeting this need."
IBM cites analyst figures showing that over a third of enterprises using cloud services have hybrid clouds as part of their strategy, and Big Blue expects that number to nearly double in the near term.
Its latest release is focused on "connecting, managing, and securing public and private clouds," according to a company statement. Big Blue is talking about high-end enterprise staples such as CRM and ERP, along with "homegrown" apps. To unify management, security, application integration, and provisioning of these resources in hybrid clouds, IBM has combined Cast Iron technology with its own Tivoli cloud software in a hybrid cloud add-on to its SmartCloud portfolio of products and services.
Details are sparse. In the past, Cast Iron offered integration appliances and competed with a range of "enterprise application integration" vendors. IBM continues to offer these appliances, but it's not exactly clear how they'll be offered as part of the new hybrid cloud solution.
Nevertheless, IBM is clear that it's offering a vital element of hybrid cloud integration: instant access to applications from a range of devices. IBM's prepared statement quotes customer Randy Berger, senior application architect at Siemens: "IBM's hybrid cloud offering not only easily integrates our on-premises and cloud-based applications, but also allows us to provide live feeds of order data changes to our sales reps on any device, including mobile phones, tablets, and laptops."
At least one analyst says IBM's wide-ranging capabilities will serve it well in what will likely be a big market for a long time to come.
"The need to integrate and manage hybridized environments will be a many-billion-dollar opportunity every year just in the US alone. Thereís no shortage of competitive providers from both a software aspect and a services aspect; itís a huge and growing opportunity for cloud-based providers and traditional SIs," Bruce Guptill, senior vice president and head of research at Saugatuck Technology, wrote in an email today.
And that's the name of the game, it seems -- helping IT to unify and manage the hybrid cloud looming on the horizon.
— Mary Jander , ThinkerNet Editor, Internet Evolution