The “Intercloud” is considered by many experts, such as Joe Weinman of Forbes, as the future of cloud computing. Before understanding the challenges of establishing it, and its benefits, let’s try and define this Intercloud.
The Intercloud: The Internet on Steroids
The cloud market developed rather quickly, with each vendor offering cloud solutions that are different than their competitors. As of now, each cloud is an island unto itself—clouds from one provider are unaware of clouds offered by another provider, and are currently much less able to communicate or work with other clouds.
Vint Cerf, the father of the Internet, said in 2010 that where the cloud is today, the internet was in 1973. One of the major challenges of the Internet in its nascent years was to teach all the networks to talk to each other. Each network had no idea of the existence of another network, nor the ability to communicate with it. It took ten years to design and implement the modern Internet which enables networks to work together and exchange information.
The IEEE the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, is working on the standardizing of APIs and protocols. This standardization should enable communication and interaction among all the different clouds, so they could interact and share assets with each other. Sounds like a far-away dream, doesn’t it?
Intercloud-What Can It Do For Me?
In today’s reality, we have many public providers such as Amazon, IBM, Google and Microsoft, who all offer unique clouds with advantages as well as drawbacks. Once you choose a provider you are “locked-in” or heavily committed to that provider. This “lock-in” is also a main reason for IT manager for not migrating to the cloud and keep their own on-premise data centers.
An Intercloud solution would open up the cloud options so that the consumer can utilize many clouds at once, similar to the Internet. Here are some of the advantages that will make this vendor lock-in a thing of the past:
- Protection: Utilizing multiple providers could protect against catastrophes that could impact a specific provider’s physical facility.
- Robust Informative Marketplace: In today’s market where there are many pricing options and performance variables, it is extremely difficult to choose a provider that would fit your needs. With the cooperation and standardization of all providers, the cloud industry could function similar to the airline industry. A customer could visit a virtual marketplace and enter price preference and required specifications for virtual instances and receive recommendations that fit their needs.
- Refunds: Universal standardization and interoperability between clouds will enable customers to sell back spare capacity to the grid. Relating back to the air industry, this could be likened to returning a ticket to the airlines, or maybe even transferring your ticket to someone else.
- Expands Global Reach of Cloud Providers: Despite the fact that many cloud providers have datacenters all over the globe, there might be a customer who needs a datacenter in a location that is not offered by one provider, but is offered by another provider. One provider would be able to service this customer with the datacenter of another provider.
- Portability: Migration could become as simple as “dragging and dropping” from one provider to the next. This would save money, time and significant human resources.
The Challenges That Need To Be Solved
Despite the potential advantages of the Intercloud, there are many issues that need to be solved before it becomes a reality. Here are some of the challenges that should be addressed.
- Identification: The first step is to create a system where each cloud can be identified and accessed by another cloud, in a similarity with how an IP address is used by the Internet.
- Acceptance of Standards: The IEEE is working on standards for the cloud, the question remains if these standards will be accepted by all. These standards cannot be enforced, so each cloud provider needs to accept these standards in order for the needle to move. Furthermore, as these standards are being developed, technology is advancing which might make the new standards obsolete.
- Communication: Clouds will need to talk to each other to verify each other’s available resources. This requires creating a universal language among the clouds.
- Architecture: The ability for clouds to corroborate and share assets is not sufficient, this process needs to be cost-effective and simple. Clouds would need to be re-architected in order to create a user friendly Intercloud that is significantly cheaper than the current system.
- Payment: When one provider uses the assets of another provider, a questions arises on how will the second provider be compensated, and who will be responsible for the SLAs?
Despite the significant hurdles that need to be dealt with, it looks like the Intercloud will soon become a reality. How soon? Well, definitely not it 37 years as opposed to the internet back in 1973. With the Intercloud, cloud adaptation will accelerate even quicker as portability becomes easier. The sharing of resources and assets among providers will benefit both the providers and the consumers, bringing about new opportunities, greater efficiency and savings.