In our discussions with industry insiders, we’re hearing more and more about the need for a cloud gateway — technology that provides a bridge between an organization’s internal environment and one or more public clouds. It’s a message we’re also hearing with growing frequency from enterprise customers and potential partners alike as their cloud architectures mature. In the first post of this series, I’d like to look at what’s behind this trend, and why different stakeholders are making the cloud gateway a top priority.
First of all, it’s another clear signal that cloud computing is becoming mainstream. We’re well past the stage where every cloud deployment is a one-off reengineering project to enable an enterprise application to run in a public cloud. Organizations are no longer willing to tolerate the delays and costs in order to reap the benefits, and now they don’t have to. The gateway simplifies the integration and management of cloud resources so people can get on with using the cloud rather than struggling to make it work.
It’s also connected to the emergence of hybrid clouds that allow enterprises to use cloud resources while leveraging their internal infrastructure. There’s broad consensus that the hybrid model, with pools of internal and external resources federated together, is the best way for large and mid-size enterprises to do cloud computing. Now they’re urgently looking for efficient ways to bring the hybrid cloud to life. They want to be able to turn resources on and off for spiky apps or short-term projects, and a multitude of use cases where workloads flow where they best fit when a threshold is reached. By enabling on-demand access to public clouds with tight integration to data center services, the cloud gateway does the heavy lifting so enterprises can work across these different environments.
We’re also seeing growing momentum from technology vendors, who recognize that the cloud provides an opportunity to move beyond the internal data center, which has become highly commoditized. Much of the demand is coming from network technology companies that provide things like load balancing, firewalling, WAN optimization, and storage optimization — all those capabilities that are normally part of a company’s internal infrastructure. Dozens of established and emerging vendors in this space are looking for ways to move beyond this traditional market, and see the cloud as unclaimed territory. A cloud gateway opens up an exciting new market for these vendors while allowing them to leverage internal technologies (preferably theirs) that customers already have.
A cloud gateway has also become a top priority for providers of virtualization solutions, for many of the reasons mentioned above. The hypervisor has become a commodity as the market has matured and more vendors have introduced competing hypervisor offerings, sometimes for free. Most virtualization players now realize they can’t win with their hypervisor alone. The focus has shifted, and they’ve been trying to move up the virtualization stack by promoting their higher-level management capabilities — competing on things like self-service, charge-back, fault tolerance, resource scheduling, load balancing, etc.
For virtualization vendors, the cloud represents an opportunity, but also a direct threat to their on-premise footprints. They’re urgently exploring how to extend their management functionality into the cloud so they can preserve and capture market share. The ability to span the data center and multiple public clouds, orchestrating between internal and external worlds, is where the new virtualization battles are being fought, and where the cloud gateway is one of the leading weapons.
The cloud gateway has become essential as companies incorporate cloud computing into their business and IT strategies. It’s a message we hear over and over in our discussions with corporate CIOs as well as with executives from technology firms. The next post will examine what characteristics different stakeholders should look for in a cloud gateway in order to be successful.