Gartner says cloud computing is the No. 1 technology that enterprise IT departments need to plan for in 2010. It's not alone with that bullish outlook, so it was no surprise to see two new industry efforts in the span of a week last month that aimed to capitalize on that opportunity.
In late March the TM Forum and BT provided an update on Cloud Service Broker, a project that's trying to address enterprise concerns that are barriers to cloud adoption. Examples include security at server, network and applications levels, performance and scalability within a single cloud or across multiple clouds and vendor lock-in.
Soon after IBM and Verizon announced Managed Data Vault, a service which replaces back-up tapes that many enterprises still create daily and then ship to a secure location. The old practice is effective, but it has costs and creates security risks, such as a shipment of tapes being lost or intercepted en route.
"There is a perhaps surprising agreement among most about the need for common methods to address security, data management and movement, billing systems and service assurance across cloud domains – all key concerns," says Bill Ahlstrom, a member of the TM Forum's Cloud Service Broker project committee and a vice president in the infrastructure management and automation business unit at CA (formerly Computer Associates).
Some prospective enterprise customers also are concerned about cloud services' ability to meet their industry's unique regulatory requirements. One example is when a cloud provider puts multiple customers on a single server.
"There may be a compliance requirement that their [virtual] machine run in isolation mode," says Gary Bruce, Catalyst lead at BT Innovate %26 Design. "There also may be compliance requirements with regard to the location: that the machines be restricted to a set number of countries."
Another example is that some enterprises prefer their cloud to use only servers that are clean builds. That's because if there's residual data left from a previous client, and a lawsuit requires forensic work, the server might have to be taken down during the investigation, disrupting the current client's cloud services.
"There's a whole bunch of concerns about moving over to the cloud," Bruce says. "We're collecting these and looking to address them."
Cloud Service Broker is one of TM Forum's "Catalyst" projects, which typically take about six months to deliver recommendations and a prototype. The Cloud Service Broker project should wrap up next month, ending with a demo of the platform at Management World 2010, May 18-20 in Nice, France.
The project's name refers to its goal of creating a management architecture, which would sit, for example, between the cloud provider and its enterprise client. The provider would be able to customize an offering that meets each client's unique needs.
"It's the job of the broker to pick the best one," Bruce says.
Many believe this flexibility and interoperability will be essential to growing the cloud market.
"This is a key user and provider concern," says CA's Ahlstrom. "In the meetings I've been in, neither side wants a descent into competing proprietary offerings, which undermine the economics.
"Providers will differentiate on brand value and sharply focused flexible offerings, which can be seamlessly consumed in public and private environments with SLAs (service level agreements). This is why the sharp focus on SLA management in one of the initial TMF projects that CA is keenly interested in."
For Verizon cloud computing services, under the label "Everything as a Service," have become a high priority. Verizon is assembling the key components of this approach to serving enterprises on an ongoing basis, and its new agreement with IBM is one more step in that evolution.
According to company officials, Verizon's EaaS platform with its global IP network and data centers as the foundation will enable enterprises to do business better by getting what they need, when they need it, where they need it. With each new element the telco is partnering with major vendors to provide highly targeted capabilities, as is the case with the Managed Data Vault service.
The new service uses Verizon's network to transfer enterprise customers' data to IBM's off-site data storage. Verizon also will provide services such as IT consulting. If it's successful in the market, Managed Data Vault could provide Verizon with another barrier to churn, because customers are less likely to switch out when they're buying multiple services from a single provider.
Managed Data Vault also could prompt customers to buy more bandwidth, judging by the product's focus.
"We are addressing the needs of enterprise users with large data footprints, whether it's 15, 50, 150 terabytes or even more," says Don DeMarco, IBM vice president of business continuity and resiliency Services.
Initially available in metro New York City, Managed Data Vault targets a market that IBM and Verizon say is already worth nearly $3 billion, with an annual growth rate of 4 percent. Forecasts aside, Managed Data Vault also is yet another example of how service providers are looking to cloud computing as a way to add value in their customers' eyes and thus avoid being marginalized as dumb pipes.