Why 2013 will be the year of the federated cloud

Advice Adrian Bridgwater Dec 10, 2012

Federated cloud is one of the buzzphrases of the moment but this is not marketing hype, it's a vital part of the cloud future

TIBCO offers Silver Fabric in this space. This product provides a layer on top of classic IaaS, which could be used to create a federated PaaS using multiple different asset managers talking to different public cloud assets (think Azure, EC2 and OpenStack asset managers). This would then create a pool of resources managed and connected through Silver Fabric itself.

Cloud chargebacks
So, if federated clouds can be potentially more complex from a software engineering perspective, there is a cost complexity issue too. Datacentre infrastructure consulting and managed services company GlassHouse writes on an anonymous company blog to explain that federated cloud services could potentially also add to the confusion around “cloud charge-backs” as they are known.

This is because offering a mix of Op-Ex and Cap-Ex payment models, enabling companies to pay-as-they-go, can make it more difficult to project costs. It is therefore crucial says GlassHouse that CEOs and IT managers are as focused on developing comprehensive plans to manage cloud costs and charge-backs as they are on selecting the right technology and that the cloud infrastructure put in place is the most cost effective.

"As the debate continues around federated clouds, we can expect to see IT needing to take an increasingly broader view, with an equal focus on the non-technology aspects of ensuring effective cloud deployments," writes the GlassHouse blog team.

Federation application creation
The complexity of federated cloud instances deepens further still. In a network of federated cloud resources there is an opportunity to allocate different “elements” of a software application into different cloud environments. If an application is built to perform a degree of external-facing functions drawing from a public cloud, it may also be engineered to perform mission critical operations from a private on-premise cloud with fully quantifiable security controls.

This process has helped coin the term “application stretching”, which has appeared on a number of industry blogs, most notably Terremark with its VMware virtualised console based management technologies. This application stretching could see further cloud federation if developmental apps reside on the firm’s vCloud Express offering … and then subsequently move to its enterprise cloud product after deployment. Once again it is the application traveling around the federation, with map, but without a passport as such.

“The right [federated cloud] solution may comprise offerings from multiple different vendors and technologies,” said Ash Patel at Insight UK, a provider of lifecycle and management services.

"For federated services to work efficiently, it is vital that the providers you choose have the necessary expertise in each of the technology sets you require. We are commonly asked the same question from our customers: ‘Is cloud right for me and which one should I use?’ But these are not the questions they should be asking. The question is: ‘What solution is right for you?’ The solution seems to be an afterthought in cloud discussions within the decision making process these days. We advise that you research the right solutions from the various vendors and consider a cloud-based offering that can comprise part of each," said Patel.

The future’s bright, the future’s federated
So we know that cloud federation means federation right across the nation. We also know that the breadth of that nation encompasses different nation states (or cloud types) at the higher level, plus also different state workers as individuals (or associated services) at a lower level. Looking forward then and once again referencing open cloud standards as we did at the start, if avoiding vendor and platform and roadmap lock-in is our goal, federated cloud will now come to the fore.

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