There is more and more talk of cloud computing lately, however what is not clear is how data center managers can integrate this into their capacity planning in a standardized way. Most of the various approaches to external cloud computing on offer today work differently from vendor to vendor, or based on the technology area they are trying to solve. To be truly valuable the data center manager needs to be able to take advantage of this technology using extensions of their current processes and management technologies.
As regular virtualization has shown it has become far easier for a new environment to be brought online. This is a huge boost to datacenter flexibility, allowing for far easier management of environment growth, whether this is ongoing or to deal with spikes in demand or seasonality. It also allows for rapid failover of environments and easier launch planning when new environments are needed.
These advantages however have downsides. They can lead to environment sprawl and a lack of control in terms of change management. This can lead to security risks, reliability issues and a lack effective business continuity planning.
Recognizing these issues, vendors of virtualization software are working to offer management tools to support both environment deployment, as well as the processes that have allowed datacenter managers to gain control of their environment such as change management, security, reliability and continuity planning.
Based on this a logical conclusion is that access to the cloud should be managed in a similar way to access and control of virtual environments. What is better than being able to reuse the tools and processes built to manage my virtualized datacenter to access the cloud? This allows to some extent the scaling back of physical procurement and planning processes, replacing those with contracts with the cloud provider. They should be able to specialize in physical capacity management and setup, and in theory get better pricing on HW based on their relative size.
For this to work however, standards will need to be developed to support deploying and managing virtual environments based in the cloud. Given the fragmented state of this market between virtualization providers, cloud providers with their own technologies and ISPs, how this will happen remains to be seen.
This being said VMware appears to recognize this potential and are approaching it via their vCloud Initiative. Given the attractiveness of this model it seems likely other virtual environment vendors will follow the same approach.
One needs to recognize that the cloud still presents issues. As anyone who has worked with a hosted application knows, interacting with its APIs brings very different security and performance challenges than a purely internally hosted application environment. That being said if these constraints are known upfront, application design and deployment approaches can take these issues into account. This should allow for this potenital approach to datacenter management to be realized.