CloudSlam Day 5

The fifth and final day of Cloud Slam ’09 has dawned, and it’s time to liveblog.

7:00am First up is Simon Crosby of Citrix, asking the question “IaaS – is it enterprise ready?” From what we’ve heard so far, the answer depends on exactly what the “enterprise” customer wants to do with it, but that’s just my opinion. Actually his title is “Bridging the Enterprise to the Cloud”. He suggests that the big problems are not technological, but organizational: traditional technologies led to fiefdoms. So the cloud is not just about technology, but what I’d call “organizational refactoring”. ‘Twas ever thus… As for virtualization, it’s an enabler of agility: it’s the way an application owner can get out of the business of infrastructure management. It’s not just the hypervisor: it applies to compute, network, storage, desktop…. “Virtualization is nothing more than separation: shed everything that is not strategic. [...] Virtualization is late binding.” However he also said “more layers of virtualization, more benefit” which seems disingenuous: each layer has both benefits and costs. Nice intro to Xen, which Citrix commercializes as XenServer. (But why must these technologies be free? That feels like a gratuitous competitive jab….)

8:00am Jake Sorofman of rPath. rPath’s mission is ambitious: “automating the creation, configuration, deployment and maintenance of complete systems that run in any traditional, virtualized and cloud computing environment.” Jake’s presentation is based on a CMMI-inspired view of how one should adopt cloud-related technology and business patterns, starting with virtualization, experimentation (with EC2, of course) and ending with “cloud actualization” (trumpeted as “hypercloud” or “cloud Nirvana”). At each step he suggests that one should consider readiness criteria, actions/investments, metrics/returns, and risks. This is an eminently sensible methodology.

9:00am Shahzad Pervez of Kaavo. Taken the benefits of cloud (i.e. IaaS) as a given, how do move our existing applications to the cloud? Kaavo’s product is an application-centric configuration management workflow system that’s intended to handle the life-cycle of complex (composite, n-tier, SOA) applications. While Shahzad explains the product, I find myself wondering about the holistic vs. component approaches. Small companies like Kaavo are building integrated, end-to-end systems in which the various data models, events, domain-specific rules languages, and internal service flows are proprietary. On the other hand, heavyweight players like VMware and Cisco are setting standards for many of the components – VM configuration, virtualized network topologies, etc. How will things sort and settle out?

10:00am Now we have Jayshree Ullal, CEO of Arista Networks. (Interestingly, she still shows up in the exec bios section of the Cisco web site.) Arista Networks is Andy Bechtolsheim’s latest startup, so the session title – A Novel Approach To Cloud Networking – is probably well deserved. [...] And it was. This was another one of those sessions where I couldn’t break away for long enough to type in my thoughts. I’m going to have to follow up offline, and read some of Arista’s materials. The bottom line: these guys are redefining 10Gb Ethernet. Imagine Ethernet with almost all of the benefits of Infiniband, particularly low (and stable) latency. Awesome.

11:00am: There’s a panel on cloud computing and storage. No details in the conference schedule, so we’ll have to see what aspects of storage they’re going to discuss. Services? Protocols? Media? Availability? Security? Inquiring minds, etc…..

OK, this is going to be unwieldy – an 7 person panel with a 55 minute slot. Participants are Jinesh Varia of Amazon.com, Cameron Bahar of Parascale, Stephen Foskett of Nirvanix, Mike Linett of Zerowait, Jeff Whitehead of Zetta, Jim Cuff of Iron Mountain, and Doug KO of Bycast. (The EMC participant was MIA.) The questions are the ones you’d expect, and the responses reflect the usual balancing act of generic opinion and product placement. I’m hoping for some interesting nuggets, but it’s hard to listen to all of the advertising. And the moderator (Jon Toigo) is tossing out various vendor-specific softballs…. OK, now we have a provocative question: what kind of bonding and insurance do storage service offer to their customers? (No, the traditional SLA isn’t an adequate way of thinking about it.) SAS-70. ITAR. Big issues.

[I'm going to take a break now, until the IBM presentation this afternoon.]

12:51pm: I’m back from a lunch break (watching the practice for the F1 GP in Bahrein this weekend) and I’m plugging in for Sri Chari‘s session on IBM’s Computing on Demand (CoD) cloud solution”. The industry tradition is to couple any IBM technology initiative with an army of Professional Services personnel, so I wonder how much CoD will embrace the “cloud” mantra of self service. We’ll see in a minute. Sri is actually from Cabot Partners, not IBM, so we may get a relatively independent viewpoint.

Dr. Chari started out with an original way of thinking about IT resources. Rather than comparing it with utilities like electricity, he proposes that we think about aviation:

cloud-as-aviation

IBM’s CoD (IaaS) is a contractually burdensome kind of beast, which includes the establishment of specific VPNs between customers and IBM data centers. They offer both consumption-based and dedicated (N-year lease) models; curiously the pay-as-you-go model isn’t available in the UK. It’s basically an outsourcing deal; it doesn’t have many of the generally-accepted attributes of a cloud. (But after this week I shouldn’t really be expecting any semantic precision.) Not very interesting.

1:49pm In a few minutes, David Bernstein of Cisco will be back. (He did a keynote on day 2.) The topic is “cloud interoperability” – actually “Introduction to the Intercloud”(!). I wonder if I should toss him a question about whether we really need the tag-based VN-Link model that he talked about on Tuesday. This morning I asked Jayshree Ullal about whether Arista Networks was going down that path, and she was pretty vehement that we had enough standards in this area; we don’t need yet another tagging framework.

Anyway, Bernstein’s pitch is motivated by a statement by Chambers that they want to do for the cloud what they did for switching and fabric. One interpretation of this is that they expect to see carriers jumping into the cloud space, and there will be cloud-to-cloud exchange mechanisms – exchange points, protocols, brokers, exchange and peering architecture, and even a root cloud. These will apply to public and private clouds. And at this level, there will be regulation – the equivalent of IANA and ISOC.

See also this blog piece by James Urquhart.

[I'll link to materials later - I need to concentrate on this now.]

3:00pm I’m going to take in one more session today: Neil Cohen of Akamai is talking about “optimizing the cloud for enterprise class computing”. The scheduling is fortuitous: during the Q&A for the last session, I asked David Bernstein if he sought that CDN’s were going to be subsumed into the “intercloud”. The idea is that migrating content and processing to “the edge” will simply be a particular case of content and processing migration. Since Akamai specializes in traditional CDN as well as “edge” processing, it will be interesting to see what he has to say.

Well. Neil wants us to set aside our assumptions about CDNs and stuff for which Akamai is known, and focus on the role of overlay networking. OK fine. But all of the introductory slides recite the classic arguments for CDNs: pageweight going up, internet unpredictability, distance implies latency. And then we get the questions: how do we make the internet predictable, and how do we get global reach from a single instance? His answer is Akamai’s “edge platform”: 40K servers in 1,500 locations. I guess that this is what I assumed a CDN did; perhaps I’ve spent too much time listening to marketing pitches.

But after talking about edge-hosted content, he switched focus to the overlay network features, demonstrating Akamai-enabled overlay routing that has a dramatic impact on the number (and quality) of hops from server to client. But Akamai doesn’t actually own any bandwidth. So basically Akamai is exploiting the fact that the default BGP-based routing through the Internet sucks. (It’s interesting that almost all of the examples shown feature international traffic to the Far East; I’ve been told that BGP within North America and Western Europe is actually pretty good.) And then we get an advert for Akamai’s “State of the Internet” report.

So all of this is just fine: Akamai has a very successful business model. But it feels rather… orthogonal to any cloud-related ideas.

So that’s the end of Cloud Slam ’09 – for me, anyway. It’s been a very interesting and useful conference. We need to figure out the best way of capturing the “networking” aspects of traditional conferences, but in general I think this virtual conference worked really well.

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