Cloud computing. Up on cloud nine?

By Renegade on Tuesday 28 July 2009 14:05 - Comments (5)
Category: Cloud, Views: 3.590

I started a small discussion on Twitter with blogger (actually blogster, but is that an official word?) Sunshine Mugrabi after she tweeted a link. This link contains the story about the state of Washington’s decision to build a $300 million data center in Olympia. This decision is being challenged by legislators who say that a lot of money can be saved by using cloud computing services.

That got me thinking about cloud computing. One of the remarks I made during the conversation with Sunshine was that the name "cloud" seems to be commodity. Everyone is using it, nobody wants to miss out, and I am just going to say that this is one of the buzzwords for the year 2009.

Since it's something that is so commonly used, you would probably expect that a lot of people know what cloud computing is. And that's where things go off the deep end. As much as cloud seems to be commodity, I can't help but notice that the definition of the term cloud doesn't quite deserve the label commodity yet.

When you go to a medical specialist you will receive a recommendation or reply that is best along the lines of same specialist. When you go and visit a cardiologist you will probably be examined for a coronary artery symptom or for heart failures. When you visit a proctologist, you're going to search for something... Well, let's not go there. ;)

Same can be said for cloud computing. Ask a storage vendor like EMC for a defintion of cloud computing and it's likely going to be storage related. Atmos might be the answer there.

Ask Amazon and you will get Amazon EC2 or Amazon S3 as a reply, both of which are valid if you are looking for storage or the possibility to run dispersed jobs.

But that's just the start of the problem. Let's say one of your managers comes to you and says "We want to use cloud computing!", what are you going to say? Perhaps the first thing you want to ask is something along the lines of "What do you want to do with it?", or "What do you want it to do?".

Depending on the requirements you will need a solution or product design that is capable of coping with a distribution of storage, memory, computing power or even software. In a way this can be a good starting point for a true SaaS capable offering.

But again, we need a design that can handle all of it in a distributed fashion. You need to think about things like security. Do you actually need a local cloud? Perhaps you can distribute the actual processing of information? It's been done before in projects like SETI@home. Distributed storage? Also done before, ask any enterprise sized company that uses some sort of virtualization and they can confirm that for you.

The technical issues aren't trivial, but they are also not mind boggling. It's been done before.

Challenges can be seen in things like security. Do I really want to hand over my information to a distributed 'thing' without knowing where my information will end up? After all, information is one of my most prized assets. Most companies and analysts will probably agree on that one.

Other things to consider might be the fact that with the cloud you can see a trend going something oriented centrally, going to something vapor oriented. Want an example? Think of the case where a UK based webhoster lost around 100,000 sites after a zero-day exploit. Backup and data integrity should be given a lot more attention. One might even consider implementing the ACID property set found in most self-respecting databases.

All of this a practically screaming for a standard of some sorts, but by the sheer complexity of the matter this might a standard that is too big for most companies out there. And until we see a standard, we will probably continue to see various definitions.

So as a word of advice, keep an open mind but be sure to ask how your vendor and/or supplier define cloud. Think sharply about the challenges. And if you can, make use of the fact that the term cloud isn't defined that sharply yet and set your own definitions if your boss should approach you. ;)

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By Tweakers user PaddoSwam, Tuesday 28 July 2009 15:09

Cloud, the 2k9 word for "reselled high availability cluster" so what's new since 1995? nothing?

Cloud is a concept, not a definition I think.

By Tweakers user Renegade, Tuesday 28 July 2009 15:13

@PaddoSwam, you are entirely correct. Cloud is a concept, but most people I found try to file it as a definition that is linked to one or more of their products and sell that as 'cloud'.

I am missing the word distributed or geospanning in your 2K9 word. :P :+

By Tweakers user ReLight, Tuesday 28 July 2009 23:38

Actually I'm missing the 'X' in the word that would really make sales & marketing go wild. ;)

Anyway, I agree. The next years buzz word will probably be the one from 2k8 with this one. Making it "Virtual Clouds", if that's not an overkill fuzzy word, then I'm lost.

Mostly the correct reply to the managers is the simple set of WHY's? If they have a case then visit SaasPlasa for some insparation.

By Tweakers user BrammeS, Wednesday 29 July 2009 11:30

From a marketing point of view is absolutely logical to align a company's own products with the 2K9 buzz word.

In my point of view the difference with previous years is that every IT related company wants in on the cloud buzzword, somehow it’s a very attractive buzzword for companies.

By Tweakers user SPee, Wednesday 29 July 2009 12:22

Tell 'little miss Sunshine' that you need a datacentre for a Cloud ;)
You definitely need multiple machines that will require to run 'somewhere' :)

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