Sometimes you are so close to something you can forget to separate the forest from the trees. This has been the case when it comes to cloud computing in the enterprise. I’ve often argued Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) isn’t the end game of private cloud. For example, the value of Amazon’s AWS service isn’t that it’s IaaS or even their data center technology. The value of AWS is that it’s a platform. Above all, this is what their Web 2.0 customers depend upon. This is also an indicator of the future of enterprise cloud.

We can take a look at present day best practices to further my argument. As distributed computing has matured IT managers have looked to consolidate platform usage. Let’s take the web server as an example. Back in the early days of the Web it was common for Web servers to be single tenant workloads. This was irrespective of the load. As the technology matured, it was common to see dozens or even hundreds of Web applications hosted from a single web server. It’s common enough that many workgroup platforms allow for self-service provisioning of web sites. Web servers became a common enterprise wide platform. We see the same in shared database instances and applications higher in the stack.

Successful IT operation groups take single use applications and develop a way to provide them as a platform. This means taking a repeatable process, developing or adopting standards and providing it as a platform. Creating a repeatable, standards based process is a tenant of cloud computing.

It’s common to blur the lines between different types of cloud. We have everything as a service. The eventual point is that the enterprise looks toward leveraging platforms. I believe infrastructure as a service is a tree. The forest is the platform. It’s the platform that developers will leverage to build game-changing applications. Look at the success of Salesforce.com. Does anyone ever really talk about what IaaS solution powers Salesforce? No, end users don’t want to know how the sausage is made. They don’t care; they want deep dish pizza.

As for me? I’m skipping the argument of what’s the best IaaS solution for the enterprise. I’m looking for what’s the best architecture to support the platform. This may mean infrastructures that are software defined and controlled by OpenStack or VMware. But again, this is irrelevant. Software defined is the sausage. The platform is the pizza or is it a forest. I confuse myself with all these metaphors.

IaaS is irrelevant: It’s the platform
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