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.
I was talking to a colleague of mine yesterday, and we got caught on the topic of storage and it's current importance. We both agreed that given the past and currently growing topics, storage and storage management is probably one of the areas that will see significant growth in the near future.
An example could be the recent bidding war between EMC and NetApp over Data Domain. DDUP as Data Domain is called on the Nasdaq is a big name in the area of data deduplication. Other hot topics when it comes to storage are "Cloud" and thin or virtual provisioning. And then you have the usual displays of who has got the bigger machines and monolithic, upscaling and wide scaling solutions.
Problem is that it is hard to find people that have an overview of the various solutions. Most vendors will offer a variation of generally accepted technologies, or try to tell you that you don't need it. Finding neutral people who are able to translate requirements or requests between the customer and the vendors or techies are a rare commodity as it seems, and are probably one of the everyday challenges that most customers face.
The material is highly complex as soon as you go past the surface, and neutral info is not that easy to find. You might read some blogs and know some people that are able to give you some information, but asking the right questions is an art of it's own.
What it all boils down to in my opinion is optimal utilization. When you go up a step, you can see that people have always tried to get the most out of the available resources. Be it storage, network, cpu, ram of even technologies such as DSL.
The basic idea is probably that we have a product in place but notice that we are not utilizing it to it's fullest extent. Take the example of DSL, why use only part of the entire spectrum. Why not try to find a use for the free resources?
The same can be said when it comes to the server environment. The introduction of blades showed us a future where we could plug in more blades when we needed them in the environment used. Or perhaps simply pull out the blades at night and use them elsewhere? This didn't entirely kick off as expected for most hardware vendors, but I think it set a direction for products like Scalent, technologies like thin provisioning and most recently cloud.
Cloud seems to be the answer no matter who you ask. But is it? It can be a way to get a better utilization. When implemented correctly I think this is one of the true SaaS solutions. If you combine the cloud trend with storage when you need it, computing power when you need it and even the application you want when you need it, you are talking about something that is truly "on demand". The true power will be determined by the implementation.
And since it all needs to be stored somewhere you are once again at the start of my post. It's going to be big. Quite big I think. Time to get on board? You decide, but I would say yes it is.
People are not panicking, but some are not far from it as it seems. The open source community had big concerns about MySQL even though Oracle is also responsible for a storage engine that is actually distributed with MySQL.
What I found much more interesting was taking apart the various pieces that Sun provides through this acquisition and what Oracle could bring when taking current trends and "buzzwords" into account.
One of the trends that was seen throughout last year was SaaS, "green IT" and the word of the year 2009 is most likely "cloud". The strange thing is nobody has a clear knowledge of what either is, but almost every company out there will show various implementations of these terms.
So, what if Oracle puts it all together? Just stay with me for a second. They have, among others, their own business suite. They have a database, they now have an operating system that will probably be modified to ensure a smooth cooperation between everything. Then you've got the xVM Ops center that allows you to use the virtual machines that you created. They can even use their own hardware.
What would happen if oracle gives the idea that SAP had with their business by design a thwirl? They could have their own cloud, you could order your application to go. As you expand you could purchase a sort of middleware box that connects beautifully to the Oracle cloud. And should you go even bigger, then you can purchase the consulting from them that helps you migrate everything to your own location, and you could again get everything from one supplier.
It's not something easily made, but Oracle now has the theoretical potential to deliver in each configuration you would choose.
Any thoughts on this? Am I just rambling? Looking forward to the comments!