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Is The Cloud Too Fluffy For Solid Interoperability?

Interoperability tools provider JNBridge has this week said that interoperability will make or break cloud computing success in 2011 and beyond. The Java and .NET Frameworks interoperability tools specialist's comments are not quite as anodyne as they might appear; JNBridge CTO Wayne Citrin has confidently stated that, "We believe that what is typically discussed under the rubric of cloud interoperability is so insufficient it will destroy the promise of the cloud."

Consider the industry at large; life on planet Microsoft as recently as a decade ago was a something of a single lifeform proprietary existence. It wasn't until around the turn of the millennium that Microsoft started appointing interop specialists — and it was a couple of year later still before the company started saying that interoperability among cross-platform technologies has to be "baked-in" from the start.

So is JNBridge's Citrin correct, and is the still-nascent arena of cloud computing too virtualized, intangible, and just too fluffy to support any solid foundation for interoperability to flourish?

"Our vision of cloud interoperability is one where applications and services can be developed in any technology and deployed to any cloud, where cloud services can be accessed by any other cloud service or from any client on the ground. In other words, any platform, anywhere — and until that exists, there will be severe limits on user adoption of cloud computing," said Citrin, who went on to predict the top three trends that enterprises should expect in 2011:

    1. The realization among cloud users (if not also among cloud providers) that true cloud interoperability really doesn’t yet exist — despite cloud vendor claims to the contrary. Citrin said this will become important in the coming year as users continue to adopt cloud platforms. Initially they will be migrating legacy applications to the cloud, since those applications will be immediately available. But the roadblocks that will come up, particularly with "platform as a service" offerings, may cause users to sour on cloud offerings and cause adoption to be delayed.

    2. The introduction of tools and technologies to support interoperability — particularly, the ability to migrate legacy non-cloud applications into the cloud (regardless of the platform for which they were written and regardless of the cloud platform to which they are being migrated), and the ability to access cloud services from clients running on any platform, regardless of the cloud platform upon which the service resides.

    "For interoperability to 'just work,' it either will need to be built into the cloud platform offerings themselves, or will need to be third-party cloud services that can just be plugged into directly. The more technically sophisticated customers who create their own cloud services from scratch will have no problem adopting conventional tool-based offerings, but other customers who want to wire their offerings together from best-of-breed services (that are available regardless of platform) will just want these offerings to work together — either right out of the box or through the addition of easy-to-use interoperability services," said Citrin.
    3. Initial steps supporting the notion that interoperability can be a service, as well as a conventional tool. Cloud services supporting interoperability will begin to be introduced, and will start gathering early adopters. However, Citrin said customers may be disappointed that the services they create will not be usable by up to half their potential market.

    "Interoperability in the cloud is currently a real problem. Supporting real interoperability is critical to the success and survival of the cloud computing model, and right now it is a large stumbling block that prevents adoption," according to Mark Driver, vice president of research at Gartner. "Initiatives that support cloud interoperability in its various aspects will benefit cloud users, vendors of cloud services, and vendors of the underlying cloud platforms."

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