Cloud Computing

August 28, 2009 – 10:14 pm

I attended CloudCamp at Google HQ in Sydney last night. Interesting mix of attendees. Lots of discussion.

“Cloud Computing”, is a hot buzzword at the moment. Probably used most often by people who have no idea what it means. Some people use it and have AN idea, but its different to the idea that other people have. Arguments result. People get tired of hearing the term.  There is good stuff behind the hype however.

NIST have released a draft definition paper. If we can all agree on what to call things, then we can come out of the hype phase and start figuring out what is good when and for what (etc).

Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.

Another way of describing “cloud” is “the stuff i don’t have to care about”. This has been used in various forms by a range of leading minds in the area. I didn’t make that up.  It’s a pretty good definition I think.  It’s common practice for network engineers draw clouds on their network diagrams to represent bits of network they don’t control, usually service provider networks.  Cloud Computing works the same way. “They give me computing resources of a particular type with a service description and an SLA and I don’t need to worry about the details”.  If you need a certain amount of security, get it in the contract. If you need a certain guaranteed performance, get that in the contract too.

It’s early days. Cloud Computing offerings are still maturing. The types of offerings are still evolving.  In my opinion, there are some exciting changes starting to happen.

IT departments in many or most enterprises are in an ongoing wrestle with their business masters. Both sides complain about the other, saying they don’t understand, they don’t deliver or don’t listen.  When IT departments don’t support their businesses, wholesale outsourcing usually results. However that’s had limited success and it’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  You need healthy competition for an optimum result.  An internal IT department effectively has a monopoly, holding the business to ransom. Outsourcing the lot just moves that monopoly elsewhere.  We need to eliminate this monopoly situation.

Network services have become a commodity because we now have standard networks. Everyone uses IP, ethernet, MPLS etc.  Switching from one carrier to another is a relatively painless process. Many companies use a mix, moving traffic and infrastructure onto one or the other over time. Competition is good!

Cloud computing has the same potential. Running your company’s servers or apps on a service provider’s platform and being able to move from one service provider to another easilly is key. Hooray, true competition!

Yes, this will most likely mean lots of job losses in IT departments all over the globe.  But this is a change that needs to happen.  If you work in IT, ask yourself, “how am I contributing to the profitability of my company?” If you can’t answer that, you better make some career changes so that you can.

Company executives will start looking at IT departments as business enablers, not just a cost.

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