Public, private or hybrid clouds? IaaS, PaaS or SaaS? Do we need OpenStack for our cloud platform? Which cloud model fits best with our requirements? – Many IT decision-makers recognize the question marks in their heads as they search for the right cloud model. Here is a guide to help you plot your way through the chaos of the cloud.
Author: Jürgen Mauerer Photos: plainpicture/Design Pics
One thing is certain: no company will be able to do without the cloud in the future. But the “cloud way of IT life” is as diverse as companies’ requirements. Company A tends to be careful and only wants to move its groupware and collaboration tools to the cloud. Company B runs applications specially developed for the cloud which can request additional infrastructure if needed, or release it again; and company C needs cloud resources in various locations distributed around the world.
Start-ups represent a special case. They frequently rely on a complete cloud infrastructure in order to avoid high initial investments, and to bring their products to market quickly. The range of cloud applications stretches from backup as a service, via CRM systems and collaboration tools all the way to the temporary procurement of additional computing power for particularly complex workloads.
So there is not just one cloud but various models, services and suppliers. Many decision-makers have a hard time maintaining an overview and finding the right cloud structure for their company.
OpenStack as a connecting link in the cloud mix
Because in practice, most companies are leaning towards a sourcing mix of diverse cloud platforms (also from different suppliers) and classical IT infrastructure, in other words a hybrid cloud. The challenge is to integrate this heterogeneous environment, for example to transfer workloads to the right cloud, distribute them across several public clouds and if necessary to scale them.
However, this requires open interfaces and standards, for example between the clouds. But many providers use proprietary software which severely complicates any exchange of data or switching suppliers. IT decision-makers and company bosses are therefore unsure of what platform and technology to invest in without risking a vendor lock-in.
This is where OpenStack comes into play. The free, independent cloud management system offers open-source software components for the largely standardized deployment of public clouds in hybrid application scenarios with the private cloud. Defined interfaces can be used to integrate new modules or components into the overall system and to link cloud services to each other.
So besides focusing on aspects such as security, price and service quality, companies should make sure when choosing their cloud supplier that they support cloud technologies and architectures such as OpenStack that do not depend on any one manufacturer. Then they will be getting integrated, flexibly combinable cloud solutions which cover all requirements – from applications critical to the business with the highest possible SLAs to non-critical testing and development environments where the service level is limited to the availability of the hardware.
Airports, the Austrian post office and petrol station operator JET are already running pilot projects and exploiting the fact that as a result of modern architecture and systems solutions, there seem to be no limits to the elasticity of the cloud.