It all started with SaaS computing for software applications, but now cloud computing is definitely all the rage. Exactly what cloud computing is, is a moot point. Definitions vary radically depending on what vendors are trying to sell, but you won't go far wrong if you think of cloud computing as "virtually everything". With this kind of broad definition analysts like IDC feel justified in putting forward highly optimistic forecasts (IDC reckons the cloud market will be worth a massive $42Bn by 2012). As you would imagine, cloud computing is therefore being targeted by all the usual vendors who are attracted to big market sizes—Cisco, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft et al.
Much of the attention of these vendors is being focused on the data centre. The key question they are trying to answer is "how do you provide valuable cloud computing services to supplement (and perhaps replace) existing in-house data centre facilities?" Largely through alliances and collaborations (many with each other) vendors are trying to deliver complete end-to-end solutions for the data centre that cover all aspects of cloud computing.
Opalis and their newly-launched Opalis v6 answers a different question: "how do you integrate, automate and orchestrate cloud computing with your existing in-house data centre facilities?" Opalis' sweet spot is the provision of interoperability, automation and performance management for both heterogeneous in-house computing facilities and external cloud-based computing. This is all they do and therefore they do not compete with the mega-vendors head on. Wise move.
In Opalis' view, cloud computing is an immature set of offerings that offers great promise but lacks the level of integration that one would expect from mature enterprise infrastructure solutions. Cloud computing is mainly offered as ‘islands' of computing resources that are available on a call-off utility computing pricing model, or as a subscription service. These are point-to-point services that meet specific needs, rather like how natural gas might power your home cooker and central heating system, but does nothing else. Worse, imagine that you now need to care about who provides the gas for your cooker because gas from each supplier is different.
Opalis believes that Cloud IT currently does not effectively integrate or interoperate with internal systems as part of end-to-end IT Process Management and Run Time Management. This inhibits Cloud's effectiveness and applicability for the enterprise. Imagine something that could regulate the gas coming into the home and adjust it to meet all appliance usages, automatically. Removing this complexity is a key principal in Opalis' vision for accelerating the adoption of cloud computing.
High performing enterprises run joined up businesses. They want to avoid the siloed approach as in the above gas example. They want their computing resources to behave synergistically and as an integrated whole. They don't want to run their cloud providers as distinct separate services, each of which requires management time and attention to SLAs (Service Level Agreements) and the like. Siloed IT services restrict the agility and responsiveness of modern enterprises which for many is a key source of strategic competitive advantage.
Opalis V6 enables enterprises to benefit from having an integrated view of both in-house enterprise infrastructure performance and external cloud performance. So mixed mode operations can be viewed as a single transparent holistic entity through the Opalis dashboard which graphically displays KPIs and other performance indicators. Users can be alerted via the dashboard when issues occur and can drill down into the detail of cloud and enterprise service issues in near real-time. From here they can identify root causes and appropriate corrective actions based on a holistic view of in-house and external cloud services.
The Opalis v6 solution also helps to resolve compliance issues. Opalis v6 ensures that IT's complete performance is within compliance guidelines, rather than viewing two fragmented and different "buckets" of internal and cloud systems. This in turn reduces the risk of SLAs not being hit and performance issues across the complete IT architecture not being identified in a timely manner.
The Opalis Cloud solution comes as a complete pre-packaged solution for IT process automation including objects for creating, provisioning, decommissioning, backing up and restoring services offered from the cloud. In addition, the Opalis solution facilitates and accelerates the complex change management process associated with the adoption and integration of cloud computing into the enterprise IT infrastructure. Opalis v6 incorporates a high level of automation, is optimised for mixed-mode operations, and interfaces to proprietary solutions and industry standard configurations right ‘out of the box'.
Opalis v6 will be of interest to enterprise customers who are looking to extend their computing capability to include interoperability with cloud services. In addition, many cloud services providers are showing interest in Opalis' cloud solution. By integrating Opalis into their offerings, cloud services providers can offer more complete ‘whole product' solutions for competitive differentiation and to provide value add services for their enterprise clients.
Opalis v6 is certainly worth evaluating for both enterprise end users and cloud services providers alike. There is likely to be a "me-too" response from other vendors in the IT Process Automation market, but larger vendors tend to only support their own product sets and smaller vendors currently lack broader platform capabilities for both the enterprise and the cloud. For now, the Opalis v6 release offers uniqueness and a competitive edge for those wanting to more broadly embrace a mixed mode of in-house computing capability and external cloud computing services.