All too often, simple SaaS vendors make the claim that their tools are what cloud computing is all about. Man, is there so much more to the cloud story. Consuming apps over the web is awesome, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes to developing, deploying and managing complex application systems for a user organization – it is a lot more than simply logging on to a web screen.
That is why I was glad to get a chance to talk with Tobias Kunze Briseño, the CTO over at Makara. The company (which just changed its name from webappVM recently) is doing some very cool things around cloud. They make it very easy for organizations to create highly portable, yet customized app stacks in the cloud. Tobias will be talking about the efficiencies gained through cloud computing in terms of managing multiple instances of Sugar at SugarCon next month.
Tobias made some great points about some of the true benefits of cloud computing, and how he sees public and private clouds fitting in to the IT world of large and small businesses…
What is the greatest benefit cloud computing brings to businesses?
I think that the cloud is about strategic business agility. A lot of people say cost savings in the near term is the greatest benefit, but I don’t think anyone who says that has really done the math. At a machines-over-three-years level, the cloud is very likely more expensive. However, what it is really about is to allow these organizations to deploy and manage applications faster and get to market faster. It is the agility gained that matters most.
Just look back at application development five years back – we commonly saw six month release cycles. Now we can be reacting to market demands immediately. That is clearly the greatest benefit in my mind.
When it comes to applications, how can users benefit from using tools from providers like Makara in a public cloud environment?
Today if you look at the history of cloud computing – SaaS was first, and afterwards we saw Amazon come out with AWS. That was infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and it is still extremely basic in many ways. Nowadays in a cloud model the metal is hidden away below the hypervisor, but there is still the OS, an application server layer, and support services, mail transport, message queues, asynchronous jobs scheduled, and so on… and there isn’t any management or monitoring built in. You’d have to build it yourself. This is in addition to the significant burden of having to manage security patches, upgrades across different vendors’ upgrade cycles, scaling out, clustering, and so forth. There are a lot of things you have to do yourself. And it doesn’t make any sense. No one wants to be in a place where they have to service the engine every time they need to drive their car.
There really has not been a technology that offers that kind of pre-integrated stack on top of the cloud infrastructure until recently.
Is there a use case for this type of technology in private clouds?
Sure. One big drawback of IaaS is that it is all public; you can’t really get this stuff in-house easily. Our product can be the layer in between, insulating your application from the vagaries of the public clouds. You could simply put our software on your own server farm, and create a cloud and be managing in a cloud manner, but in-house. Or you can run a mixture of on and off-premises applications, managed through a VPN. So it is highly granular and portable.
I should note this is only for web applications. But what isn’t a web application today or becoming one anyway?
Is there any situation where you do not see a private or public cloud model being the right fit? Or does a private cloud really cover all the bases when it comes to privacy, security, etc.?
There are a few apps that are just too immobile. Most people call these apps “Legacy Apps”. Those applications are so tied into a number of processes and systems, or so complex that it is not even possible to encapsulate them and move them. You can’t move the mainframe, so to speak.
Clearly also if you have specialized high-performance, compiled C workloads with no web front, those are not a good fit unless you have your own workload management around it.. But on the other hand, a lot of these apps, because they are so spaghetti-like, tend to get exposed as a web service, so they can be easily consumed by other apps. That is where the trend is going. 10 years ago, it was still largely one web server talking to one database. Now it is all about composite applications with data and systems being combined in interesting ways. These applications are changed very rapidly, to the point where the development and deployment cycle comes down to under a day, not half a year. We provide full visibility into what all these complex applications do, and who each system is talking to.
What is the main barrier, in your mind, to more companies leveraging the cloud to displace internal IT resources?
What we’re hearing most, by far, are security concerns. Compliance is a big topic that turns out to be a hard sell, in particular in some industries or European jurisdictions But honestly, for most businesses, cloud providers are quite likely to do a better job at at least basic security than most businesses will ever be able to do. They already have the people and the expertise required. But I expect this to change over time. As more and more businesses are adopting the cloud deployment model, these concerns will subside for the majority of enterprises. And for those who have higher security needs, the private cloud is a natural fit.