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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.


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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Many companies are developing their strategy for migration of business applications to private and public clouds. During this critical stage, it is vital to ensure that service levels are not impacted by migrating the application from dedicated to shared IT resources. It’s no wonder that according to analyst firm IDC, two of the top three concerns that CIO’s have about private clouds are performance and availability.

We see in the market that enterprises are forming new cloud teams and internal committees, with a diverse set of skills, to plan for an effective organizational cloud strategy. One of their mandates in the organization’s journey to cloud is to plan for how to monitor and manage the performance and behavior of applications after deployment. These organizations undoubtedly have a range of infrastructure monitors in the data center. And most cloud service providers, whether internal or external, will provide services for monitoring cloud resources. Yet these tools typically do not provide an accurate picture of what end users are truly experiencing and how to quickly isolate and fix performance issues in application components located inside and/or outside the cloud.

This blog entry points out a few of the key application performance challenges that you are likely to encounter when pursuing a cloud strategy, so that you can address them proactively. I hope that during my session in the Cloud Performance Summit at CloudConnect (Instrumenting Applications When Access Goes Away on Monday March 7) the esteemed panel will address some of these challenges with a variety of perspectives – it should be informative and thought-provoking!

1. How do you know if an application is ready for the cloud?

Not all applications are ready for “cloud time”, and sometimes one part of an application is cloud ready while other components are not. You need to identify the best components for migration as well as potential problems such as chattiness and latency that are amplified in the cloud.

2. How do you find server-related root causes when performance issues arise?

In fully-dedicated environments, we sometimes use infrastructure metrics and events to diagnose performance issues. But inferring application performance from tier-based statistics becomes challenging – if not impossible – when applications share dynamically allocated resources. In the cloud, you must be able to understand application performance and its correlation with the underlying physical and virtual components.

3. How can you minimize the risk of change to the cloud infrastructure or the application?

In a shared environment, any change to the application, or to the infrastructure, is high risk. Cloud owners, operations staff and application teams must be able to test the impact of change on service delivery – whether that change is in an application before deployment, or in the cloud infrastructure.

4. How do you implement or verify chargeback?

Traditional application performance monitoring (APM) tools do not collect resource utilization per transaction to enable business-aligned costing and chargeback paradigms. For the cloud, you need a solution that monitors consumption for every service across multiple applications and tiers, so you can accurately cost services, decide on appropriate chargeback schemes, and tune applications and infrastructure for better resource utilization and lower cost.

5. How do you ensure that services are allocated according to business priority?

To ensure that SLAs in the cloud are met, you must be able to prioritize the allocation of resources based on measurements of real end user performance and an accurate view of where additional resources can truly alleviate SLA risks. To make that possible, you need a clear picture of resource consumption at the transaction level and business intelligence about the impact of each infrastructure tier on performance.

6. How can you maintain a real-time up-to-date view of how each service flows through the cloud when VMs are moving around dynamically?

In the cloud more than ever, you need a real-time picture of service dependencies that does not need to be manually updated. The environment is simply too dynamic (e.g. so called “VMotion sickness”) to make it feasible to keep manual models and static infrastructure dependency maps up to date.

7. How can you right-size capacity and prevent over-provisioning that undercuts ROI?

In the cloud, a complete history of all transaction instances, including precise resource utilization metrics and SLAs, is essential for making intelligent decisions about provisioning. And with an accurate picture of resource consumption for each business transaction, cloud owners can plan future capacity requirements (e.g. servers, storage, VMs, databases) in the most cost-efficient manner possible.

Russell Rothstein is Vice President of Product Marketing at OpTier, a supplier of software for cloud performance management, application performance management and business transaction management. Follow him on twitter at russrothsteinit

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We’re introducing a new event to Cloud Connect this year, and it’s an indication of how much utility computing has matured since last year’s inaugural event.  Here are some thoughts on the Cloud Performance Summit, and why performance may be this year’s hot topic for on-demand computing.

In the early stages of any industry, the discussions focus on the “why” and “what.” Clouds are no different: we wanted to know what clouds were—with the inevitable debate over taxonomy and definition—and we hunted for reasons to embrace them, or to refuse them, depending on our own agendas.

But by now, most enterprise IT professionals have accepted that cloud technology is inevitable, and that third-party cloud providers deserve a place in their toolbox. Put another way, we’ve moved from tender embraces and heated arguments to the dispassionate world of the prenup. We want to know, can clouds deliver, and if they can’t, what can we do about it?

Performance is a tough subject. For one thing, cloud providers offer a shared resource. It’s the basis of their economic value proposition. And a shared resource means things like oversubscription, badly-behaved neighbors, and having to fight for service quality.

But it’s not just about sharing computing resources with others. For decades, IT has worked with a simple equation, namely, that the performance of a system is a function of how many people use it, and how much capacity it has. Roughly speaking, more users means a slower application, and more computers means a faster one.

Clouds offer capacity on demand. They’re elastic. Which means that in the demand/capacity equation, capacity is effectively limitless. If you want things to go faster, you can pay for additional capacity. And that’s why performance matters: it’s directly tied to your costs.

Consider air conditioning. With your own power, there’s a limit to how much you can cool a house. If you want it colder, you don’t have enough electricity to run your appliances; if you add a bigger generator, you can cool it more. But once you’re hooked up to an electrical grid, you can cool the house far more—and your bill will show that. With clouds, it’s not cooling, it’s performance.

Badly written code costs money, too, when you’re paying by compute cycle. Amazon’s Cloudfront CDN is forcing other application accelerators to offer pay-as-you-go pricing, which means more and more of the performance problem is now a billable cost.

At Interop New York, a panel of performance experts concluded that performance may in fact be a bigger problem than security—after all, there are security certifications on which customers can rely, but there’s precious little guidance when it comes to outages and latency. A Queen Mary University study concluded that the vast majority of cloud providers offer no guarantees in their terms of service, and if they do, then compensation is limited to a refund of service costs.

Making things even worse is the complexity of cloud deployments, which often involve many providers and components, and are harder to diagnose and instrument than in-house, centralized applications.

So we’re really excited about the summit. It’s bringing together vendors, end users, and performance experts in a relatively informal, open format to discuss some of these hard issues. It’s the first time we’re running it, but we’re already certain it won’t be the last.

Published by

Paige Finkelman

Who doesn’t like a bit of healthy competition? We certainly do, and so the Launch Pad contest is returning to Cloud Connect 2011. The event’s sophomore year marks significant growth not only for the show, but for this market as well.

Launch Pad 2010

Launch Pad 2010

At its core, Launch Pad is an opportunity to celebrate innovation. The competition began on November 20, 2010 – we invited any and all cloudy companies to tell us in 140 characters or less what makes them Launch Pad worthy. Our criteria is simple: we want to hear what new things companies that play in the cloud space are up to 2011. This could be a new product, new version, new integration point, new partnership — anything new within the calendar year.

The Cloud Connect Jury took a look over the Twitter submissions and whittled down the entrants to 8 semi-finalists. The semi-finalists each created a 3 minute video pitching their product. You can take a peek at the video submissions here. On January 13, 2011 we asked the community to vote for their favorite video, and the four companies with the most votes were announced earlier today. A hearty congratulations to:

The Final Four had to jump through several hoops to make it this far, and one more obstacle remains. On March 9, 2011 they’ll take to the Cloud Connect keynote stage to give a live 5 minute presentation. Our audience will cast their vote via Mozes to crown the 2011 People’s Choice Winner.

This year I’m very excited to share that for every person that votes for their favorite Launch Pad nominee on March 9, a donation will be made to, an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need.

A big thank you to everyone who participated in the contest, especially the semi-finalists and the Jury members. We appreciate your involvement and enthusiasm! More details on the competition, including rules and prizes, can be found on the official Launch Pad site.

Published by

Manuela Farrell

Great post on Netflix’s move to the Cloud, and the reasoning behind their choice of 3 NoSQL tools: SimpleDB, Hadoop/HBase and Cassandra. Get a glimpse of what Netflix will cover at Cloud Connect.

Kevin McEntee, Vice President of Systems Engineering at Netflix is a keynote speaker on March 8th, and Adrian Cockcroft, Cloud Architect at Netflix is speaking in the Private Clouds track at the conference as well.

Just two of a long list of great speakers confirmed so far.

Published by

Manuela Farrell

David Chou, Technical Architect at Microsoft is speaking in the Design Patterns track at Cloud Connect, a unique track made up of lectures from Amazon, Microsoft, VMware and Cloud Event Processing. David’s session, Building Highly Scalable Java Applications on Windows Azure, is scheduled for March 8th at 1:15.  His newest blog post on designing for cloud optimized architecture gives a little preview of what you can expect at Cloud Connect.  Great read.

Go to the speaker list for info on Cloud Connect’s impressive roster of speakers.


4 Days in the Cloud

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Cloud Connect 2011 is shaping up to be a superb event. As utility computing becomes a tool in the enterprise IT tool chest, we’re adjusting the curriculum. So this year, there’s a focus on performance, measuring and management of clouds — something enterprises demand. There’s more emphasis on cloud security. And there’s a detailed look at how to connect on-premise and on-demand computing resources.

But at the same time that the industry is becoming more mature, there are still many IT professionals who need a foundational understanding of what it means to use clouds. To accommodate this, we’ve also put together a “cloud crash course” pre-conference workshop that tackles many of the fundamental changes that clouds bring about — from throw-away servers, to eventually consistent data, to sharding, to the end of perimeter security.

As with last year, we’ll start with a day of in-depth workshops, and then we’ll have three days of conference sessions and fast-paced, thought-provoking keynotes. Last year, we really pushed the envelope on the main stage, and we’re working hard to bring the same short, packed format this year.

- Alistair Croll
Conference Chair, Cloud Connect

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