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Supercloud 22, a technology conference hosted recently by enterprise tech media the CUBE, concluded with an in-depth discussion on the future of cloud technology. According to industry experts, a new world is being built on top of base cloud computing structures such as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS). This emerging trend is being termed supercloud.
For many, the term ‘supercloud’ may seem very new. However, it was mentioned for the first time in a study by Cornell University in 2016.
What is supercloud?
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Cornell University defines a supercloud as “a cloud architecture that enables application migration as a service across different availability zones or cloud providers”. Spanning across major public clouds like Amazon EC2, Google Compute Engine and Microsoft Azure, as well as private clouds, the supercloud architecture “provides interfaces to allocate, migrate, and terminate resources such as virtual machines and storage and presents a homogeneous network to tie these resources together”.
Supercloud offers flexibility. Users can relocate their virtual machines across several data centres around the world irrespective of the owner and without reconfiguring and re-synchronising their applications. Supercloud enables an application to offload from an overloaded data centre to another that has a completely different infrastructure altogether.
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The focus on supercloud started gaining ground due to the challenges posed by multi-cloud. Even in multi-cloud architectures, organisations struggle to apply consistent security policies across all their applications, migrate apps among different clouds and data centres, optimise the performance of various applications and gain insights into the application health, i.e. if they are performing up to the mark, their status etc.
According to Howie Xu, VP of machine learning and artificial intelligence at Zscaler, supercloud is not just multi-cloud. It goes beyond that. Multicloud is just one aspect of supercloud. With supercloud, one can access the on-prem and the edge along with multi-clouds.
A key factor creating so much interest surrounding supercloud is its ability to connect across clouds and operate in a hybrid and multi-cloud environment that makes the life of both end users and developers a lot easier.
Known by different names, for example distributed cloud, superclouds are making it easier to operate in a multi-cloud environment. It enables seamless migration, optimal performance and consistent security.
Supercloud in the making
Several cloud computing companies have already started working on architectures similar to superclouds though all of them do not call such architectures superclouds. Snowflake, a leading cloud computing company, is working on something they call ‘data cloud’.
“We don’t call it exactly that way. We don’t like the super word, it’s a bit dismissive. But we call it a data cloud. And the vision really for the data cloud is indeed a cloud which overlays the hyperscaler cloud,” said Benoit Dageville, co-founder of Snowflake. The data cloud spans across multiple clouds and supports distributed data but governs the data centrally, similar to the data mesh approach.
DataBricks, a key rival of Snowflake, is sponsoring the Data Lakehouse project that is working on Delta Sharing, which simplifies sharing data in a secure manner across cloud platforms.
American cloud computing and virtualisation tech company VMware came up with VMware Cross-Cloud services to address the challenges posed by the lack of consistency across clouds. The Cross-Cloud services include application development, cloud management, cloud and edge infrastructure, security and networking, and anywhere workspace solutions. They are built on a seamless abstraction layer that spans clouds, enabling organisations to build, deploy, run, manage, secure and access apps and infrastructure in a consistent way.
Along with the above, many others are also working towards supercloud. For example, in 2021 Goldman Sachs Group announced a new data management cloud — the ‘Goldman Sachs Financial Cloud for Data with AWS’. It is a good example of an industry supercloud. Dish Network also announced a supercloud to power 5G wireless networks. Cohesity, next-generation data management company, is building a data management supercloud focused on data protection and governance.
Security is the biggest challenge in supercloud
A key concern raised in Supercloud 22 was security. Security is the most pressing challenge in the way of realising the idea of supercloud. Building a security framework that can keep data safe across multiple clouds and on-premises data centres is altogether a new level of challenge. Although each cloud provider has its own security models and each ogranisation has its own security framework for on-prem data centres, integrating these frameworks and models across clouds is not at all easy.
Industry leaders are of the opinion that stakeholders must collaborate to formulate a set of standards according to which data can be shared. They feel that the security ecosystem should be led by cloud providers who provide the foundational infrastructure elements while the security vendors must put in place stringent detection norms.
In the backdrop of several superclouds in the making, a pertinent question arises about its adoption in the near future. Industry expert Muddu Sudhakar, CEO of Stealth Mode Startup Company, believes that although supercloud is transformative and disruptive, it should not be rushed. Standardisation can happen a few years down the line. “Right now, all we need is enough startups to create the super layer abstraction, with the goal in mind of AI automation,” he said.