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Dana Gardner: Look for cloud computing fit with other trends, support custom process architecture

What should you look for in cloud computing in 2011? Dana Gardner says take a cue from SOA services and look for cloud implementations that link at a process level.

Hype brought attention to SOA and, more recently, cloud computing. Technology hype is something most of us try to avoid, but, as we were reminded in an 'end-of-the-year" conversation with Dana Gardner, hype can serve a purpose. "Sometimes people have to get jolted in order to get beyond conventional thinking," he said, discussing cloud computing. 

Still, getting beyond the hype is the goal. In fact, the Year 2011 could well be the year when hype gives way to foundational change based on cloud computing architecture.

"I think now with cloud we are past that, and we are now into what the implications of cloud are for a real-world organization," said Gardner, president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

What should you look for in cloud computing in 2011? Gardner says to watch for cloud computing to grow in the context of other pivotal forces. Look for cloud to be custom, that is: not a cookie-cutter take-it-or-leave-it cloud architecture. Also, take a cue from SOA services and look for cloud implementations that link at a process level.

Cloud computing in context

Gardner said: "We are not just sitting around with one major trend called 'cloud.' We have mobile, we have social [networks], we have a difficult economic situation, we have globalization of trade and emerging markets modernizing. So there is a lot going on at once. Cloud doesn’t operate all on its own. It operates in the context of these other trends."

This year, Dana Gardner suggests, is the year individuals will figure out in which context cloud works for them.

Cloud computing will become more custom

Much of the early cloud computing push seemed to indicate that instant scalability would be key and that cloud computing might not support a whole lot of variety in architecture. The former is still the case, but the latter is now suspect. "The architecture is going to be very much custom for each organization. That may be misnomer about cloud, that one size fits all, I don't believe that," Gardner said. One of the big differences versus established computing architectures is that the vendor selling you a software stack is trying to get a one size-fits-all affair, he continued. That suits the vendors' business models, and requires organizations to do a lot of customization.

Looking forward, you should look to consume services based on specific SLAs, to integrate at the process level, according to Dana Gardner, rather than buying integrated suites of applications.

The Cloud-SOA connections

Behind the cloud drive there resides a similar notion to SOA - that is, services. With cloud as with SOA, you look to avoid building your business around somebody else's applications, said Gardner. Whether services are procured or hosted, they can help you. "SOA is still alive and well, but it is now under the covers," said Gardner. "[Cloud] providers are starting to bake-in SOA."

What remains to be seen, Dana Gardner said, is whether vendors will begin to address the whole life cycle around cloud deployment. If that point is reached, in his words, cloud computing may help you achieve "IT as a Service."

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