I’m guessing that most of you who read this will never have stared quizzically into the front grill of a midnight blue Ford Edge and thought “a-ha, that’s the perfect analogy”. True ? I thought so.
I am, of course, assuming that you all know what a Ford Edge is. If you don’t, you can see one here > http://www.ford.com/crossovers/edge/
There’s not much about the car itself that makes me particularly excited except for one thing…it’s genre. The Ford Edge is a “Crossover”. Allow me to share a somewhat bizarre set of thoughts, but ones that hopefully make sense in terms of the ultimate message.
Over the last 18 months or so I, like many others, have struggled with the classification and explanation of the “Hybrid Cloud” model. I dislike the word intently because I dislike its connotation. In today’s world we are continually bombarded with the promise of the Hybrid Vehicle and its great potential save money, be more efficient and be better for the green footprint of the planet (none of which I am arguing and most of which sounds like the promise of “cloud”) but there’s just one bit of the Hybrid Vehicle construction that I can’t let go of when I hear the Hybrid Cloud mentioned – it’s two completely different technologies, a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) propulsion system with an electric propulsion system alongside, but each of those are operating within the same physical mass of metal. In other words, you may have different technologies providing the combined solution, but they’ve been provided by the same manufacturer and they’re both under your roof (or hood, or bonnet, or whatever you call it).
Of course, the magic of the Hybrid Vehicle all works fine in an automobile after years and years of R&D, but when you put this in an enterprise computing context, it just makes me nervous. It may simply be that the automatic, threshold-managed movement between the two main propulsion systems happens without breaking the fundamental purpose of the vehicle (i.e. keeping it moving at a different efficiency level) but, even though that efficiency alone may be a worthy draw for the public cloud, I am not sure today how that same smooth movement back and forth could be achieved with enterprise IT workloads without significant investment in one’s own R&D. Indeed, it may just be that in the enterprise context, even two seemingly similar technologies (for powering on premise and off premise workloads) can differ just enough where the rubber meets the road (pun intended) to equal incompatibilities and that’s REALLY not where you want to be when choosing and explaining your comprehensive cloud strategy to your CIO.
So, what has this got to do with the Ford Edge ? Let’s look at the definition of the “Crossover” :
“A Crossover is a vehicle built on a car platform and combining, in variable degrees, features of a traditional sport utility vehicle (SUV) with features from a passenger vehicle, especially those of a station wagon or hatchback.
Using the unibody construction typical of passenger vehicles, the crossover combines SUV design features such as tall interior packaging, high H-point seating, high ground-clearance or all-wheel-drive capability — with design features from an automobile such as a passenger vehicle’s platform, independent rear suspension, car-like handling and fuel economy.”
With a little artistic license, let’s rephrase the above. I am definitely not in the business of trying to invent yet another moniker, but just for kicks….
“A Crossover Cloud is a solution built on a true platform and combining, in variable degrees, features of a cloud service vehicle (CSV) with features from a traditional data center, especially those of compatibility and security.
Using the unibody construction typical of enterprise data centers, the crossover cloud combines CSV design features such as pay-per-use computing, elastic capacity, industry accreditations (SAS-70, FISMA, ISO 27001), extensible networking and true on-demand capability — with design features from a traditional data center such as certified application stacks, high availability, familiar operations and round-the-clock support”
It may well be a far-fetched analogy, but there are three things I’d like to point out in the hope that the message may become a little clearer.
- The “unibody construction” as the common denominator across on premise and off premise workloads. If the low-level technology is common and compatible, the vehicle (your workloads) will run and give you the option to add “optional extras” (provider service offerings) depending on your requirements.
- Familiarity is an important factor. Not all repair shops are geared up to fix Hybrid Vehicles and not all enterprise support organizations are geared up to support complex, alien cloud infrastructures that need special tools or skills that aren’t readily available.
- Passengers (end-users) should not notice any difference. The early Hybrid Vehicles drew attention to themselves because they looked and felt different than the automobiles that their drivers were used to driving. Crossover genre vehicles are barely different from today’s “usual” automobile. Think of that as a metaphor for user interface, usability, performance and end-user acceptance.
It’s not hard to understand and appreciate why 2011 may indeed turn out to be a very positive year for the “Crossover Cloud”. It is likely to be a year in which organizations continue to seek opportunities and demonstrate capabilities of the power of combining of on-premise and off-premise services, including running such unimaginable workloads as VDI (yes, why not?) in the off-premise infrastructure and moving HSM-driven, lower-value storage to public providers, both utilizing some kinds of “unibody” components that make the difference to the user (and support groups) hard to quantify from their respective stakeholder viewpoints.
The challenge, as I try to articulate above, will be to ensure that everything functions back and forth as seamlessly as the switch between transmissions of the Hybrid Vehicle, but keeping the warm and comfortable feeling of the traditional automobile, knowing that if anything were to go wrong, you could always call on Joe and have him fix it using the tools he’s had for many, many years.