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The Two Sides of Workload Interchangeability in Cloud Services

By November 19, 2013Article

Cloud services won’t necessarily change in 2014, but we will notice a distinct evolution in the direction of workload interchangeability. Workload interchangeability forms the necessary foundation for not only a healthy and vibrant cloud services market, but it is also a critical element missing in the trust equation between buyers and suppliers of services.  
Most people think of workload interchangeability as a technical problem, but it’s actually a two-sided issue in the cloud services market. On one hand, buyers and sellers face the difficult challenge of establishing what I refer to as “economic interchangeability” — the ability for a buyer to equate his or her requirements with available supply in the market in real time. It captures the notion of an “apples-to-apples” comparison between buyers’ needs and suppliers’ capacity. Economic interchangeability will significantly reduce transaction friction and support increased business velocity in 2014.  
Forces at work like 6fusion’s quest to bring the world of financial trading to cloud services and the open source community’s realization that we must meter and measure differently will underpin this evolution in 2014.  

On the other hand, everyone in the industry fully realizes that “technical interchangeability” remains a pressing need among buyers. Technical interchangeability refers to the idea that a user may seamlessly move a workload between IT infrastructures regardless of underlying technology platforms, formats or ownership (private and public). In addition to better supporting the idea of hybrid cloud, such capability will de-risk the adoption of cloud services for the buyer because it eliminates the trap of technology silos (what some people call “lock in”) while minimizing possible financial exposure to a “here today, gone tomorrow” cloud service — even from reputable vendors (see IBM’s SmartCloud closure). 

Companies like Dell and CSC have recently snatched up established software companies like Enstratius and ServiceMesh because they went a long way to solving the problem of technical interchangeability in a proprietary fashion. But those companies represent merely the starting point for the movement toward true technical interchangeability. 
There is a much more profound track that started in 2013 and will intensify in the year ahead.  I am referring to the IEEE Intercloud Testbed. This is a working group formed among industry leaders with a common goal of establishing the open source foundation for technical interchangeability of workloads.  Meanwhile, open source projects like are quickly emerging threats to the established notion of an “instance” or a “vm” as the logical resource constraint — a fundamental building block to establish commonality between platforms and thus a future interchangeability.  
Consider these developments against the reality that economic interchangeability, in the form of exchange-traded cloud services contracts, is making significant advancements and you have a much clearer picture of how this industry will dramatically change in the coming years. Will all this happen in 2014? Not entirely, but the dramatic signs of our evolution as an industry will be unmistakable. 
John Cowan is co-founder and CEO of 6fusion and co-inventor of 6fusion’s WAC algorithm. He is regarded as the company’s business model visionary. In addition to 6fusion’s day-to-day management responsibilities, John is responsible for the overall strategic vision and commercial direction of 6fusion. A 12-year veteran of business and product development within IT and Telecommunications, he successfully created new business during the period of telecommunications deregulation and developed and launched new technology products and services globally. Follow John on Twitter @cownet or @6fusion.

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