Connecting the Enterprise to the Cloud

Cloud computing is bringing a hail of opportunities for those who know how to integrate the old with the new.

By Doug Bartholomew

To reduce costs and bring new applications on-line faster, organizations large and small are computing and storing data on the cloud. But for many, getting the cloud to work isn’t so easy, especially when it comes to making it fit in with the rest of their computer infrastructure. These organizations – typically larger firms with their own IT staff, computers, and enterprise software – face several hurdles before they can fully utilize the cloud model.

"Most enterprise workloads can’t yet move to the cloud due to inherent architecture constraint, data security issues, and performance and availability requirements, among other criteria," says Rebecca Lawson, director of service management and cloud solutions for Hewlett Packard.

In many instances, trying to run an existing enterprise application on a public cloud requires it to be completely rewritten for a new operating system, such as Linux, says Nati Shalom, chief technology officer and founder of Giga Spaces Technologies in New York.

Looking for Solutions

Not surprisingly, many companies already have begun looking to augment their IT staffs with people who have a background in cloud integration, even if it’s only in helping a startup adapt an application to run on Amazon’s EC2. Some technologies used in connection with cloud computing are grid or utility computing, virtualization, software as a service (SaaS), and open-source software.

For instance, Red Hat recently sought cloud computing software developers and architects, with job roles including open-source technologies, cloud application programming interface (API) definition and development, and data center integration.  Similarly, Amazon was hunting for a software development engineer for EC2. Key qualifications for the position included experience with Linux, Ruby, Java, and/or Perl.

Virtualization a Key

For companies with large IT organizations, virtualization tends to be at the heart of the private cloud initiative. "The virtualized infrastructure is typically the foundation of private clouds," says Dave Malcolm Sr., vice president and chief technology officer at Surgient in Austin, Tex. "Knowledge of virtualization technologies and how they work is important."

Connecting open-source applications running in the cloud with existing infrastructure, such as customer relationship management or enterprise resource planning systems, has become such a hot area that a number of fast-growing companies have sprung up to fill this integration vacuum.

Besides Surgient, another player in this area is Boomi, an SaaS application integrator that offers the capability of on-demand integration that can be accessed via browser. Boomi’s integration engine contains the appropriate APIs to make the connections between, say, an SaaS application and an enterprise CRM or ERP system behind the company firewall.  Even small and mid-size firms running their accounting on Intuit’s Quickbooks or Microsoft’s Great Plains find they need an on-demand system to help make the connection with a SaaS provider.

To sum up, those seeking cloud jobs would be wise to add an integration arrow or two to their skills quiver.

13 Responses to “Connecting the Enterprise to the Cloud”

  1. Cloud technology is not inherently a trap, dependent upon what you utilize it for & in what manner. And to be clear, the “cloud” can be either a public or a private cloud (private being an internal cloud used for more consolidation & efficiency management rather than the dissemination of your infrastructure) and public can potentially be utilized for very simplistic non-critical pieces. Though admittedly, in any mid-size or above business (and even many small businesses) it makes better business sense to utilize a private cloud rather than the public cloud.

  2. A company’s network doesn’t need to be re-written in Linux to make it on the cloud. They just need to have a security layer built (could be in Linux), possibly on the cloud itself. If another company could build those tools to facilitate moving onto the cloud they would be the new Google. Google may be working on this themselves: Clougle?

    I need a job in IT, let me know if any “cloud” companies are hiring.


    Mike Carrieri
    408 244-4784

  3. – Mike, I think the Linux “re-writing” was referring to “enterprise application”. That is the cloud solution requires the enterprise app to use its API … a scenario where the enterprise app is M$ based and the cloud is Linux based….and the API is not opened (eg: not XML based…)

    – Micheal. Cloud is not a trap. A good cloud solution should allow for data replication and avoid single point of failure. A good cloud solution could probably provide a better data security and reliability than your server room ( depending whether you have a stronger 24/7 resources – humans, machines and software – to mend that server room. And if you don’t replicate your data to another physical location – a natural disaster at your server room will be the end of it.

  4. michael

    Cloud technology is a trap, if you put you information and operating systems then what happens if hackers shut down the cloud, or insert data harmful into the cloud. You will not be able to trust your data and you might never know if someone has been tampering. HACKERs will not let the cloud alone simply because you want them to leave it alone. Get a grip on reality, the only safe way is to have your own server in your building with hard lines connecting them to the majority of your computers/terminals. Local wireless is ok as long as you have the minimun number of important computers hooked via a hard line and not wireless.

  5. corbin

    @Michael You are paranoid….what would have happened if every enterprise would have said the internet was a trap or even further back networked computers were a trap? Progress is important–we just have to learn to secure our data and applications better.

  6. I agree that the cloud is a trap and it has nothing to do with security. It has to do with “real” flexibilility.

    The flexibility of owning your own infrastructure and not having arbitrary limitations placed on you by your “service providers”.

    Cloud computing makes sense for some companies and some applications. But I doubt I’d put anything mission critical in the cloud.

    Besides why bother? The same virtulization technology that enables cloud computing makes operating private datacenters and even internal clouds that more much cost effective.

  7. May be we should put a little faith in Cloud technology,
    There might be some security concerns or issues but public clouds (like Amazon) are very helpful in terms of costs and time for small companies (startups).

  8. as always my question is: whats next? clouds are here to stay. at least until something better comes along. just once I would like to know what’s coming next? I don’t want to return to the days of the dumb terminal and security has become such a major issue. honestly, what’s next on the horizon?

  9. First it was “timesharing” back in the 60’s, then it was outsourcing, then it was “application service provider” in the 90’s. Whatever the name you give it it is having someone else host your applications. Now if you have no in-house expertise, then outsourcing is the only way to go. If you trust the outsource provider more than your own staff (and I hope you didn’t just talk to the sales guy?), then go for it. Is it trap, well sure, it can be… because if it looks too good to be true then you know the C-level management will jump on it… and most things that are too good to be true? You know how that comes out 🙂 Pick any programming environment… didn’t the sales guy tell the CIO that it would be so easy the code would write itself and be totally bug free? And, he *believed it*, didn’t he?