April 9, 2009
After some established applications are running in an internal cloud, IT managers will start thinking about how to architect future apps for the cloud.
With external clouds, choices are limited as to what you can run. Google's App Engine now runs applications that must be written in Python 2.5. If you go to an external provider, such as Salesforce.com, you'll be able to use your internal data and customize the application, but you'll have to work in Salesforce's proprietary Visual Force language or the only other language it supports, Adobe's Apex.
Microsoft is seeking to broaden the selection to its popular Visual Studio and .Net technologies in its upcoming Azure cloud, but cloud developers will be restricted to Microsoft products and services, which may or may not work if they try to coordinate them with internal clouds.
With internal clouds, there's the prospect that in-house developers will continue to use their favorite development environment and code management system to produce cloud applications. They also will have access to the custom code and in-house services of the enterprise, provided they've been designed to be consumed as services. Internal clouds are about accessing and using services, and in that sense, are a specific execution environment for service-oriented architecture systems.
Likewise, instead of adjusting to Amazon's virtual file format, called the Amazon Machine Image, private cloud administrators can work with the virtualized files they're most comfortable with in their own data centers. Tools are being built to convert such files into the format used by an external cloud. RPath's rBuilder online tool, for example, packages AMI virtual appliances for shipping off the Amazon cloud.
If you succeed in building an internal cloud, the newly empowered end user is likely to find ways to combine services and generate applications that IT hadn't considered. Yes, a flurry of end user activity will multiply VMs and increase data center complexity. But if it also begins to increase revenue, by helping business units execute on new opportunities faster, private clouds could become a sought-after IT delivery model in record time.
The prospect that internal creativity will one day unite with well-designed external cloud services is so tantalizing that skeptics of private clouds won't hold sway for very long.
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