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Lori MacVittie

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Cloud Is the How Not the What

The “what” is a dynamic data center infrastructure. Cloud is “how” to get there

The “what” is a dynamic data center infrastructure. Cloud is “how” to get there.

Some interesting side conversations revolving around architecture and how cloud may or may not change the premises upon which those architectures are based. Architecture is, in the technology demesne, the “fundamental underlying design of computer hardware, software, or both.” A data center architecture is the design of a data center, the underlying fundamental way in which compute, network and storage resources are provisioned and ultimately delivered to support the goal of delivering applications. Of supporting the business. But note that “cloud” is not the goal, it’s not what we’re hoping to achieve, it’s how we’re hoping to achieve.


Naysayers of private/enterprise cloud, who firmly stand in the “it’s merely a transitory architecture”, believe that the economy of scale and thus the efficiency and cost savings associated with cloud can only be realized by the complete adoption of a public cloud deployment model. From the perspective of raw costs of resources – whether cloud-maturity-modelcompute, network or storage – that view may be right. But this view, too, supports the underlying premise that public cloud is how you achieve economy of scale. The goal is not cloud, it’s efficiency. The same is true of a private/enterprise cloud – the goal is efficiency through aggregation and automation and ultimately liberation of the data center. The goal is a dynamic infrastructure designed to combat the rising costs and increasing gap between IT’s budget and its need to manage core data center resources.

Cloud is the means by which resources can be dynamically leveraged and scaled. It is part of a larger architecture – a data center design, one which has a goal of delivering applications, not clouds. The what is a data center architecture that is efficient, manageable, and less complex than its traditional predecessors. The what is processes that make it possible to achieve an economy of scale not just in growth of physical resources, but in virtual resources and human capital as well. The what is a dynamic infrastructure. How may be in part or in full a cloud computing framework that integrates private and public cloud computing resources as well as traditional (legacy) frameworks.

Cloud is about how resources are provisioned and managed, about how those resources are used to deliver the applications and services necessary to support IT as a Service. It’s not what we’re trying to do, it’s how we’re trying to do it.

quote-badge Respondents were asked to rate their motivations to use cloud providers on a scale of one to five and the results ranked as follows: Elasticity 4.0; deployment speed 3.75; lower costs, 3.5;  and a wide array of services offered by cloud providers, 3.25.

--  Survey Shows Businesses Interested, But Still Conflicted, About The Cloud, Network Computing Magazine (March 2011)

Notice the “motivations” – not one is “build a cloud.” Organizations are looking at cloud as a means to achieve operational goals – elasticity, rapid provisioning, and lower costs. Organizations aren’t trying to build a cloud for cloud’s sake; they’re trying to build an underlying framework and architect a data center that can adapt and support the increasing dynamism inherent in applications, in users, in clients, in business requirements. The entire ecosystem of the data center is changing, becoming more volatile day by day, pushed into supporting new and often unvetted technology due to consumerism of technology and a need to reduce costs across the entire data center – up and down the stack and across every business application.

Cloud is how we can address the challenges that naturally occur from such rapid changes, but it’s not what we’re trying to do.

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Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.