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11/5/2008
04:26 PM
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The Community Cloud

Could it be worthwhile for businesses to tie their virtualized data centers with one another to create a pooled set of resources that acts like some sort of community cloud? The logistics need working out, but it could be a new way to get more capacity without massive build-out while avoiding painful subscription fees.

Could it be worthwhile for businesses to tie their virtualized data centers with one another to create a pooled set of resources that acts like some sort of community cloud? The logistics need working out, but it could be a new way to get more capacity without massive build-out while avoiding painful subscription fees.During a panel discussion at the Data Center Executive Summit in Atlanta today, that's just what transportation company Con-way VP and CIO Jackie Barretta recommended. "I love the idea of cloud computing, but the thing that bothers me is that we have so much already invested in our own infrastructure," she said. "I love the idea of plugging our data centers into other companies and creating a virtual cloud."

She's even brought the idea up with IBM and Hewlett-Packard, but they're not biting.

What would one do with this "virtual cloud?" Right now, Con-way is spending "millions" on disaster recovery capability with SunGard and has only one data center in operation. A recent acquisition, however, has a small data center that Con-way is considering using for failover. Barretta sees clear possibilities of coming together with like-minded companies to create a pooled set of resources specifically set aside for uses like these.

Now, there are plenty of major holes in this plan. For one, cloud computing will likely gain acceptance based at least partially on service level agreements and getting rid of management headaches, so these types of co-ops would likely have to put together some sort of management infrastructure. They'd have to create some sort of formal or informal board of directors representing each company's interest and then work out collective processes and some sort of personnel structure to manage what will likely be quite a heterogeneous multi-data center environment. Not even to mention the difficulty in figuring out how each company will pay for its own power usage and how to divvy up other operational and capital costs. Oh, and security could be a nightmare.

Still, it's an idea that demands a bit of thought. It's a scenario that seems well-suited to strong partner relationships or noncompetitive companies in the same industry to get more data center capacity relatively CapEx free while maintaining some reasonable expectation of control. Companies have set up virtualized infrastructures that cross multiple data centers, so they should be able to do it across multiple enterprises as well.

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