Some Basics of Cloud Computing in 10 Minutes

The recent Open Cloud Conference was a little different from other conferences on cloud computing. It was not big compared with other nationwide conferences, but it attracted a lot of technology geeks and practitioners of cloud computing. Most people were casually dressed (more relaxed than even standard Silicon Valley attire), and most of them were men.

The conference was divided into very techie, hands-on workshops on actually hacking something on-the-fly and not so technical ones. It has been so many years since I hacked code, and I did not catch up with the conversations exchanged in the workshops, so I mostly attended keynote speeches and not so technical sessions. Other cloud conferences offer many different subjects, including markets and businesses, to attract a large audience. Yes, those things were discussed during the not so technical sessions, but there was something that was different from other nontechnical sessions in other conferences. I cannot say it very well, but my analysis is that the not so technical sessions were more technical than the general discussions of cloud computing in other conferences. Even though I thought I already knew the basics of cloud computing, many of the talks were geared towards technical folks, and I enjoyed them very much. In this blog and others to follow, I plan to summarize these discussions and inject my thoughts. I actually have written a blog on open source cloud computing.

In this blog, I would like to concentrate on Gordon Haff’s talk on cloud computing.

Gordon Haff of Red Hat

The stuff he covered was pretty basic, but I guarantee that you will appreciate what he said. It will give you an even better understanding of cloud computing. Here goes.

Gordon made five points about cloud computing.

Point 1

What is the fundamental difference between cloud computing and traditional enterprise IT? The next slide says it all, and I guess no explanation is necessary. Many people have made similar points, but this presentation summarizes the key points well. Remember that this is about public cloud. Public cloud went far in cultivating the cloud market, and private cloud is an attempt to duplicate that success in a private environment for enterprises. In a separate panel discussion, Nati Shalon of GigaSpaces summarized it very well. He said public cloud was all about productivity, while private cloud was about control. As the slide shows, public cloud enhances productivity in terms of agility and resource conservation (both cost and time). What is missing in this slide is control and security. Security is addressed in a following slide.

The control issue is sketched out in the following slide. Public cloud is great when we can ignore the issues listed on the left side, such as risk, compliance, guarantee, and differentiation points. In other words, enterprise adoption requires those issues to be resolved or at least for a compromise between risks and productivity to be reached after careful consideration.

Point 2

Cloud is fundamentally a computing model for data created by mobility, which is increasingly adding new types of data, such as context-aware data like locations and environments. Of course, stationary sensors placed at strategic locations of buildings, data centers, and smart grid systems also add to those data. The data that are generated, collected, and accumulated form Big Data, which is becoming a place for treasure hunting. Cloud is becoming the computing of choice for Big Data because of its traits, listed next to the cloud computing arrow in the following slide.

Of course, open source plays a large role in this, but even with a bunch of open source solutions for cloud computing, we still have very limited standardization. See my old post.

Automation, scalability, and self-service are all necessary for coping with this huge amount of data, or even to make heads or tails of it.

Point 3

Openness is a great concept for ICT practitioners. In a given enterprise, there are usually several computing entities invested in separately by different departments. To date, most of them are operated in a silo, independent of each other, and valuable data and information are not shared across departmental barriers. If the barriers are removed, all the investments, whether internal or external, can be used for the benefit of the entire enterprise.

This can be accomplished by open cloud. In the following slide, Gordon showed what is required for open cloud. Although I agree that open source is a big factor, it alone will not accomplish this. Take Linux as an example. In addition to a few dominant distributions, there are quite a large number of other Linux distributions, as indicated here.

Each added its own utilities and libraries to the relatively small Linux core. If this is any indication, open source cloud will diverge in many directions with the small, standard core.

But don’t think I am against open source. On the contrary, I am all for it. Points made in the two following slides are self-explanatory.

 

The existence of the community and ecosystems is important. The entire area of cloud computing is very wide and deep. No single product or service vendor can address all the issues and needs of the market. Therefore, it is very important to cultivate and grow the community and ecosystem as in other market areas.

Point 4

Security remains the largest inhibitor for enterprises to adopt public cloud. In the next slide, Gordon compared enterprise computing and cloud computing. Humans can perceive danger if it is visible, but we tend to ignore invisible threats because we cannot see them. We usually worry about perimeter security because an intruder who cannot pass the iron and cement gate cannot do any harm to our computing infrastructure. That is true, but in the age of ubiquitous connection, simply guarding the perimeter is not enough. We need to pay attention to network and other computing resource security.

Many analysts and experts say that the security available on cloud and hosting providers’ premises is usually much tighter than that of the typical enterprise. The reason given is that those who provide services focus on secure delivery because that is their core value proposition. On the other hand, enterprises worry about security, but securing their computing infrastructure is not their core value of business.

Gordon said that securing everything at an enterprise might give it some security and risk mitigation, but the resulting slow response to ever-changing circumstances might cause it to lose business opportunities.

Point 5

Finally, the following slide is great. Many people have discussed the progression of computing at enterprises. The following is a good way to understand it. Many people are still scratching their heads over the difference between a virtualized data center and a cloud data center.

Many people appreciate that virtualization revolutionized computing at data centers. It allows us to run multiple computing units (virtual machines, or VM) on a single server, cutting the number of necessary servers and increasing server utilization. At this stage, each server is independent and managed by a separate policy. This is a virtualized data center, but it is not a cloud data center. The next level up is a data center with holistic control and management of those virtualized servers with the same automation and policy.

Gordon further refined this model by adding applications and data management. This is where we are headed for. The current issues and interests are in applications (platform-as-a-service, or PaaS) and data.

Cloud people are busy with enhancing cloud functionality and other features like agility. I wonder whether cloud efficiency in terms of less resource consumption will become an issue anytime soon.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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