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Cloud Federation and the Intercloud

Advances in federation are good news for companies considering a move to the cloud since deployments no longer need to be custom

5th International Cloud Expo New York

Last week's post explored federation in the cloud, allowing enterprises to move workloads seamlessly across internal and external clouds according to business and application requirements. Advances in federation are good news for companies considering a move to the cloud since deployments no longer need to be custom projects and applications no longer have to be tightly coupled to a particular cloud.

To follow up, there's been lots of discussion recently about the concept of the "Intercloud," a direction for cloud computing that is closely related to federation and ties in with much of our work at CloudSwitch. A term introduced by Cisco, the Intercloud refers to a mesh of clouds that are interconnected based on open standards to provide a universal environment for cloud computing. Like the name suggests, it's similar to the Internet model, where everything is federated in a ubiquitous, multiple-provider infrastructure.

The primary difference between the Intercloud and federation is that the Intercloud is based on future standards and open interfaces, while federation uses a vendor version of the control plane. With the Intercloud vision, all clouds will have a common understanding of how applications should be deployed. Eventually workloads submitted to a cloud will include enough of a definition (resources, security, service level, geo-location, etc.) that the cloud is able to process the request and deploy the application. This will create the true utility model, where all the requirements are met by the definition and the application can execute "as is" in any cloud with the resources to support it.

What shape the Intercloud will take and what standards will emerge to make it work are part of an ongoing debate. Some industry watchers believe it will happen sooner than later. Others believe that discussion of the Intercloud is premature, wary that embracing standards too quickly will hold back innovation, and therefore the Intercloud will remain only a vision for the foreseeable future. When these debates will be resolved is anyone's guess, but major progress in cloud integration is already underway, so there's no need for enterprises to put their cloud plans on hold.

At CloudSwitch, we believe that the Intercloud is likely to emerge organically as the result of continuing innovations throughout the cloud ecosystem. Federation is one of the prerequisites toward that goal, providing ongoing improvements in cloud interoperability aimed at giving enterprises many new options from which to choose. The ability to federate identity, access and dataset migration is also one of the key requirements for Intercloud activity. This interoperability at the infrastructure level has to work transparently in order to launch applications into the cloud environment and manage the integration.

The benefits of the Intercloud are in many ways already a practical reality. A significant part of the Intercloud vision can be achieved with a strong federation technology that provides a gateway between different clouds and the internal data center. Users and their companies can avoid lock-in and run workloads in the environment that best matches their needs, based on cost, performance, security, compliance, geography, latency, etc.  In short, some of the most important Intercloud goals can be achieved using technology already coming to market.

More Stories By Ellen Rubin

Ellen Rubin is the CEO and co-founder of ClearSky Data, an enterprise storage company that recently raised $27 million in a Series B investment round. She is an experienced entrepreneur with a record in leading strategy, market positioning and go-to- market efforts for fast-growing companies. Most recently, she was co-founder of CloudSwitch, a cloud enablement software company, acquired by Verizon in 2011. Prior to founding CloudSwitch, Ellen was the vice president of marketing at Netezza, where as a member of the early management team, she helped grow the company to more than $130 million in revenues and a successful IPO in 2007. Ellen holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Harvard University.

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