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Cloud Computing Roadmap Directs Data Center Managers

AFCOM think tank tells the 85% of its members who haven't adopted cloud computing how to prepare.

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The Data Center Institute, a think tank for data center managers, says only 14.9% of the organization's members have implemented some form of cloud computing. But, it predicts, "the next five years will see the adoption of cloud computing grow dramatically."

The report was authored by leading members of AFCOM, the former Association for Computing Operations Managers, a name it has dropped in favor of use of just its acronym.

The organization completed a survey last September which came up with the 14.9% figure. If the remainder are not thinking of moving toward the cloud, either internal or external, then the institute's position paper should act as a warning shot across the bows. The report issued Monday predicted: "Its impact on data center management will be felt throughout the industry."

Cloud computing will grow because it can address several persistent issues that plague data center operations, the position paper said. They include:

Underutilization: "Many servers in data centers are underutilized; there are still some running 3-5% of total capacity, while others actually sit idle."

Security: "Security continues to lag within most data centers... we need to focus on emerging approaches that center around the distributed model, including identity management and the new use of encryption, either within on-premise systems or within the cloud."

Ability to scale: "Businesses that need to quickly scale will typically find latency between the identification of the need and the time additional capacity can actually be brought on-line."

Cost per cycle: "Many IT budgets were slashed during the last economic downturn to force management to revisit the cost of computing, which is driving much of the data center consolidation as well as the movement toward cloud computing."

In effect, AFCOM is telling its members to "take what you've got and develop a plan to use cloud computing to get some of those attributes," said Leonard Eckhaus, founder of AFCOM, in an interview upon release of the position paper, Guiding Data Centers To Cloud Computing.

The paper adopts the same definition of cloud computing as the widely quoted National Institute of Standards and Technology, which describes a public cloud, such as Amazon's EC2; a private cloud, such as an enterprise builds for internal operation; a hybrid combination of the two; and a community cloud, where a group of organizations share a data center infrastructure.

A key tenet of cloud computing for data center managers is that it allows them "to shift the risk of handling the processing load from your enterprise data center to the cloud computing provider... the cloud provider is better suited to accept that risk," said the position paper.

Eckhaus said the paper was also intended to encourage thinking about private clouds or internal architectures that duplicate what's being done in the external cloud, such as running highly virtualized environments and multi-tenant servers. Data center managers should also be thinking about implementing self-provisioning for end users, usage tracking, and chargeback, he said.

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