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Andrew McCreath's Blog

  • Simplicity and ‘The Cloud’

    Many years back I read a great book by Jack Trout & Steve Rivkin on the Power of Simplicity. It has become part of my daily ethic when talking to peers, clients and when I get home I even use it with my kids!

    Nobody really wants to be bamboozled with complicated explanations, and those that try to do the bamboozling are often lost is a hazy vision in the first place. Vision is for dreamers, the ability to bring vision in to a strategy is where the smart people come in. Let’s face it we can all watch an episode of Star Trek and think “how cool are warp drives and photon cannons”, but unless somebody turns that in to reality then is remains in the fiction drawer and never sees the light of day.

    So what’s happening with this term ‘The Cloud’ then? Well, simply put many folks are calling themselves cloud when they’re not a cloud, others are calling themselves cloud application providers, or cloud networks, etc, etc ,etc, the list goes on. It appears that if you put the work cloud in front of your primary marketed product then you are in-the-cloud-game!... WRONG!
    Any single organisation that calls themselves a cloud must be scrutinised closely. By implication a cloud is a heterogeneous common platform for on demand compute resource that is available everywhere to anyone at anytime.

    So simply put, how does one create a cloud. Well, one doesn’t, many do. It is going to take all service and compute providers to come together and agree a common architecture for platform integration. We have seen the starts of this with the VCE Alliance for example, where VMware, Cisco and EMC created a journey for their customers to take in the Private Cloud Formation, this involved the three main components in the infrastructure (Storage, Compute and Network), working together to form a service. Now you have a building block (or common hosted platform) for your Private Cloud, what do you do next? Well you need to make it available which means you need scalable architecture across sites. No point having a Cloud Compute capability in one country when the world runs 7x24! Major in-country disruptions through internet, power, strike-action, or any other number of potential business hazards, could lead to a complete outage; much like the recent O2 network, and Google mail.

    So now you have a common hosted platform, a Private Cloud, serving your organisation you are ready, and indeed waiting, for the industry to provide a common-link. How do you connect with somebody else in the Cloud arena? And what controls, security and data protection is on offer? No point sharing somebody else’s cloud if they’re going to be taken over by a competitor, or worse go bankrupt! How do you control the data in this cloud and stop it wandering off anywhere else.

    This is going to be the stumbling block of full cloud formation for many years to come, and indeed prevents many Private Clouds from being much more than Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). EMC has Atmos Online which delivers cloud computing for the enterprise, real world storage and compute capability- http://www.emccis.com . Admittedly it is only out of the Americas right now, but it is a huge step forward in actually offering tangible cloud services. Need a virtual server or set of virtual servers, grab Atmos Online Compute services, install your application, control your own systems, and hey presto you’re up and running. Now that is simple! The first real option for anyone to take a cloud service. Interesting, I think so, especially if you consider what must be going on “in the private cloud”....
  • What is in the cloud?

    Cloud computing

    The next logical stage in virtualisation is to have your part or all of your IT infrastructure spread across the so called cloud and not worry about where it's all based.

     

    Here then, we look at the cloud in an holistic manner - can it be closely defined or is it - as its name would suggest - too nebulous a concept to pin down completely right now?

     

    There's a lot of buzz surrounding 'the cloud' right now, but what is it exactly? And what ISN'T it? Will it really change the way we consume IT and the IT market landscape or is all that just so much hype? Accordingly, how should organisations look at and approach Cloud Computing? This piece will place virtualisation in the context of part of an ongoing strategy rather than as an end in itself; as part of a longer-term plan / the future of IT.

     

     

    Cloud computing can be considered to have been brought about by the needs of the business to de-skill IT and manage services rather than technology.

    Do companies have cloud computing? For the most part, probably not. Maybe some form of pan-geographic, highly available systems, but they’re not likely to own a service on demand computing model, which will only charge them for what they use. They have spend capital funding to acquire the infrastructure, and have ongoing operating expenses to support them

     

    Cloud is considered to be an outsourced compute resource on which an organisation may scale in to and upwards depending on the needs of their business. It also is a means for end users to leverage online services or tools such as e-mail, applications such Google Doc and web services.

    It is becoming easier and less expensive for people/ companies to have a slice of IT services without having to spend capital funds on deploying their own infrastructure, and suffer the ongoing cost of support and maintenance. These are now commonly referred to as the External Cloud.

     

    How does virtualisation fit in to this equation then? Well it is a service enable for the Internal Cloud, much like any other tool is provides flexibility and resource management.

    We have had application virtualisation for a long time which has enabled internet services to spread themselves across multiple computing resources, and let us not forget the mainframe application virtualisation.

    Hypervisor virtualisation products (VMware, Microsoft, Xen, Parallels, etc) have one common goal, and that is to provide a unity of compute power to the end service, across multiple physical assets, in a near transparent manor. They are a key strategy in most organisations with many servers.

    The competitiveness from the virtualisation vendors is around performance capability, functionality and holistic application support. Those who cover these three key points will have a long term position in the virtualisation market place and indeed the creation of cloud operating systems. Those that consider themselves as anything else will have a shelf-life of a few years and require re-invention.

     

    The current vSphere offering, along with vStorage (V-MAX from EMC) and vNetwork (Nexus 1000V from Cisco) all add up to a single solid offering to support the next generation virtualised Data Centre, and enable Internal Cloud creation. More importantly this alliance will offer a common interface to the External Cloud suppliers, enabling companies to lease additional compute power seamlessly.

     

    As the end user becomes a larger factor in the requirement for cloud computing services, then the notion of owning a desktop application or even a high performing desktop/ laptop will subside, as more online services are created. Online gaming, online applications, online banking…. These are all simple precursors to the cloud and getting us, the end user, ready for change.

     

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