I was on a webinar with Goldman Sachs last week and their most technically astute analysts were talking about the future of virtualization in relation to Public and Private Clouds as well as the ability to deliver next generation applications using Web 2.0 technology. I posed the question to them, “What about the tens of thousands of applications that have been written in Windows that either can’t or won’t make the transition to ‘webification'” (a cool term I dreamed up at the spur of the moment!). The answer was predictable but unfortunately had been left out of the entire discussion until I brought it up. The analyst responded, “Whoever figures out how to get those [Windows] apps into a SaaS model has a huge opportunity in the market today.”
Well lucky for all of those ISVs who have written their code in Windows that Citrix has developed a way to bridge the gap between Cloud nirvana and Cloud reality. With this in mind any application that is currently available over Terminal Services can be deployed directly from the MSP or Enterprise in a SaaS model. But what is promised by Cloud hype today for a seamless, simple and secure environment will take time to evolve. There will be three phases to the delivery of applications through the Cloud. This journey will take anywhere from 5-10 years but there are elements that can be done today. This evolution will be consistent with existing business practices in both the service provider (hosted applications space) and the Enterprise IT space. In a phase I, the foundation by which ISVs, Service Providers and Enterprises look to deliver solutions is depicted in the illustration below.
First we need to understand that there will be two basic customers of the Cloud to deliver SaaS; the Managed Service Provider (MSP) and the Enterprise. Small and Medium Business (SMB) customers look to MSPs to handle the complexities of application delivery, business continuity and IT management. These MSPs are also often times ISVs in their own right, delivering their application over the Internet as a cost effective distribution mechanism. What the Cloud means for the MSP in Phase I is a growth strategy for low cost CapEx. MSPs will use the Cloud by extending their data center server farms and in some case the entire infrastructure depending on the complexity of the application. The simpler the app, the easier it is to replicate in the Cloud. Also, it makes a great deal of sense for these service providers to use the Cloud for business continuity as the usage will be variable and cyclical in nature.. a great way to save costs.
Enterprises are skeptical of the Public Cloud as depicted in this illustration and will be looking for data center extensions but much more related to non mission critical applications that have little affect on the day-to-day running of the business. Certain web sites, databases, and non business productivity apps are included in this set. The core focus of this phase will be expansion and extension of the data center, not replacement. Private Clouds will have to evolve first in the Enterprise in order for there to be any synergy in full extension of service into the Public Cloud.
The key element to either MSP or Enterprise use of the Public Cloud for Software delivery will be the ability to provide a seamless interface depicted in this illustration as the “Cloud Bridge”. In other words to fully accomplish data center extension, the administration of workloads and storage will indeed have to be extensions of the exsiting systems. To do this, Cloud providers will have to enable administration consoles to integrate with the management of workloads in the Enterprise and MSP. Without this capability, the cost of managing disparate systems will overshadow the cost savings of hard capital. Use of the Public Cloud for computing will be limited without this functionality.
Further, in order for Cloud providers to be successful at extending data center functions, they will need to provide reference architectures for the MSP as well as the Enterprise for best practices and deliniate use cases based on these architectures.
Citrix technology allows workloads to be distributed over several data centers and in fact have been used this way for years. This approach has mainly been used for remote delivery of applications and/or business continuity. By extending the use of XenApp and XenDesktop into the Cloud, both MSPs and Enterprises can cut the cost of their data centers today and achieve higher reliability at a lower cost.
Third parties have developed solutions to provisioning of services such as this for the MSP. Enterprises will need to work hand-in-hand with the Cloud provider to insure the seamless extension of their unique architectures and produce roadmaps for further use of the Public Cloud. Citrix Provisioning Server and Workflow Studio will be essential in this seamless transformation as the Cloud evolves to be the “virtual” extension of these physical data centers to deliver Software as a Service.