Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Will Agile Drive a Hybrid Cloud Approach?

From March 4, 2009

Some workloads are perfectly suited for cloud deployment. Generally, these are workloads with transient or fluctuating demand, relatively static data (lots of reads, few writes), and no regulated data compliance issues (i.e. patient healthcare records). Test fits this description perfectly – especially with the growing popularity of Agile methods. With its focus on rapid iteration and feedback to achieve faster innovation and lower costs, Agile demands a flexible and low cost approach for testing cycles. I have no doubt that developers will begin using variable-cost compute cycles from services like Amazon EC2 because of its flexibility and pay-for-what-you-use capability. But I am also willing to bet that testing with Amazon will put further pressure on the IT organization to respond with a similar, self-service IT capability. I think a hybrid-cloud architecture with complementary internal and external capability will emerge as a productive response to the demand for true end-to-end agility.

Some time ago, I authored a blog post titled “When Agile Becomes Fragile” that outlined the challenge of implementing Agile development methods while attempting to preserve the legacy IT approach. What good is rapid development when the process for promoting an application to production takes several months to absorb even a few weeks of new development? If developers take their Agile methods to the cloud for testing (which they will), it becomes a slippery slope that ultimately leads to using the cloud for production. Rather than the typical, dysfunctional IT response of “don't do that – it's against policy,” I think the IT organization should instead consider implementing production capacity that mimics and complements cloud capability such as that offered by Amazon.

Along with all of the cool technology that is emerging to support Agile methods, new technology and standards are also emerging to support the notion of a hybrid-cloud. The new Atmos storage technology from EMC and the OVF standard for virtualizing applications are two good examples of hybrid-cloud technology. Atmos gives you the ability to describe your data in a manner that automatically promotes/replicates it to the cloud if it has been approved for cloud storage/availability. Whether applications run on an external cloud or on your “internal cloud,” the supporting data will be available. Similarly, OVF has the potential to enable virtualized applications to run effectively externally on the cloud or internally – without significant manual (and error prone) intervention by system administrators (or those developers that play a sysadmin on a TV show). In both cases, the goal is to enable greater flexibility for applications to run both internally and on the cloud – depending on the profile of the application and the availability of resources.

Agile is yet another important technology change that is going to pressure IT to evolve, and rPath is sponsoring a webinar series that dives into this topic in some detail. Whether you are a developer, an architect, or a system administrator, these webinars should be interesting to you. For the IT staff, the series may offer a glimpse at an approach for IT evolution that is helpful. In the face of Agile and cloud pressure, the alternative to evolution – extinction – is much less appealing.

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