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Don MacVittie

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Cloud Interoperability: Haven't We Danced Before?

It amuses me when people start throwing about phrases like “interoperability” and “federation”

It amuses me when people start throwing about phrases like “interoperability” and “federation” in a space still hopping in the middle of the hype cycle.

You would think that with our long and growing history, we in IT could be realistic about the prospects of any early implementers putting interoperability high on the list above functionality, wouldn’t you?

It just isn’t going to happen tomorrow – the marketing hype has gotten so wound up that they’re getting the cart far before the horse. Early adopters in any high-tech space believe that lock-in is a business model, and sustained revenues justify making it terribly painful for you to move from them to other providers. Even those that would like to develop interoperability have a whole lot more to focus on than just that, and limited resources, so of course they don’t turn out interoperability interfaces before doing something that’s going to land them a big account – and they shouldn’t if they’re correctly serving their investors. At the start it is and should be all about landing customers, all else can wait.

So before you dream up a world where everyone interoperates and you can just move your cloud-based applications thither and back, remember the state and maturity of the market, and dig up some truly in-depth questions to ask on the topic.

Of course, since we are the choice at a ton of cloud providers, they could easily make the ADC layers interoperable, but that does nothing for the rest of the architecture, and it’s not simply a case of infrastructure. Serving up apps counts on a whole lot more than hardware to be in place, and for certain you could choose software architectures not suitable to different providers. There are just a ton of variables, and your apps could easily end up dependent upon some little thing that you never considered… These things will take time to iron out. It’s still a bit wild out there how people are implementing cloud, and frankly interoperability is a lot easier in a standards-based environment. Barring standards, historically speaking markets have settled to the top N players interoperating and everyone else being a crap-shoot.

So when you approach a cloud vendor, approach them like you’ll be with them for a while – or only move things to the cloud that you can afford to live without while moving.

Note: Some negative people interpret my blunt approach to IT as negativity to the topic at hand. It is amazing the things that even co-workers have intimated I “hate” just because I see the strengths and weaknesses. As always, use the tool that best suits your needs, and I can think of serious uses for the cloud. My issue is with the hype cycle that inevitably clouds the usefulness and disheartens any number of potential customers. So I’m shedding some light. Remember: Right tool for the job.

And meanwhile, don’t expect “Federation” of your clouds.


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Don MacVittie is founder of Ingrained Technology, A technical advocacy and software development consultancy. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing,DevOps, and IT management. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.