Cloud computing: End of the corporate WAN?

When vendors and marketers get their hands on an IT concept, it doesn’t take long for that concept to morph into a totally new business opportunity and possibly a new market segment. Such is the story of cloud computing.


In my last article on cloud computing I discussed how cloud computing reminded me of a relic of the past called time sharing. In the short time since writing that article, not only have definitions changed but a new computing and communications industry market segment has been born.


From the minds of the marketing departments of numerous vendors, the basic concept of the cloud has been expanded to a new level with an entire new market-segment vocabulary. The classic definition of cloud computing associated with the Internet is now referred to as a public cloud. Its manifestation in the corporate world is a private cloud.



Simply put, it is an internal computing and communications environment that provides users with hardware and software services behind the corporate firewall. In this brave new world, not everything is black or white. Shades of gray have been created with two other forms of cloud computing. The first is the hybrid cloud that combines both public and private clouds, and second is the virtual private cloud that provides a secure bridge between public and private clouds.

Confused? Add such terms as cloudware, cloud client, cloud-oriented architecture, cloud storage and cloud app, and we have a new industry initiative taking form right before our eyes. Not over a period of years, but in a few months — cloud time makes Internet time look slow.

What will this do to the corporate WAN? The changes that may occur can be as dramatic as the outsourcing of the WAN to a next-generation services delivery provider (SDP) to, as a minimum, the re-engineering of the WAN to meet cloud computing quality of service (QoS) latency and service-level agreement (SLA) availability requirements.

In the SMB marketplace, the decision will be easy. The capital-expenditure and operational-expenditure savings will justify a commitment and the conversion to cloud computing. The corporate environment is another story. Making the corporate WAN into a supercomputer accessible anytime and anywhere by the end user is another issue. In today’s constrained financial environment, change must be justifiable through increased productivity or profitability, not for the sake of technological change.

Corporate migration to cloud computing will be slow and surely not at the speed vendors and marketers envision. As has occurred with the conversion to service-oriented architectures (SOA), conversion to cloud computing will be determined by need and in a hybrid manner. Hybrid and virtual private clouds will be the mode of conversion to this new form of computing. Coexistence rather than evolution or replacement will be the rule rather than the exception.


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Almost all corporations, large and small, are at some stage in the process of converting to an SOA. This conversion will not cease or be thrown off its mark. What will occur is that SOAs will embrace cloud computing as an integral part of their architecture. SOAs have gone green and have embraced Web 2.0 technology without a change of concept or mission direction. SOA flexibility has always been a key strategic trait.

Even though vendor marketers have coined new cloud-computing terms and definitions, my opinion has not changed from my previous article. Before making a commitment to any form of cloud computing, corporations must still answer the same five basic questions (Security? Performance? Management? Governance/regulatory compliance? Financial viability?).

What has changed over the past few months is the addition of a new dimension to the questions. In the world of private cloud computing, the questions now not only apply to the corporation but also to the end user. If the end user can receive a richer suite of cloud-computing services with guaranteed SLA and QoS at less cost from an SDN, then why have a corporate WAN? Cloud (public and/or private) access for end users and data centers is a mandatory requirement but the rationale to have an internal corporate mesh-backbone-architected WAN may well be open to internal debate and discussion in the future!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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