In recent data center conferences, one thing that attracted my attention was cloud computing. For most people on the facilities side of the data center, cloud computing is pretty new. One keynote speaker emphasized the importance of cloud computing, and data center operators should take notice of it.
OK, you take notice, and what do you do to prepare for this tsunami? I discussed this with people at some interesting companies, such as OpSource, QualityTech, and Grid Dynamics. OpSource provides its cloud computing services as if it were a private cloud (I named it private external) without a data center.
Once upon a time, a Yahoo research executive said that there would be only five clouds (computers) in the world because it is very capital intensive to prepare backbones of cloud computing, which require gigantic data centers, huge amounts of IT gear, software, support staff, and so on. This may have been true at the time, but times are changing. If you detach cloud computing from a data center (container) as OpSource does, your capex for creating cloud computing goes down substantially. In addition to cutting costs, this allows you to implement cloud computing at any geographical location you like. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot access any cloud at any location. Because an electron cannot travel faster than the speed of light, we still need to worry about latency. A combination of something like OpSource’s technique and large, well-designed data centers that take advantage of economies of scale would be ideal for implementing cloud computing energy efficiently.
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How about data center operators themselves? Is cloud computing a curse or a blessing to them? Those who do not understand the internal working of cloud computing claim that it replaces data centers, and therefore data center operators are doomed. As above, if a small number (but certainly more than five) of huge cloud players dominate the market, then large, medium, and small data center operators will be wiped out.
Some disagree with that scenario. Data center operators I’ve talked with see cloud computing becoming mainstream over time, but even if that is the case, demand for colocation will not disappear. Some customers will still want to colocate their gear in a nearby data center. Data center operators also see an opportunity to team up with managed service providers and cloud system integrators like Grid Dynamics. One such example is Terremark’s partnership with VMware to provide cloud computing at an infrastructure level.
Another point of data centers is worth mentioning. An interesting feature of cloud is that from the outside the way it is implemented is completely transparent. It does not have to consist of one data center. One cloud may be implemented by more than one cloud. One large cloud player may run out of computing resources when an unforeseen demand occurs. If it has some contracts with several smaller data center players to provide their excess capacity, those data centers can provide their capacity to the larger one to meet the demand.
In this way, the large cloud provider does not have to overprovision too much. Smaller ones also can make their otherwise idle capacity available. I have been wondering about the greenness of cloud computing from the provider perspective. Maybe this is the way to go to make cloud computing green from both customer and provider perspectives.