The Business of Clouds and the Risks of Being There

A session at ECS lead by

  • Drew Bartkiewicz, Vice President of Cyber Risk and New Media Markets, The Hartford
  • Robert Parisi, SVP & National Technology, Network Risk & Telecommunications Practice Leader, FINPRO, Marsh USA


Drew: “The profession of a cloudster is yet to be written.”

Bob: “Are you giving someone a threat that they are unable to handle? It’s like giving your 16 year old the keys to the Camaro”

Drew: “Developers are doing things that CEOs don’t know about. The costs are low. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. You need to set guidelines for your developers.”

Slides: “The original assumptions for business risk and liability are no longer valid. However, it appears that the upside outweighs the downside.”

Drew: “Where does contextual marketing stop and surveillance begin?”

Drew: Two words that came up a lot today – Uncertainty (12 times) and Aggregation (I lost count)

Drew: “There are eight examples of companies that were sued not for their lack of professional standards but for the lack of professional standards of their users. Companies need to be aware of this risk.”

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Where can things go wrong?

Greg Ness, Marketing Executive, Infoblox led a panel of four speakers to explore the dark side of cloud computing.

The speakers are:

  • Peter Coffee, Director, Platform Research,
  • Randy Rowland, General Manager, Managed Hosting & Cloud Computing Services, Terremark Worldwide, Inc.
  • Geva Perry, Founder, Thinking Out Cloud
  • Bill McGee, Vice President, Products and Technology, Third Brigade

What types of cloud architectures are there and are they all alike?

Peter Coffee: “It would be a mistake to think that cloud computing is a whole new thing” It’s more useful to look at what they have in common with enterprise deployment.

Geva: Although there are some services such as Hadoop are uniquely tailored to take advantage of cloud architecture. ”

Peter (a bit later on): There are new skill sets, there is experimentation to be done and things to learn. It’s like replacing a horse pulling a horse drawn carriage with a big motor – you need to tailor to the environment you will be running in.

Are all cloud vendors offering the same thing?

Continue reading “Where can things go wrong?”

Is the future of IT managing scripts?

This is the question Alistair Croll first asked Werner Vogels in the fireside chat session at ECS. Werner admitted he’d been caught off guard by the question but admitted that the future is automation for sure and scripts are powerful tools to achieve this.

An example of an enterprise use case for cloud computing

Werner related the case of the NASDAQ which had a lack of capital, which was restricting innovation and making it difficult for them to solve the technical problems around handling complex historical stock queries.

They solved this by having every ticker symbol for 10 minutes written to a text file in Amazon S3. An Adobe Air application was created which allowed you to specify a symbol and a date range. The app would download the text files for that time period – meaning you can do joins, queries etc. The computation is done by the customer’s desktop which means there is no resource investment. They were able to use cloud technology to keep things “nice and simple”

Cost savings can include people

Werner talked about the idea that when assessing the cost of cloud computing versus in-house infrastructure, you have to think about the total cost of ownership not just hardware. Werner talked about the example of the Indy 500. He said they have a very nice website which offers a flash environment with multiple video streams including views from the cockpits of drivers’ cars with audio feeds and telemetry. This is a high load application but it only runs three times a year. They found that they had to move a lot of engineers into data centers to keep their servers up. When they moved to cloud infrastructure they made 75% cost savings, the majority of which was on the people side; now they can manage everything from their armchair at home.

On Amazon direction and strategy

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My Kingdom for a Definition (and a taxonomy)

Peter Laird, Architect at Tendril Networks, addressed the Enterprise Cloud Summit to try and provide a taxonomy of cloud computing. He talked first about the difficulties of defining some recent popular terms in computing – Web2.0, mashup, REST. Cloud Computing suffers the same problem – it becomes popular, and people jump on the bandwagon before a strict definition has emerged.

What is Cloud Computing?

Peter collected together some definitions from other cloud computing experts, from the last couple of years.

  • Werner Vogels of Amazon, said that cloud computing means “all the resources you want, infinite capacity living outside in the cloud on the internet for you to use”
  • Lew Moorman of Rackspace says cloud computing has 3 characteristics: Pooled computing, powered by software, delivered over the web.
  • Thorsten von Eicken of Rightscale said that cloud computing means “Outsourced, pay as you go, on demand, somewhere on the internet.
  • Joe Weinman of AT&T created an acronym: Common, Location-independent, Online, Utility, on-Demand.
  • Geva Perry of Thinking out Cloud, gave a more technical definition “Computing infrastructure and application platforms that are self-healing, SLA-driven, Multi-tenancy, Service-oriented, Virtualized, Linearly Scalable, Data”

Peter observed that taxonomies break down into three types: simple and pragmatic, or academic, or vendor-driven.

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Enterprise Cloud Summit is underway

Alistair Croll opens Enterprise Cloud Summit 2009

Alistair Croll today opened the Enterprise Cloud Summit in Las Vegas by drawing analogies between cloud computing and the early days of electricity generation.

It used to be that companies would have their own generators, they had generator rooms and technicians much like we have server rooms and techies that run them now.

What happened was a major shift; the creation of a grid enabled the separation of electricity generation from usage. Power didn’t have to be next to the work being done. This enabled cost savings for all electricity users and meant that anyone could make use of the grid to power their businesses, not just the largest companies.

The question is, is cloud computing like electricity? Are we moving to a utility model of computing? Continue reading “Enterprise Cloud Summit is underway” is live!

The Interop Cloud

Along with our partners at Syntenic, we’ve been busy putting the finishing touches to the ECS cloud computing demonstrations.

We now have a video messaging application running in the cloud, with four different front-ends running via four different cloud vendors (Amazon Web Services, Rightscale, Skytap and Google App Engine) but all connecting to the same back end for video transcoding and database access. We also have a version of the application which can run in-house or in the cloud, without any code changes, using 10gen’s MongoDB, and we’ve been able to load test our application with SOASTA’s CloudTest service.

If that’s not cloud interoperability, then we don’t know what is!

All of these things will be demonstrated live in six short demos through the course of the Enterprise Cloud Summit 2009 on Monday and Tuesday in Las Vegas.

We’re almost ready to let everyone loose on the application, but to avoid any last-minute technical issues we’re going to wait until the day of the demo before going live.

In the meantime, we’ve launched where you can find links to the different cloud companies involved, and you can also download a colour brochure explaining the demos in more detail. This site will also be used to give access to the demo applications during and after Interop.

A Demonstration of Cloud Computing – ECS 09

Since the dawn of Cloud Computing, there’s been a lot of talk about interoperability. Much of this has included discussions around working groups on interoperability and plans for open cloud standards. While this is well-intentioned, and portability across clouds is a noble goal, but practical demonstrations of cloud interoperability have been few and far between.

Many vendors have demonstrated their individual cloud’s capabilities, but for the 2009 Enterprise Cloud Summit we wanted to do something different.

The ECS Video Messaging Application

For the last few months, Syntenic and Bitcurrent have been working on a sample cloud application designed to showcase the power (and limitations) of cloud computing. The resulting application, based on the Panda open source project, lets users upload and label video content that is then transcoded into a variety of formats. Put simply, it’s like Twitter with video.

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Interop Las Vegas: Cloud Week

Interop Vegas is turning into cloud week. I put together a quick schedule of the event, spanning four days in Las Vegas.

The week includes:

  • The Enterprise Cloud Summit, a 2-day paid workshop on how enterprises can use cloud computing.
  • The Interop General Conference, which includes a Cloud Computing and a SaaS track–the latter being run by Jeff Kaplan and Scott and Chris at Tripletree.
  • A CloudCamp event that Interop and Bitcurrent are sponsoring which will bring in Dave Nielsen and some of the other CloudCamp creators.
  • An Unconference event open to all attendees, which has become an Interop tradition.

If you want to attend Interop, we’ve got a $100 discount code for the general conference. Expo passes, which will get you into CloudCamp and Unconference too, are free.

Enterprise Cloud Summit '09

Enterprise Cloud Summit is getting ready to launch. We’ve listed some of the speakers, panelists, and participants for the event, and I’m pleased to say they include some of the most interesting thinkers in cloud computing: Werner Vogels from Amazon, Ben Black from Opscode, Mike Repass from Google, Lew Moorman from Rackspace, and lots of others. We also have folks from Forrester and Booz Allen Hamilton joining us.

One of the things I’m most excited about, however, is the demos. Dan Koffler of Syntenic is coordinating six live demos over the two days, showing how to build, run, and scale cloud-based applications. It’s always dangerous to do a live demo at an event, so we figured we’d get on the bleeding edge and run six of them, back to back.

ECS is a paid event that’s happening in conjunction with Interop Las Vegas. Since Bitcurrent is running the event for the folks at Interop, they gave us a $100 discount that you can use by following this link this link.

A new take on cloud taxonomies: Migration

I was on a panel in the Bay Area a couple of weeks ago at Cloudconnect. As always, the topic of cloud taxonomies came up. It’s hard to discuss clouds without having a framework about which to discuss them. But taxonomies abound (with good ones from James Urquhart, Peter Laird, David Chappell, John M. Willis, Christopher Hoff, and Sam Charrington) and there’s no clear winner.

I came up with a new way to look at them, which didn’t immediately embarrass me. So here it is, for you to tear apart.

The problem with clouds, you see, is that  criticism levelled at one kind of cloud is a strength of another. For example, infrastructure-centric clouds where IT operators still need to add machines to grow aren’t inherently scaleable; whereas service-oriented clouds that “just work” aren’t as open.

So this model — which I’ll call the “cloud migration taxonomy” for want of a better label, looks at the issue in a way that matters to enterprises: How do I migrate to the cloud?

Here’s how to read the diagram:

  • If you have an existing data center application (say a WordPress instance, or a JBoss server) you can migrate to an infrastructure-centric cloud such as EC2 by simply building a machine image in the cloud. There are companies like rPath that can help with this, and Amazon has a payment system that lets firms like Red Hat get a share of the proceeds from your cloud usage.
  • If you have app code you like, and want to simply “paste” it into a form, you can do so with a service-centric cloud. If you wrote something in Python, you can take that code, tweak it (to remove cloud-incompatible functions such as RDBMS joins) and paste it into App Engine. Microsoft is betting that legions of Windows developers will take the server code they’re familiar with and port it to Azure. This is also why Joyent bought Reasonablysmart, so it has a service-centric cloud offering.
  • The next level of cloud use is to rewrite the process. If you have an in-house process — say, trouble ticketing — that was written on a legacy system (Fortran on a mainframe) you can’t just move it to the cloud. Instead, you’re going to map the business process, and then use a tool to recreate that process in the cloud. This is where Platform-as-a-Service companies like Coghead, Quickbase, Longjump, and many others can play. The app won’t be sexy; but then, neither was your legacy one.
  • At the highest level is Software-as-a-Service. Here, you’re simply copying your content to the cloud app. You might be saving your directory full of Word documents to Zoho, or Google Apps, or Microsoft Office Live. The only thing you’re migrating is the content itself.

When you’re trying to figure out how to embrace the cloud, these are your four options. The lower down you go, the more control you have (and the more work and testing you need to do); the higher up you go, the more turnkey (but the less flexibility and customization you get.) It’s that simple.

There are vendors who blur these lines, of course. Salesforce has SaaS, PaaS, and (arguably) a Service-centric cloud. Google certainly offers Apps, App Engine, and a number of tools like Googlebase that sit in the middle.

Anyway, I’m kinda sick of taxonomies, but what I like about this perspective is that it’s oriented to the issue of enterprise cloud migration that we’re all going to deal with in 2009. It’s going to be front and center at the Enterprise Cloud Summit (ECS) in Vegas (where, amazingly enough, most of the people who’ve been driving the taxonomy debate will all be gathering.)