– Lori MacVittie, Technical Marketing Manager at F5 Networks (www.f5.com), says:

It is technically impossible to separate the concept of “self-service” from “cloud”; in fact the use of “self-service cloud” is redundant, as part of the value proposition for cloud computing is that it is inherently “self-service”. Perhaps a better way of differentiating would be to define what may be enterprise self-service access to cloud computing resources versus public self-service access to cloud computing resources.

What “enterprise” self-service does is manage self-service access to external (public) or internal (private) cloud computing resources. It allows developers and other interested parties to deploy applications into cloud computing environments by isolating them from the interfaces even further than typically found in public environments and puts some measure of control over that access into the hands of IT. Because public cloud computing is inherently “self-service” and positions itself as “easy as a credit card” resource provisioning, it would be easy for an organization to lose control and “bleed green” as enterprise users deployed applications in the name of the organization at will. Enterprise self-service then provides a more centralized, manageable way for users to provision and leverage public/private cloud computing resources by isolating them from the billing/access/etc… management required of public cloud computing providers.

Self-service internally serves much the same purpose – hiding the billing and metering and management aspects of the cloud computing resources from the customer and allowing them to provision resources and deploy applications based on organizational policies that govern the distribution and use of shared resources.

There is an emerging market around appliances that serve the particular need of automating the “isolation” of enterprise customers from public/private resources. These appliances are like resource-brokers that handle the billing, metering, provisioning, etc… of resources based on organization policies. These solutions also bridge credentials such that IT can leverage existing roles/responsibilities in identity stores to allow fine-grained control over cloud computing resource utilization while maintaining a single, unified “account” with a public cloud computing provider. These are intriguing solutions that may eventually expand to offering additional services traditionally handled by application delivery network platforms, specifically those services that deal with optimizing the transfer of large data sets across WAN-like networks and providing secure tunnels over which such data sets can be transferred.