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Home » Top Story

Cloud as a Platform

Submitted by on July 6, 2018 – 3:53 amNo Comment

Farther back than I care to admit, we built solutions on bare metal.  To gain required capabilities, programmers would often have to write to a particular device driver, after adding the required adapter.  With the advent of I386 virtualization, we saw wide adoption of server consolidation but another significant advantage was hardware abstraction, the ability to remove the direct connection between hardware and software.  That was the beginning.

Fast forward to today.  Adapters and drivers are far down the hardware stack and rarely a concern for most.  However, we are still faced with the need to add functionality.  Not only that but the functionality is often more than adding network or storage capabilities, instead we need functionality like backup, high availability, elasticity or multi-geography fault tolerance.  These and many more like them are becoming part of the “platform”, the very fabric upon which applications are built.

Secure Cloud Services

One example is SQL Server.  You can start a VM (Infrastructure as a Service or IaaS) – and load SQL Server and use that database instance or you can simply use SQL Services and use Platform as a Service (PaaS).

I consider all of this to be excellent progress.  I am sure there are downsides but I rarely see them.  Instead I find an environment where it’s far easier to design, build and deploy an application than it was in the past allowing the business to get on with their job of providing whatever it is they provide.

In today’s world, the Cloud is becoming increasingly popular.  Cloud is many things.  It is a natural progression of virtualization with dynamic, self-service capabilities.  It is often the basis for web-based applications and an excellent way to provide a customer-facing portal.  Nearly every company in existence has some sort of web presence.  Private clouds provide similar capabilities internally, behind the company firewall.

Cloud is simply a user paradigm, an expectation for ease of use and automation.  We started with bare metal, then moved to virtualization (Iaas) then began moving into Dynamic IaaS and finally to Cloud, but Cloud is a lot more than just an easy to use dynamic IaaS environment… or at least it should be.

In the past, the biggest difference between cloud vendors was the underlying hypervisor and some other minor considerations.  To move from an Amazon Cloud to an Azure Cloud to a VMware based cloud required some manipulation of bits.  Tools were available to simplify these migrations.  Moving forward that portability of applications, across multiple Clouds, will be increasingly challenging.  The simple reason is the use of “Platform” resources.

To take maximum advantage of Cloud it is best to leverage the full capabilities of the environment… of the platform.  That means making program calls to the infrastructure to request advanced functionality and capability.  There will be areas where standards will drive these calls but there will be many more where they will not.  This will cause a difference from one Cloud provider to another.

The result is that the current Cloud battleground will be Platform, the delivery of these services and the advanced capabilities of the cloud platform.  Each Cloud vendor will want to add as many platform services as possible, to add value for their tenants.  The flip side will be that there is a certain lock-in.  Each vendor will implement the platform services differently making portability more difficult.  That is not all bad but it changes the evaluation criteria for deciding which Cloud vendor is best.  It is not just about price.  It is about Platform and vision.  Does your Cloud provider have vision?  Will it provide a platform with the capabilities you need to drive your business into the future?