Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cloud computing vision

Blog Has Moved

Link to the same post in the new blog: Cloud computing vision

Cloud computing is the latest buzz on the Internet this days.
What does it mean to us and where does the future of Cloud computing goes?

Some background
In the mid 90's, we had Citrix, with its vision for server based-computing.
Works similar to the Mainframe idea who came couple of decades before - you put all your resources on one server, and thin clients connect to receive resources.
Couple of years later, we had new buzz, called ASP (Application service provider), which according to Wikipedia is a business that provides computer-based services to customers over a network.
Few years later, ASP changed its name to SaaS (Software as a service), which also referred to as software on demand.
In between, we had VMware who presented to world (at least the most famous) server virtualization.

What is Cloud Computing?
According to Wikipedia, Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand, like the electricity grid.
The idea of Cloud computing, enables the customers to avoid investing money on hardware and network equipment, and instead, renting usage from third-party provider.
Cloud computing has the following key features:
* Agility improves with users' ability to rapidly and inexpensively re-provision technological infrastructure resources.
* Cost is claimed to be greatly reduced.
* Device and location independence enable users to access systems using a web browser regardless of their location or what device they are using (e.g., PC, mobile).
* Multi-tenancy enables sharing of resources and costs across a large pool of users.
* Reliability is improved if multiple redundant sites are used, which makes well designed cloud computing suitable for business continuity and disaster recovery.
* Scalability via dynamic ("on-demand") provisioning of resources on a fine-grained, self-service basis near real-time, without users having to engineer for peak loads.
* Maintenance cloud computing applications are easier to maintain, since they don't have to be installed on each user's computer.
* Metering cloud computing resources usage should be measurable and should be metered per client and application on daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis.

The confusion point and vision
People tend to confuse between companies moving their data-centers and applications toward the cloud, and actual Cloud computing providers.
A real Cloud computing provider is built from large-scale data centers around the world.
Each rack is built from cheap (to manufacture) hot-swappable hardware - it's time to say goodbye to 1U-4U servers from all major vendors (HP, IBM, DELL, SUN, etc).
Each blade has many core CPU (4-core, 6-core and above), with allot of memory (as much as the hardware supports).
Each blade is connected to large-scale storage grid.
Everything must be redundant - you must be able to add new racks on-demand, without affecting any customer.
Servers, network equipment and storage devices must be configured in active-active clusters.
Data should be replicated on the fly between data centers across the world, in-order to provide 24/7 availability.
Guest operating system must be able to move between physical servers, transparently, as VMware introduced in its VMotion technology.
Server maintenance should be performed on schedule basis - since everything is transparent to the customer, firmware upgrades, patch management and software/application upgrades will not affect any customer.
The hardware/network/storage layer should be separated from the application layer, so that current SaaS companies will be able to integrate their current applications to the cloud era, and work transparently with Cloud computing infrastructure.

Cloud computing Achilles
The thing that drives most people off the cloud is security.
Customers can't physically protect their hardware, since they don't own it.
Customers having troubles protecting their data, since everything is built on virtual machines, connected to shared virtual storage.
I hope that in the near future information security professionals will be able to close this gap, and enable customers transparent, cheap and secure solutions.



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