Cloud Interoperability – Benefits and Challenges

Interoperability is ability of diverse systems and firms to work together.  As cloud computing gains momentum, as more firms come up with their unique / diverse offerings  – the need of cloud interoperability will increase.

Benefits of Cloud Interoperability

Why would a cloud customer need interoperability, the benefits of the same are many:

Flexibility of the customer to change cloud vendor without much issues : Thus a cloud customer can switch between cloud firms without worrying too much about how well his applications and data will be handled with the new one.  The change would be easy. Today, this task is not easy because every cloud vendor has its own way of defining its systems and running its cloud. While switches do take place even today, they are rather slow and small in number. Also, they happen with relatively uncomplicated applications.

Exchange of data / information between various cloud platforms : In this a customer can work with several cloud vendors even when its applications are interdependent. He would still be integrate its applications on a broad level for all of them to work together.

Ability to shift from one type to cloud to another, say from private to public and vice versa : The choice of which cloud is generally a function of volume requirements.  A large firm with significant requirement will go for a private cloud while that with small ones with public clouds. These requirements may increase or decrease with market fluctuations. With interoperability customers would be able to switch to suitable cloud type based on their requirements.

Ability to choose the best service provider : With interoperability, customers will have choice of shifting to best possible cloud vendor based on their quality requirement  and economic capability.

Ensure high competition between cloud vendors : With high competition between the vendors, their offerings and customer service will likely to get better – another benefit to the customer.

Challenges ahead for cloud interoperability

Cloud interoperability offers several advantages but implementation of the same would be full of challenges. There are challenges at various levels – motivation level, technical level and market levels.

Motivation level of cloud vendors : Why would a cloud computing firm like interoperability – while what it does is to make commoditize its offerings.  Lets understand in detail. To implement interoperability between various vendors, the services, way of implementation, etc. of cloud providers have to be very similar – then only the seamless transition would take place.  But this may mean little scope of innovation, e.g. if one vendor stores data in different manner to make it quicker to access and safer to use – it may not because then it might get incompatible with general accepted norms.

Today, most cloud vendors are identified based on the edge they hold over others on the way they implement cloud. This also helps them to command market premium. If there is commoditization, then this innovation would not be easy to follow – leading to fall in margins.

Technical challenge : This is huge challenges. Today with no common standard, every firm implements cloud in its own manner. Every cloud today has unique infrastructure may it be servers, routers or network switches etc. They also have their own network architecture to suit their USP and ways of working. Not only this every provider supports multiple operating systems and databases. They also have their own APIs, networking model, security model, licensing and storage models.  Every cloud firm has special way of using storage and security to achieve performance goals. It is unlikely that any other cloud vendor models can exactly match them.
In case the operating system and hypervisor versions between two cloud platforms do not match then it can cause significant problems.  The relationships defined or the way they are defined in one cloud platform might not be same or even non-existent in another.

Performance Uncertainty : Even if due precautions are taken, experts believe that moving an application from one eco system to another may as well impact its performance. This uncertainty is a significant challenge and deterrent for interoperability itself.

Lack of standardization : There is lack of standardization in way cloud is implemented as a whole. Thus making it tough for interoperability to start at even basic levels.

Summing it all up

Cloud interoperability has its benefits but has several challenges too. Unless these challenges are addressed in proper manner, cloud interoperability cannot be implemented effectively.