Don't judge a cloud by its cover

I just finished watching a presentation on Eucalyptus, an open source layer for cloud computing that emulates Amazon’s EC2.

The Eucalyptus team replicated nearly all of EC2. They know this because they pulled down Amazon’s Web Services Description Language (WSDL), which describes the various function calls someone can make to Amazon, and made sure Eucalyptus could do the same thing. It’s not a secret; in fact, you can check it out here.

This raises an interesting point. For a traditional desktop developer, if two interfaces are identical, then writing code to one means it will work on the other just fine. But there are two other things to consider if you’re choosing a cloud platform: Operational reliability, and network effects.

The first one’s pretty basic: Don’t use someone who can’t keep their cloud running.

The second one is less obvious: The value of a cloud service isn’t just what it does; it’s also how many people use it.

For example:

In other words, when considering a cloud’s services, we can’t just look at the richness of the APIs it offers. We have to also consider the network effects it enjoys.

Power panels at Structure '08

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to moderate a panel on next-generation databases at Web2Expo. Having database greats Brian Aker, Dave Campbell, and Matt Domo in one place made for great dialogue. In addition to finding out whether RDBMS is dead, we looked at the big challenges of data storage (synchronization, working offline, and a shift towards specialized data models.)

We even found out how these three datascenti track their contacts (MySQL’s Aker uses scripts he wrote; Microsoft’s Campbell uses Outlook.)

Then last week at Interop, I had folks from platform companies like Google, Amazon, and Opsource together with a number of startups and virtualization tool makers. Again, great dialogue, even on the five-person panel that ran over. This time, the consensus seemed to be that on-demand computing was great for bursty capacity and highly parallel tasks, but lacked the controls, management tools, and SLAs to be a production platform for enterprises at the moment.

But Structure promises to be the most compressed discussion yet. Om Malik, the guy behind the event, says it’s about two things: Learning how the new web is built from the architects that built it; and networking with investors who “are looking to place their bets on cloud computing” and see it as a huge opportunity. “Structure 08 is about Getting Web Done,” says Malik.
I have two panels on the same day to moderate:

  • Cloud Computing: Infrastructure for Entrepreneurs, featuring Geva Perry, CMO of GigaSpaces; Jason Hoffman, CTO of Joyent, Tony Lucas, CEO of XCalibre; Lew Moorman, SVP Strategy of Rackspace; Christophe Bisciglia, senior software engineer at Google; and Joseph Weinman, corporate development and strategy at AT&T.
  • Scaling to Satiate Demand: Tactics from the pioneers, with Sandy Jen, co-founder and VP Engineering of Meebo; Akash Garg, CTO of Hi5, Jeremiah Robinson, CTO of Slide; and Jonathan Heiliger, VP Technical Operations of Facebook.

Each of these will be a fast-and-furious fifty-minute discussion around on-demand computing and the ability to scale. Time to come up with some pithy questions and awkward follow-ups.

Any sugggestions?