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Archive for 2008

 

Dissecting SearchDataCenter.com’s “Don’t buy cloud computing hype” post

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008 by

searchdatacenter_logoWell, I thought that I could get away with no more articles in 2008. I guess that I was mistaken. I just read a good article by Chuck Goolsbee on SearchDataCenter.com titled: “Don’t buy cloud computing hype: Business model will evaporate” and I figured that I would put in my 2 cents on some of the items mentioned within.

Goolsbee takes a very pragmatic approach to “slicing through” traditional datacenter hosting (using Occam’s razor to boot), so that he could evaluate each and every aspect of what is contained in a physical environment. To summarize (and I’m paraphrasing, hopefully accurately), he mentions:

  1. Payment Card/eCommerce systems – hard to audit the purchased virtualized hardware within the Cloud
  2. Security – this works with auditing, but is the environment physically secure? Is there “data mingling?”
  3. “Fully acronym-compliant” – is the Cloud HiPAA, SOX, SAS70, GLBA, etc compliant?
  4. Data retention – for legal purposes, how can you ensure data retention?
  5. Cloud Computing Success Stories – pure cloud solution successes are marketing driven
  6. Margins for Cloud Providers – how can a cloud provider keep a good profit margin?
  7. Data Center On-Demand – that is what Cloud Computing is
  8. AWS is only real “successful” cloud provider – they are selling unused capacity
  9. “Buzzword overlap” – SaaS is NOT a cloud

Those are just a few points that I wanted to call out and respond to from my own perspective. First of all, I don’t disagree (completely) with the items that are listed above. Any company looking at the Cloud as the end-all solution for their IT needs may be disappointed unless they fully think it all out. To address the points above:

  1. I somewhat agree with this assessment. It is impossible to fully audit what I call “disposable IT.” However, the shift from CapEx to OpEx means that auditing methods need to be re-evaluated. In the past (and currently), if you wanted to requisition hardware, there was a process for doing so. It took time and had rigorous approval processes built in. Now, with the Cloud, you can do this “on the fly” and servers in the Cloud can be created and disposed of extremely quickly. With data in general, you can never fully have “absolute certainty” with an audit. Compliance requires a “reasonable certainty”, especially since data isn’t persistent in or outside of the Cloud. So, saying that the Cloud model will fail because it isn’t compliant or can’t be audited is erroneous.
  2. Physical security is left to the hosting provider or even to an outsourced 3rd party whose specific job is ensuring security and complaince therein. This is true with traditional datacenters, “cloudcenters” (a term that we at GoGrid are using to describe our Cloud Infrastructure), and even shared hosting. Just as Credit Card fraud initially got a lot of hype due to the launch of eCommerce, security in the Cloud will undergo a similar scrutiny. There is (unconfirmed) more Credit Card fraud that happens over the phone or physically at merchants than with eCommerce. When you choose a hosting provider, cloud or traditional, you need to think about data mingling anyway. Just ask your provider those questions. As standards arise and Government and Enterprise adopt Public and Private Clouds, security, as I have said previously, will be as robust if not more so than traditional centers. As in the Credit Card example, it’s probably safer to use a credit card online now than over the phone, but that depends on the site.
  3. Yes, the ever-persistent acronyms are important. GoGrid and parent company, ServePath, are SAS70 Type II certified, for example. But, these regulatory organizations will ALSO have to adopt to this new business and technology model. This could prevent some traction of the Cloud for a few corporations but I don’t think it will slow down others that much. And audits like we have, like SAS70, are widely-accepted industry standards for showing reasonable assurance and allowing auditability.
  4. I agree with the assessment that the Cloud will make it difficult for Law Enforcement to ensure data retention. Cloud Storage and/or backups can be used to allow for data retention to take place. However, if data retention is a requirement due to compliance or legal issues, processes can be built in to any IT infrastructure, cloudy or not. The other thing to consider here would be “hybrid solutions.” Since GoGrid is run by a traditional managed hosting provider, ServePath, we understand that there are certain items that are better fit for physically residing somewhere. To that end, we developed Cloud Connect. Corporations or businesses that are concerned about data persistence and the physicality of that data could opt for a solution like Cloud Connect to meet this need.
  5. Success Stories generated by providers are great. But what is better is blog posts or end-user reviews of the service. There aren’t too many reviews on successful implementations with datacenter deployments, mainly because it takes a very long time to roll out fully within a data center. And, it’s not “sexy.” Deploying a full IT infrastructure in the cloud in a matter of hours (vs. days or weeks in a datacenter) IS sexy, and people are talking about that. Time is money. If you can reduce your time to market by using the Cloud, then you will be many steps closer to monetizing than if you took a traditional method. Again, this could be where hybrid clouds (e.g., Cloud Connect) might come into play. I don’t agree with Goolsbee’s statement that “the cloud cannot contain anything critical”. Just look at SalesForce or EC2 or GoGrid. Plenty of critical data is contained within those Clouds. I do agree that Cloud Computing IS great for start-ups, but if you stop there, you are missing many larger opportunities.
  6. Margins for traditional data centers is a topic unto itself. I will only scrape the surface here. GoGrid, for example, was born from traditional managed, dedicated hosting provider experience. In order to roll out and deploy servers, there is a large capital and operating expense. When new clients come on board, servers have to be configured to their needs, hard drives formatted, memory installed, cables connected, etc. The man-hours spent to roll out a single customer is quite large. We saw these inefficiencies as well as the fact that once deployed, servers sat idle and under-utilized. GoGrid was developed to combat these internal and external cost and labor inefficiencies. Not only could more “servers” be “contained” within fewer larger physical servers (reducing datacenter footprints, power, cooling, etc. metrics), but also, automated deployment reduced the human capital needs. Coupled with the fact that the control was now in the hands of the end user (in terms of scalability and configuration, for example), time to deploy was reduced (equating to less grumbling on all sides). If you read between the lines here, there are better margins for a hosting provider to convert some internal infrastructure over to providing Cloud “services” than not. Once the technology is created, rolling out Cloud infrastructures within a hosting provider for end users to later use is better than rolling out a handful of customized dedicated servers.
  7. Some Cloud Computing providers are data-centers on demand, but very few. As I mentioned, we now refer to GoGrid as a CloudCenter, the equivalent of a DataCenter but in the Cloud and using the requirements of Cloud Computing: dynamically and rapidly scalable, paying for what you use and using only what you need, programmatically controlled through an API (or web interface), and somewhat “virtualized”. To be a true “datacenter in the cloud” you must have all of the components of a datacenter (servers, switches, firewalls, load balancers, storage, multiple network pipes, internal and external networks, etc.). Only those Cloud Providers that give out Infrastructure solutions (e.g., GoGrid and potentially EC2) can be considered “data-centers on demand” and even then, EC2 doesn’t quite fit.
  8. AWS had a few things going for it to get it on its way to being considered a “successful provider”: its name,  its size and the fact that it was first to market (or appeared to be). Don’t get me wrong, their entire suite is very impressive and they have a lot of extremely happy customers. Also, they have truly cut the ice for other Cloud providers to come along (to which we are thankful). I’m not sure about the accuracy of what Goolsbee says (that they are “selling unused capacity”). This may have been true initially, but I believe they are their own business unit by now and their data centers have nothing to do with their “book selling.” Also, the mention of uptime and security guarantees being lacking will change (they recently released an SLA for EC2…it’s not as robust as GoGrid, for what it’s worth). The general pessimism about AWS not being good for mission-critical IT functions is not really warranted, I don’t feel. Datacenters fail, as do servers. This is not specific to the Cloud. If you are worried about your data, back it up! That is the best practice and not something that you should only do if you are using the Cloud.
  9. I agree that Cloud Computing as a general buzzword is over-used and vague, but it is here to stay until something better comes along. We are already seeing segmentation within it. It is a general encapsulation of many different things. I do think that SaaS belongs as one of the Cloud layers (Cloud Applications) provided it meets the Cloud checklist. Google IS a cloud provider (Google App Engine as a Cloud Platform; Gmail as a Cloud Application). Buying application time (specifically “hosting” your Python application within their datacenters) IS using the Cloud, but not Cloud Infrastructure but rather Cloud Platforms. In fact, you will be able to buy additional capacity on App Engine soon.

(more…) «Dissecting SearchDataCenter.com’s “Don’t buy cloud computing hype” post»

What Happened in 2008 According to the GoGrid Blog

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008 by

calendar 2008 was an action-packed year for us here at GoGrid and ServePath and we have many accomplishments to be proud of. I thought it would make sense to reflect back on what major things we did over the year as well as a few other notables that happened within the industry. The easiest way for me to do this is through a blog post Chronology (not every post is highlighted):

1st Quarter 2008

  • 01.03.08 – GoGrid Blog was launched
  • 01.29.08 – “Sneak Peak” at GoGrid
  • 02.01.08 – Twitter and Joyent go different ways
  • 02.05.08Understanding “Clouded” Computer Terms – a post that made a 1st attempt to explain Cloud, Utility, Grid and other Computing terms.
  • 02.13.08 – Dilbert does a series on Virtualization (here, here and here)
  • 02.15.08 – Amazon’s S3 has major outage (my comments)
  • 02.21.08 – GoGrid launches a new public website in anticipation of the product launch
  • 03.11.08GoGrid Public Beta LAUNCH! After over 2 years of development, GoGrid hits the streets with many Cloud Computing firsts:
    • 1st Cloud Infrastructure provider with a Web GUI
    • 1st to offer Windows Server 2003 in the Cloud
    • 1st to offer Microsoft SQL Server in the Cloud
    • 1st with free Inbound Transfer
    • 1st with free f5 Load Balancing
    • 1st with free 24×7 Support
    • 1st with Persistent Storage
    • 1st with free managed DNS
    • 1st with 100% Uptime SLA
    • 1st with public and private VLANs
  • 03.17.08Drilling down on the details of new GoGrid accounts
  • 03.18.08 – Even I wasn’t initially on board with the whole “Cloud Computing” term. My thoughts have changed obviously.
  • 03.28.08 – The initial GoGrid FAQ’s start rolling out.

2nd Quarter 2008 (more…) «What Happened in 2008 According to the GoGrid Blog»

Cloud Computing 2009 New Year’s Resolutions

Monday, December 29th, 2008 by

new_years_hat The start of a New Year is upon us so it is time to get a list together of things that you will do (or do your best to do) in the coming year. Everybody has their own personal Resolution lists, but what about your Business ones? How are you going to remain competitive? What steps are you going to take to cut your budget to remain lean and mean? Are you going to stick with your current methods or adopt some new strategies?

Here are some “Resolutions” that you can think about as you ready your business for 2009.

  1. Invest some time in understanding the term “Cloud Computing” – there are several easy-to-understand definitions and movies that have come out that make Cloud Computing a bit more understandable. This one was done at the 2008 Web 2.0 Expo. Then came the GoGrid “Cloud Computing in Plain English”. Recently, there is a new “In Plain English” from the actual Common Craft folks (whom we got our inspiration from). And here is a more technical presentation that came out recently. Regardless, there are lots of sources out there for quick understandings. I have been maintaining a Bookmark RSS feed as well of many of the Cloud Computing blogs and sites. Subscribe to that feed for updated links. Also, read through the popular Cloud Computing Group on Google. Lastly, you can check Wikipedia for their ever evolving definition of Cloud Computing.
  2. Do some research on different Cloud Providers – no Cloud Computing provider is the same, and the differentiation is continuing. Last year (2008), I introduced the idea of the Cloud Pyramid which has Cloud Applications (SalesForce) at the top, then Cloud Platforms (Google App Engine or Microsoft Azure) in the middle and finally Cloud Infrastructure (GoGrid and Amazon EC2) as the bottom foundation. Also hooked into it are Cloud Extenders (e.g., Amazon’s SQS) and Cloud Aggregators (RightScale). It’s pretty obvious that there are many choices to be made and that these are very specific to the type of business you are running. In fact, we will be further segmenting the IaaS (Cloud Infrastructure) section more over the next few weeks. Briefly, GoGrid is now being positioned as a “CloudCenter” (which is essentially, a DataCenter equivalent but in the Cloud). More on that later. In the meantime, compile a series of questions for yourself and for your prospective provider. We will get a list together of things you might want to ask (post to come).
  3. Review your IT Budget – If you are like most companies out there, you are going through your 2009 budgeting (or have done so already and are probably on your 10th revision now). One way to make your CFO happy is to reduce your Capital Expenditures (CapEx). The easiest way to do that is to really take a hard look at Cloud Computing. If you can slash your CapEx spend by downsizing your physical server footprints, you can easily upsize that same footprint in the Cloud.
  4. Empower your Programmers – Cloud Computing offers something new to Programmers: the ability to programmatically control their IT infrastructure. Using an API, Programmers can skin the functionality provided by Clouds as well as develop “intelligent” applications that scale dynamically, for example.
  5. Empower your IT Staff – Be sure that you don’t ignore your IT Staff as you look at the Cloud as a physical IT infrastructure alternative. They have some best practices and standards that should be incorporated in what your IT strategies will be. Let them experiment with the Cloud so that they fully grasp what it can do for your organization. They may tell you that it is a great direction to go in, or, they may say that your current infrastructure simply cannot be ported to the Cloud. There may also be some hybrid solutions (like GoGrid’s Cloud Connect) that will give them the best of both worlds.

These are just a few Cloud Computing New Year’s 2009 Resolutions to get you thinking. What are your business resolutions for 2009?

8 More Cloud Computing Predictions for 2009

Thursday, December 18th, 2008 by

Hi, my name is Randy Bias, the new VP Technology Strategy at GoGrid.  As the new year approaches, I’m happy to make my first post on this blog.

I haven’t ever provided a New Year prediction list before, so I hope you will indulge.  As the newest member of and the technology visionary on the GoGrid executive team I’m pretty excited to toss a few predictions into the ring for 2009.  Hope this inspires more cloud conversation.  Find more on my thoughts around infrastructure and cloud computing on my personal blog.

  1. Cloud-Oriented Architectures (COA) becomes much better understood
    De facto standards drive the adoption of cross-cloud, loosely-coupled, distributed web applications that are connected by REST interfaces.  The community at large comes to understand that this new category of applications are Cloud-Oriented Architectures (COA) and differ from SOA in being deployed on clouds, aware of clouds, and built using grassroots-derived standards instead of top-down standards like SOAP & WS-*.
  2. No Cloud Standards Emerge
    Despite hype and hope, no new top-down derived cloud ‘standard’ emerges.  Some forward thinking providers do move the ball forward by opening their platforms and hints of potential standards start to develop by widely embraced, but grass roots developed standards and APIs.
  3. Big Iron still has no clue
    The Big Iron folks (Dell, IBM, Sun, and HP) continue to flail at offering ‘cloud’ offerings because they can’t take their focus away from hardware.  Nothing real develops from those folks except failed attempts at ‘standardization’ and cloud offerings.
  4. Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) look to clouds & DR
    Economic reality forces the hand of SMEs looking to shave IT costs.  More and more dip their toes into the water, moving their non-production and elastic compute needs to ‘the cloud’.  Disaster Recovery becomes the ‘killer app’ for forward thinking SMEs who want to minimize their exposure while maximizing dollars saved.
  5. Broad testing of internal clouds by F500
    Fortune 500 widely tests internal cloud systems using VMware vCloud, EUCALYPTUS, OpenNebula, and related offerings.  Small scale tests, but enough to get a flavor.
  6. Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) wake up and realize their business model is at stake
    CDNs finally figure out that as clouds go global the primary barrier to entry for the CDN business, foreign real estate deals, disappears allowing customers to roll their own and a flood of *more* small upstarts enters the already crowded market.  Smart CDNs turn into global cloud providers, further accelerating adoption, or remain clueless and are squeezed from both sides.
  7. Hybrid clouds come of age: scale-out on virtual servers and up on iron
    Clue finally sets in that virtualization != clouds and multiple major cloud vendors provide combined virtual+physical server solutions, on-demand just like any other cloud computing offering.  The new hybrid model sets Web 2.0 folks on fire escalating up take for folks reticent to re-engineer for massively distributed databases.  Instead, using big iron for scaling up the DB becomes the de facto solution for anyone who cares more about getting to market and less about faux ‘scaling issues.’[1]
  8. Clouds enter Asia
    AWS goes to Asia or a credible competitor arises there capturing mind share and further expanding the global reach of cloud computing providers.  Conversely, clouds entering Asia realize that it’s a fragmented market with expensive intra-country bandwidth, making cost effective traction difficult on a cross-Pacific Rim basis.

 


1. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we’re leading the charge with one of our latest offerings, Cloud Connect, that allows cross-connecting dedicated servers to your GoGrid cloud.

GoGrid CEO’s 10 Predictions for Cloud Computing in 2009

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 by

fortune_cookie A few weeks ago, I posted my 2009 Cloud Computing predictions. I already had one of my predictions validated (regarding VC funding – #3) with GoGrid partner, RightScale, receiving $13M in funding this week. (Congrats to them!). So I figured that I would ask GoGrid’s CEO, John Keagy, for his Cloud Computing predictions for 2009. What I received from him is verbatim (I know that I can always count on John to provide solid insight coupled with some humor).

John’s predictions are as follows:

  1. Asking “is the Enterprise ready for the Cloud” will be analogized to “the Internet is a fad”
  2. There will be some Cloud security breaches that will become super high profile
  3. Questioning the security of the Cloud will become less vogue
  4. The demand on companies to develop Cloud strategies will be likened to Y2K certification
  5. Cloud strategies will be proven to be more important than Y2K certification
  6. SAN storage will not emerge as being relevant to Cloud Computing
  7. NoHardware.com will illuminate the spirit of the Cloud movement
  8. RackSpace stock will claw back to $10.00
  9. Al Gore will announce he invented Cloud Computing
  10. “Cloud Computing will ______fill in the blank______”

I love the fact that John shoots from the hip with many of these predictions. But there are several points here that warrant a bit more commentary from me (are you surprised?).

  1. The “Cloud” is not a fad, nor is “the Internet.” In fact, the Internet, in many aspects, it the largest Cloud Infrastructure out there. Read Reuven Cohen’s post on this subject. So using basic logic I learned in high school: IF “internet is a fad” is a false statement, AND, “the Internet is a huge Cloud Infrastructure” is a true statement, THEN we can infer that “Cloud Computing is a fad” is a false statement. (Not sure how bullet proof my inferences and assumptions are but you should get my point here.)
  2. Everyone is holding Cloud Computing under a microscope. Every little “glitch” or “downtime” will be amplified 10-fold. However, I agree that there will be a breach that gets public attention that will cause everyone to step on the brakes a bit, but then move forward as before with “lessons learned.”
  3. People love picking apart things that are new. It’s an obvious statement that security is a big deal, within the Cloud or not. So, as the hype dies down, “security” will be just another check box right after “save money.”
  4. It is inevitable that as companies restructure from an organizational and financial perspective and undergo drastic re-engineering that Cloud Computing will be one of those technologies that will be forefront in many strategies. John likens it to Y2K compliance – the Cloud must be part of your 2009 strategy for success.
  5. Y2K certification was required to ensure that the software/hardware within businesses didn’t collapse when 2000 came around. Cloud Computing goes beyond this because it affects your bottom line and profitability in so many areas. Sure, in Y2K your systems could have collapsed but you didn’t have a choice: you had to comply. With 2009, you not only need survive but also try to squeak out a profit in the process. Y2K was a requirement, Cloud Computing is an optional component to a successful company business and infrastructure strategy. If complying also means survival and profit, then it IS required.
  6. Cloud Storage offerings will continue to grow, eliminating the need for dedicated physical storage devices (SANs) within the Cloud. SAN technology itself is old, costly and doesn’t work well with the times. Using a combination of iSCSI/NAS might be a better, more cost effective solution.
  7. “Hardware? We don’t need no stinkin’ hardware!” Companies will start recycling (hopefully) their old bare-metal servers (in various creative ways) and will move to the Cloud. Get some ideas on how to “dispose” of your old hardware at NoHardware.com .
  8. RackSpace did a few amazing things last year. They had one of the only technology IPO’s in 2008. That is a huge accomplishment (kudos to them). As of this writing, RackSpace (RAX) is trading at $5.73/share. Not too far to go to get back to their IPO price of $12.50. Also, their recent acquisition of companies for more Cloud services is compelling.
  9. Wait, didn’t he also invent the Internet? Seriously though, Cloud Computing goes a long way with the Green aspect of computing. There is less power consumed and less computer parts needing to be recycled (as they are virtualized). Save the planet!
  10. …be the silver bullet to slow or stop the recession? …enable companies to maintain profitability? …bring government into the 21st century? What do YOU think Cloud Computing will do in 2009?

(more…) «GoGrid CEO’s 10 Predictions for Cloud Computing in 2009»