Uncommon Wisdom

Apr 14 2011   4:00AM GMT

Cloud trends emerge from recent vendor announcements

Tom Nolle Tom Nolle Profile: Tom Nolle

The cloud is in the news, in no small part because it’s earnings season and companies need to balance the need for publicity and the need to comply with SEC rules on “quiet periods.” Cloudiness is always a good way to get some positive ink. At any rate, we’re seeing three specific trends embodied in three announcements, by Red Hat, Lenovo, and Nimbula.

Red Hat, leveraging its acquisition of cloudbuilding-tool provider Makara, is looking to jump on what’s always been a critical truth about cloud computing: Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the most logical offering. A middleware vision (built around JBoss) supported by good cloud tools would empower developers to migrate applications to a form where they’d be cloud-optimized. This reflects a second critical (and largely ignored) truth; applications that aren’t developed at least with the cloud in mind may not be optimal in cloud environments.

The announcement of Lenovo’s support for a cloud-ready client on its laptop systems is reflective of two other trends. First, tablets and smartphones threaten to eclipse laptops as client devices for reason of simplified application management—thin clients are easier. By sticking thin-client capability with full security onto a laptop, Lenovo hopes to exploit the fact that while access to enterprise apps through thin clients is a priority for many enterprises, road warriors still need to have productivity apps running locally. Laptops with the right tools can offer both capabilities.

Second, Lenovo is envisioning all of this within a mediating platform it calls Secure Cloud Access, which allows users to be linked to cloud or local resources based on profile information. I think this is an important trend because to be effective, “cloud computing” has to recognize the special value of local resources. Whether users abandon local processing and storage for hosted resources is a choice the market still hasn’t made definitively, and may never make in a uniform way. Every resource is part of the cloud, or the cloud isn’t a true resource pool.

The third announcement, from software player Nimbula, is its Director offering. Cloud computing requires a “director” function to create the abstract virtual resource pool and to assign work (applications or components) to resources and then ensure they are connect-mapped to the user. The company characterizes Director as a cloud OS but that misses the mark. Instead it is a cloud management or abstraction element.

The reason we think the announcement is important is first that it marks breaking out of specific cloud components, and this will likely help people understand what’s really involved in cloud computing. Second, it probably represents the starting point in what will surely prove a long series of cloud-specific announcements that target hybrid and private clouds as much as (or more than) public ones.

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