Until recently, many corporations considered the cloud simply as a way to accommodate their virtualized servers -- a way to reduce bandwidth constraints within their data centers, while moving some compute resources closer to customers.
Now, fast forward to phase two of the cloud, which is well underway. Companies are creating customer-facing apps for use in the cloud, and scaling resources up and down to meet changing demand for apps and servers - such as dramatic surges in customer traffic, and short-term projects that require considerable computing power.
New uses of the cloud are forcing companies to build or buy the right tools for the job.
To capitalize on enterprises' appetite for greater cloud flexibility, while answering their needs for security, vendor CloudSwtich created CloudSwitch Enterprise 2.0, a downloadable appliance-cum-firewall that installs easily into VMware and Xen environments.
Built on CloudSwitch's patent-pending Cloud Isolation Technology, the CloudSwitch appliance bridges the enterprise data center with cloud computing services, extending enterprise security and control into the cloud.
"Companies are expanding beyond their initial development and test scenarios into larger, more customer-facing applications--which is why we needed to develop a more robust and flexible solution," said John McEleney, CEO of CloudSwitch.
As an example of a company with a new need, McEleney cited a client experiencing heavy traffic spikes during major holidays and marketing campaigns.
Rather than provision new equipment or rent more space in its colo - both expensive options - McEleney said companies can leverage the cloud and CloudSwitch to handle peak overflow traffic easily.
He added that companies can give website visitors secure, public connectivity to cloud resources through public IP addresses, while managing these same resources through CloudSwitch's secure data center connections.
"Other things we have heard include the ability to use the cloud for peak capacity for surges in traffic when the market opens and closes," he said. "The idea is to use a firewall for public connectivity to the cloud and a load balancer to have overflow traffic automatically routed to the appropriate server in the cloud."
"Using CloudSwitch, applications remain tightly integrated with enterprise data center tools and policies, and are managed as if they were running locally," said Ellen Rubin, co-founder and VP of CloudSwitch.
Rubin noted that CloudSwitch eliminates the engineering efforts and changes to applications, networking and management tools that were previously required to use the cloud - thus protecting customers from cloud lock-in.
In its first rev, the technology primarily provided companies with a firewall that ensured secure Internet access to their servers in the cloud.
So what's new in CloudSwitch Enterprise 2.0?
In a nutshell, the product offers better provisioning capabilities, better scalability, and better management than v1.
CloudSwitch enables provisioning of new virtual machines through network boot support and ISO support (CD-ROM/DVD).
Better scalability comes from the product's enhanced user interface, while better management comes from CloudSwitch's Layer-2 and Layer-3 support, public IP access to cloud resources with enterprise control, and multi-subnet support.
"Using our technology, enterprises can provision Windows and Linux applications in the cloud with point-and-click simplicity and no modifications," said McEleney.
CloudSwitch has broadened its focus to include a wider set of workloads as the cloud market develops, said William Fellows, an analyst at the 451 Group.
"Enterprise customers are looking for solutions that let them span internal and external clouds," said Fellows. "CloudSwitch addresses the security and portability needs of these customers as they integrate the cloud into their IT infrastructures."
CloudSwitch Enterprise 2.0 is available now, with a free 15-day trial. Pricing begins at $25,000 for an annual license that includes basic support and 20 virtual machines. Additional server packs are available.