Over the past several weeks, I have had several interesting conversations about the trend of going All in with Cloud. My thoughts are drawn back to a time just ten years ago when the industry was talking about this new solution for our datacenters – Virtualization. At the time, few industry leaders took the charge like VMware and it was exciting. I jumped into this with both feet and saw the amazing power that Hypervisors brought to systems engineers. For the first time, we really could move quickly… well, if you knew what you were doing that is.
Now, we are at another principle crossroad in our industry. The availability and speed of the public cloud Hyperscalers like Amazon, Microsoft, and now even Google, has altered the way that we think about servers and applications. I have been personally involved in so many We don’t want to be in the datacenter business conversations that I have lost count. There is a good reason for looking at it this way. The cost of a datacenter can be overwhelming. What does this mean for our datacenter administrators?
At this point, it seems like we should pause for a moment and really discuss what this trend is trying to accomplish. If we go beyond the hype of cloud this and cloud that and really look at the solution, we will see something amazing. A Cloud solution is more than just what we have been doing since the advent of virtualization. It isn’t just the idea of shared storage or pay-per-hour services. It is about an eco-system that can be created and destroyed and rebuilt in hours or even minutes. It is the mythological Phoenix of our time.
Too often I hear people try to de-value Cloud by stating that everything is cloud and therefore it is just another day at the office. It is a good idea to understand what we mean by cloud. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines Cloud or Cloud Computing as systems that must have:
On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.
Broad network access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).
Resource pooling. The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g., country, state, or datacenter). Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory, and network bandwidth.
Rapid elasticity. Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.
Measured service. Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.
As we reflect on the sheer enormity of this definition, we find that we have never really done cloud. For last decade, we have started making strides towards building our private clouds but in the truth of the definition, most of us haven’t hit the mark. The Cloud is more than just the latest hype about virtualization and way beyond file sharing services that have tried to market the term. Cloud is about a new and exciting way to support our application owners and developers. Cloud is not a nightmare for datacenter administrators… it is a new way to evolve our operations... And emerge better than we were before.