Superclouds Explained: Interview With F5’s Lori MacVittie

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You know a term is taking off in the mainstream when a new variant comes along — adding the word “super” in front of it. Well, now welcome to the supercloud.

A supercloud acts as a way to mix and match different cloud services and providers, enabling organizations to choose the best options for their needs, whether it’s for cost, performance, or other reasons.

Or for a more technical explanation, a supercloud “is a cloud architecture that enables hybrid IT to seamlessly operate every layer of the IT stack across cloud providers, and on-premises traditional and cloud environments, and at the edge.”

That’s the definition from Lori MacVittie, a distinguished engineer and chief evangelist in cloud security firm F5’s office of the CTO.

Techopedia sits down with MacVittie to discuss a variety of topics around cloud computing, including superclouds, cloud technology and sustainability, hybrid cloud models, and more.

About Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie
Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie has over 25 years’ industry experience spanning application development, IT architecture, as well as network and systems’ operations. MacVittie holds a Master of Science degree in computer science. She co-authored the CADD profile for ANSI NCITS 320-1998 and holds a U.S. patent for application delivery provisioning. She is also a prolific author with books spanning security, cloud, and enterprise architecture.

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Before joining F5 in 2006, MacVittie was an award-winning technology editor at Network Computing Magazine and an enterprise architect who helped lead a global transportation and logistics firm into the Internet age. MacVittie has developed software for Nokia phones, Autodesk, and regional telecommunications firms.

Key Takeaways

  • A supercloud acts as a way to mix and match different cloud services and providers, so companies can choose the best options for their needs.
  • The hybrid cloud model isn’t just a trend or a fad, it’s the norm today
  • Cloud providers are adjusting how they bill for their services to help enterprises better forecast their cloud costs.
  • Edge computing will play a key role in the future of cloud computing.

About Superclouds

Q: What is the goal of a supercloud?

A: The goal of a supercloud is to simplify the deployment and operation of applications across what is an increasingly heterogeneous set of environments, each with its own tools, technologies, and application programming interfaces (APIs).

Q: What is multi-cloud networking and how does it fit into supercloud?

A: Multi-cloud networking is like middleware for the cloud. It simplifies networking and connectivity across disparate environments – from core to cloud to edge – and provides strategic points of control where security can be applied.

Basically, it makes networking — from network layer 4 [transport] to network layer 7 [application] — easy by standardizing the network stack across all environments.

This is foundational technology for supercloud, as you can’t really offer a single ‘supercloud’ interface without addressing the disparity in the network.

Cloud Technology and Sustainability

Q: How can adopting cloud technology help businesses be more sustainable?

A: When an enterprise can migrate workloads between clouds, it can then migrate them based on parameters that matter to them. Performance, scale, sustainability, and cost can all be factors that determine where workloads are placed.

This is the ‘agility’ we were promised when cloud first burst onto the scene, a capability that is only now becoming reality for most enterprises.

Q: What promises have leading public cloud providers made toward a more environmentally friendly approach in the near future?

A: Most public cloud providers have made commitments to not just lowering their impacts on the environment but monitoring and reporting on them as well. Furthermore, many are making a habit of offering services and solutions that enable enterprises to make choices that meet their specific environmental goals.

Toward the Hybrid Cloud Model

Q: The trend toward a hybrid model of cloud computing has been accelerating. Will that trend continue this year and beyond?

A: Oh, absolutely. The hybrid model isn’t just a trend or a fad, it’s the norm today.

Our research this year found that 88% of enterprises operate a hybrid state, and about that same percentage also operate hybrid application portfolios comprising both traditional and modern applications.

We further learned that organizations plan to deploy artificial intelligence both on-premises and in public clouds, which means hybrid is going to continue to be the norm for the foreseeable future.

Q: Will multi-cloud and hybrid cloud adoption lead to distributed architectures?

A: It already has. I was actually somewhat surprised to find out that 60% of enterprises operate hybrid – distributed – applications. They’ve got components of a single application all over the place.

Now, as organizations continue to build out digital services — stitching together multiple apps and services to present a seamless experience for users — they’re going to be even more distributed, as those apps might be on-premises, in public clouds, at the edge, or even a SaaS, all connected via APIs.

Cloud Services, Security, and Data Quality

Q: What roles do security and compliance play in cloud services? And as more business adopt cloud computing, will there be an even greater focus on cloud security and compliance?

A: Security and cloud have always been a tricky thing, and generally security in cloud services has been a shared responsibility. While the cloud providers are responsible for infrastructure and service security, it’s still up to the enterprises to secure their workloads.

Probably most important is the need for enterprises to use the tools cloud providers offer to secure their data stores because that’s an all-too-common vector through which data breaches have happened.

I don’t think ‘more cloud’ is driving greater focus on cloud security and compliance, but AI is.

And right now cloud providers are a top provider of AI services, so we’re going to see more attention there.

Q: Will data quality issues become more complex as cloud computing continues to grow?

A: Data quality really isn’t a cloud or on-premises issue. It’s about the practices and pipelines enterprises establish to collect, process, and manage their data.

What is going to make data quality a challenge is the adoption of AI because AI is driven by data and generates data.

Getting a handle on that is going to be huge, and certainly cloud can play a role there, as it has for other challenges by offering tools and technologies that enable enterprises to monitor and improve the quality of the data they’re consuming and producing.

The Future of Cloud Computing

Q: Will there be an increase in vertical clouds this year and going forward?

A: I think, with a few exceptions, the establishment of vertical clouds is largely complete. Most industries don’t need focused clouds and those that do have already established them.

Q: What is serverless cloud computing?

A: A fantasy? Heh. Serverless takes the pay-as-you-go approach of cloud computing one step further to use as you go.

Typically, you would provision at least one server for cloud computing, but with serverless, you provision none.

The resources needed to execute your code are provisioned ‘just in time’ when they’re invoked, which greatly reduces the costs associated with using the cloud.

Q: What is the next best thing in cloud computing?

A: Honestly, I think the next best thing is going to be about its business model. For decades cloud providers have been charging for everything from images to bandwidth to services, and enterprises have become very cost-conscious when it comes to, well, everything.

Cloud is very difficult to forecast from a budgeting perspective, and I think cloud providers are starting to adjust how they bill for their services in ways that will not only help enterprises better forecast their cloud costs — but actually encourage more usage because they understand the costs and can weigh them against other priorities.

Q: What is the future of cloud computing in the next five years?

A: Cloud is largely commoditized at this point. We see that in the percentage of enterprises that continue to repatriate and migrate workloads, using cloud is more like temporary computing resources than a home for those workloads.

They are becoming on-demand resources as organizations learn how to operate like a cloud provider; that is, they’re adopting [site reliability engineering] practices and more modern operational approaches.

The future of cloud depends on providers recognizing this shift and finding ways to enable enterprises to easily consume the resources and services they offer instead of trying to get them to permanently set up shop in their environments.

Q: Will edge computing play a key role in the future of cloud computing

A: Definitely. Internet of Things (IoT) already leverages edge computing, and regulatory pressure on organizations to govern data and respect data sovereignty is igniting interest and use of edge for data services.

In addition, edge providers are building out distributed platforms for security and delivery that are a good fit for multi-cloud/hybrid organizations because they enable centralization of security and delivery services across not just hybrid but dynamic application distribution.

Edge will continue to evolve, and I suspect we’ll see it play a significant role as AI changes the very nature of applications and how we all interact with technology in the future.

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Linda Rosencrance
Technology journalist
Linda Rosencrance
Technology journalist

Linda Rosencrance is a freelance writer and editor based in the Boston area, with expertise ranging from AI and machine learning to cybersecurity and DevOps. She has been covering IT topics since 1999 as an investigative reporter working for several newspapers in the Boston metro area. Before joining Techopedia in 2022, her articles have appeared in TechTarget, MSDynamicsworld.com, TechBeacon, IoT World Today, Computerworld, CIO magazine, and many other publications. She also writes white papers, case studies, ebooks, and blog posts for many corporate clients, interviewing key players, including CIOs, CISOs, and other C-suite execs.