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Jason Quesada

Nati Shalom, CTO of GigaSpaces, writes about new cloud platforms. 

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Global thought leadership organizations Gartner, IDC, and Merrill Lynch, just to name a few, all concur that cloud technologies, which already constitute a more than $16bn dollar annual market, are only expected to grow and some even predict multiply tenfold by 2015.  With more than 50% of respondents citing business agility as a primary driver for migrating to the cloud (as brought forth in a recent Sand Hill survey of 500 IT decision makers), this is almost an ironic scenario with the silo-oriented approach widely dominating the cloud market today that has spawned a rather cumbersome process for organizations who require quick time-to-market when rolling out new business products.

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If you read the brochures, Clouds promise—apparently—limitless capacity, pay-as-you-go economics, and freedom from the drudgery of maintaining and upgrading the boxen that litter your data center.

 

At the same time—if you believe the hype—they’re compatible with on-premise infrastructure, and it’s easy to run applications in clouds for testing and even production. IT managers can control the operating system, server configuration, architecture, and everything else.

 

Cloud computing can absolutely deliver elastic, fire-and-forget capacity on demand, without any need to tweak the underlying machines. This is called Platform as a Service: developers paste their code into the cloud, and it just runs. On the other hand, a cloud can be heavily customized, giving customers control over nearly every aspect of their environment, from network topology, to machine configuration, to what runs when and where. This is called Infrastructure as a Service: you get a command line, a library of virtual infrastructure, and all the machines you can afford. You just can’t get both at once.

 

This isn’t just disingenuous. It sets impossibly high expectations. It can undermine the real value clouds offer, because it makes IT professionals (and the less-than-technical managers to whom they report) think that they can have their cake and eat it, too. Cloud computing is about tradeoffs. The basic model of public clouds is based on an economy of scale. The cloud provider spreads costs across a large number of customers, who share common platforms. The more that a customer needs to customize things, the smaller the scale against which to economize. Consider the geographic location of data. Many companies are concerned about where their data goes—in fact, one IT executive I talked with recently confidently stated, “with clouds, you don’t even know what country your data is in.” That’s simply not true. If you choose a cloud that doesn’t make any guarantees about data, then the provider is able to choose the best place for information based on cost, law, latency, reliability, and so on.

 

On the other hand, Amazon lets users choose from four Availability Zones, two of which are inside the U.S. But if a cloud customer wants to be more specific—choosing the city or even the data center—then the cloud provider can’t find an economy of scale. Costs will rise, the range of available services will shrink, and the customer may as well rent their own rack.

 

Clouds are also about automation and standardization. Cloud providers want to design single points of failure and manual tasks out of their offerings. The more a customer is willing to co-operate and abdicate opinions, the more automated and reliable a service they can use. By coding to App Engine and Bigtable, Google’s customers get immediate elasticity and detailed accounting of what’s happening. In return, all they have to do is give up their opinions about storage architecture and programming language.

 

Cloud Computing is a valuable new tool in the IT toolbox. But not clearly explaining the tradeoffs and nuances, its proponents are making promises the cloud simply can’t deliver.



 
Published by

Manuela Farrell

This week we announced that Cloud Connect chose DonorsChoose.org as its official event beneficiary in order to support math and science education in Bay Area public schools.  We selected three classroom projects whose requests include iPad touches for basic math and phonics instruction, human anatomical models for anatomy and physiology courses and materials and balances for science labs.  Public schools in the Bay Area, California and the entire country need all the support they can get, and we’re proud that Cloud Connect can make this contribution to the community that hosts it.

“Thanks to Cloud Connect, hundreds of Bay Area public school students will receive resources that they need to learn and succeed,” said Candice Chesson Jimenez, Director, West Region, DonorsChoose.org. “We are honored to partner with the conference, and look forward to continuing to learn how our organization can drive innovation in our online peer-to-peer philanthropy model.”

We’re asking Cloud Connect attendees, exhibitors, speakers and community members to join us in our support by either donating directly via the Cloud Connect giving page, filling out evals for any conference sessions or workshops attended, and/or voting for their favorite Launch Pad finalist on the keynote stage on Wednesday, May 9th.

Click here for detailed information.

See everyone in just over a week!

 
Published by

Manuela Farrell

Drew Bartkiewcz, the Culture, Risks and Governance track chair at Cloud Connect, is currently a Featured Author within the Cloudbook Publication.  Part 1 of his research on Emerging Cyber Risks  is available now, with Part 2 debuting the week of March 4th so don’t miss out.  A lot of what you’ll read there will be covered in Drew’s session, Cloud Risk Factors and Assumptions: Any Different than the Economics of Traditional IT Risk? , Wednesday March 9th at 11:15. 

Drew’s track also features, Larry Clinton, the President & Chief Executive Officer of Internet Security Alliance, Michelle Dennedy, Vice President, Security & Privacy Solutions at Oracle Corporation and a very impressive lineup of panelists for the Cloud Heding Debate.

 
Published by

Manuela Farrell

Amazon recently posted some updated information on the workshop being taught by Technology Evangelist, Jinesh Varia at Cloud Connect on March 7th, including a discount code for all who’d like to attend.

Moving to the Amazon Web Services Cloud Step by Step is a full day workshop and a first at Cloud Connect, one of many fantastic workshops offered at the event in just a couple of weeks.

 
Published by

Manuela Farrell

Attending the Platforms and Ecosystems BOF at Cloud Connect?   Shlomo Swidler, Founder of Orchestratus will be leading discussion groups that evening and recently posted this very informative outline of which topics will be covered and how discussions will be organized.  It’s a must see and read for anyone interested in the program scheduled for Monday, March 7th, 6:00 – 7:30.

 
Published by

Lori MacVittie

While we’ve finally stopped – for the most part anyway – arguing over the very definition of cloud computing, we have just begun arguing over other cloud-related topics. “Hybrid” and “private” cloud are likely two of the most contentious subjects today, the very definitions of which are still at times hotly debated. There are some who assert that private cloud computing is nothing more than in practice than highly virtualized data centers while others claim such implementations are real and providing significant value to the organizations that have undertaken to build them.

When Randy and I sat down to fill out the Private Clouds track for CloudConnect we came at the topic from very different perspectives. Thus we tried to craft a set of sessions and invite panelists from a wide variety of experiences and industries – from vendors to experts to media to enterprises – as a means to more fully explore both the up and downside of private cloud computing.

It seems inevitable to me, at least, that hybrid cloud – when defined as the integration of disparate cloud implementations to form a virtual data center, if you will – will be the end result. A large number of organizations are already highly invested in public cloud computing, primarily SaaS offerings, and have significant investment in the integration and orchestration of said services into their own existing systems and services. As organizations move ahead with their own cloud computing initiatives, i.e. private cloud computing, that would seem to indicate an end result of a hybrid cloud computing environment – public and private, integrated and orchestrated together.

That’s easier said than done. There is a difference between a highly virtualized data center and private cloud computing, and as an organization moves from the former to the latter there are obstacles and challenges that must be met and overcome. Simply choosing a platform upon which to build and orchestrate the services that make up a private cloud computing offering is challenging, with a growing variety of solutions from both the open source and commercial world.  Choosing the “right” platform and solutions is certainly highly dependent on organizational goals and policies, but there are technical issues such as interoperability and the robustness of solution support that must also be taken into consideration. There is no simple answer, no single “right” solution because cloud computing regardless of location is about matching technology to business and operational goals; it’s about leveraging solutions and services and offerings in a way that enables an organization to be leaner and more efficient while operating within the legal and financial constraints placed upon them.

But there are folks who disagree; who firmly believe private and hybrid cloud computing don’t actually exist or, if they do, that they are merely transitory architectures that enable organizations to get to the ultimate deployment model that is public cloud computing. Is that the case? Is hybrid cloud fact, is it fiction, or is it the future of data center models? The private cloud track will culminate in just such a discussion. It’s a very pertinent question, as knowing where you’re going will certainly influence how you get there and how you build out an architecture to support your end goals.

Cloud models both obviously and subtly alter infrastructure, network, and storage decisions. It is with these concerns and issues in mind that Randy and I have crafted the Private Clouds track at CloudConnect this year, and it is our intent that the sessions provide a perspective that covers both sides of the subject – the good and the bad, the obvious and the subtle, the advocate and the critic.

 
Published by

Sundar Raghavan

Cloud computing is one of the most innovative technologies of our time. The growth of Cloud Connect is testimonial to this phenomenon and I’m looking forward to my speaking engagement there at the Cloud Performance Summit.

The cloud model offers many benefits including access to new applications, on-demand resources and lower costs. These are valuable to all users. Yet, most of the discussions are centered on the technical underpinnings such as auto-scaling, load balancing, virtualization, APIs and firewalls that only IT users understand. This is surprising because Gartner research[i] shows that on an average only 6 percent of employees are IT users. For the cloud model to deliver its full potential, businesses should focus on the needs of other 94% of users – the functional users.

In other words, the cloud has to become usable for functional users. Let’s discuss what’s required to make that happen.

Who are functional users and how does the cloud model impact them?

Functional users in any business are end-users like you and me. They are professionals that work with customers to create products and services, and modify them to match changing business conditions. They include consultants, sales engineers, business analysts, application developers, test engineers and training managers.

A cloud model brings new levels of productivity for these users:

· Developers can create multiple parallel work streams without resource constraints

· Test engineers can run functional, performance and load tests simultaneously

· Sales engineers can engage prospects with compelling demos without lugging laptops around

· Training managers can avoid travel, teach remote students and provide hands-on learning

In our work with hundreds of customers at Skytap, we have learned that for a cloud solution to be effective, it needs to meet a few “must have” requirements.

What are the key usability and control requirements for the cloud?

1. No application rewrites – Users want their existing applications to leverage the cloud model but do not want to wait for IT to rewrite them to fit the cloud.

2. No delays – Users want current purchasing, set-up and configuration delays to vanish. They love the central tenet of the cloud model – the cloud is ready to go when you are.

3. On-demand scalability – Users like the idea of scaling up and down based on business conditions. Users no longer buy into the idea of “let’s build it big and hope we use it all”.

4. Pay as you go - Gone are days of big upfront capital expenses. In general, users want to consume IT resources just as they do cell phone, cable and electricity. Pay for usage is surely becoming the most prevalent model for the future.

5. Visibility and control – Usability needs to be matched with the reality of running a business. Cloud leaders need visibility and control to manage the cloud usage without impacting user adoption.

Tips for selecting the right cloud solution

Selecting a cloud solution that balances usability and cloud management features is the key to success. The cloud model allows users to test drive a solution to assure that their specific needs are met. During the ‘test drive,’ users should ask (and get convincing answers for) the following:

Self-service solution – Are functional users empowered to create, manage and run their own cloud instances? How much training is required to get started?

Scalability – Does the cloud solution scale up and down easily? Can users export and scale existing environments?

Projects, Groups and Roles – Is the solution compatible for users to work in groups? Can users organize their cloud resources by project, manage user groups and limit access by role?

Publish and collaborate – Is it easy for users to invite other team members and collaborate? Can they granularly control member access?

Audit, reporting and chargebacks – Does the solution provide complete visibility into cloud operations? Can you align cloud usage to business outcomes and accurately allocate costs (chargeback) if necessary?

By asking and answering these questions, cloud users can be sure the solution meets the usability needs of functional users, and at the same time, is aligned with business goals. With the right solution, the cloud can deliver the tremendous IT agility, business productivity and user satisfaction to any business.


[i] Gartner – IT Metrics: IT Spending and Staffing Report, 2011

 
Published by

Manuela Farrell

William Louth, CTO at JINSPIRED and a panelist at the Cloud Performance Summit at Cloud Connect, recently blogged about what he sees as the top trends in application performance management including: activity performance management (APM), greater automation in problem detection and diagnosis and runtime governance, supervision and quality of service (QoS).

Nice preview of the kinds of topics you’ll see covered at Cloud Performance Summit and the Performance and Monitoring track at Interop.

To hear more from William on all things api design and performance engineering, follow his blog.


 
Feb.
10
2011

The End of Perimeters


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Cloud computing is upending many assumptions that we make as IT professionals. An important, and often overlooked, one is the death of perimeter security.

As humans, we like borders. We like to know that what’s outside is bad, but we’re safe on the inside. That’s led to terms like the demilitarized zone (DMZ), which describes the no-man’s-land between our internal, soft underbelly and the Wild West of the Internet.

The border’s days are numbered, however. The false sense of security that perimeters offer vanishes when applications move to an on-demand environment like a cloud. We have less control over what lives where—indeed, if we’re designing our cloud architectures properly, then systems come and go according to demand, often running on whatever hardware has just become free.

A more modern way of thinking about security is to consider the behavior of the application. This is something makers of antivirus software and proponents of end-node security have long called for, but with clouds, it’s a necessity. Tomorrow’s application and its security permissions are inextricably linked. The application may even have different security behaviors depending on where it’s running in order to meet compliance requirements.

Cloud providers can hire smarter security professionals than the rest of us. They also represent a disinterested third party which, in theory, cares less about our businesses—and as a result, can do less damage—than internal employees. At the same time, clouds are a shared resource that present tantalizing new weaknesses for attackers.

At Cloud Connect this year, we’re tackling the subject of cloud security in two ways. First, there’s a Monday CloudSec workshop run by Rational Survivability’s Chris Hoff (whose excellent, and refreshingly blunt, blog covers cloud security in detail.) And in our main conference, Intel’s Steve Orrin is running a series of sessions on cloud security.  Expanded coverage on security is one of many new additions to this year’s Cloud Connect workshops and conference tracks.

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