I've had some discussions on the greenness of Cloud Computing the last few weeks. Most people consider the Cloud to be Green IT, but there are skeptics. Their main argument against the greenness of the Cloud is usually componentisaton.
Componentisaton allows for ever greater speeds of evolution and innovation. It leads to more consumption thus you might have more efficient units but you'll end up consuming vastly more of them.
This might seem logical, but if you ask the inevitable question - what are the alternatives - most people I talk to come up shorthanded. We are inevitably in a maelstrom of ever increasing usage of computational units, cloud or no cloud, and as far as I can understand, the underlying business models of Cloud Computing of providing the most efficient and cost-effective platform for computational units, this really has to be greener than the waste we are seeing on desktops and in-house server farms.
New, and novel forms of consumption always arise with componentisaton they say
The first insight into this are seen today in the CI/test environment scenarios. Where we used to have a sparse set of environments on which to make do, most Cloud companies and projects do not post any limitation of how they utilize virtualization of such environments to beef-up productivity and quality. If we do a side-by-side greenness comparison today, the cloud win by large margins, but at some point this picture might reverse.
So, while I still believe the cloud to be green, we must watch the Cloud business models closely as they evolve to ensure that the cost of Cloud computation does not get to low to measure, which will lead to massive waste which will kill the idea of green clouds.
While the marked are starting to get their grips on terminology and categorization of Cloud Computing, Gartner seem to be lost in their own world. Failing to separate Key characteristics, delivery models (Details here) and deployment models and leveling the field into five attributes, Gartner tries to push us back to Ground Zero
*A much better approach to see how strongly a cloud solution (or service) adheres to the cloud computing model would be to discuss the combination's in the figure above. *
Good blog-post from a quite interesting twitter-discussion on cloud technology
And here we are at a key finding. People (here enterprises) are still looking for silver bullets which IMHO makes no sense whatsoever from a technological point of view. from a philosophical or political or cultural point of view, it is easy to see this effect in practise. So we are left to take a stand: should we "go with the flow" or should we try harder and educate to ensure that meaningful decisions are made?
I'm always chocked by comments like this:
It is 2009, and the whole idea of any secure infrastructure is just totally naive..
Your cloud infrastructure is likely secured with respect to some requirements, but it's just as certain to be insecure for other requirements. The cloud has nothing to do with this. Every infrastructure on the planet is secure for some requirements and insecure for others.
Good blog-post on an old-trick:
Thousands of Twitter messages carrying the words "gmail" or "gfail" will teach you that Google's free web-based e-mail platform is currently down. A Google spokesperson told Pocket Lint that their engineers are working on it but have no clue why the errors are turning up.
Meanwhile, Google posted this on a discussion form:
(POP3 / IMAP seems to be still functioning, and the problem doesn't appear to affect Google Apps at this point)
I'm not buying the small subset part, and considering the fact that Pocket Lint says the problem started occuring around 10:20am GMT, 3 hours before even telling everyone what's going on is an incredibly long timeframe in my opinion.
The cloud computing market is in a period of excitement, growth and high potential, but will still require several years and many changes in the market before cloud computing — or service-enabled application platforms (SEAPs) — is a mainstream IT effort, according to Gartner, Inc.
Gartner said that technologically aggressive application development organizations should look to cloud computing for tactical projects through 2011, during which time the market will begin to mature and be dominated by a select group of vendors.
StratusLab is an informal collaboration between CNRS/LAL, GRNET, SixSq Sàrl, and UCM. The collaboration is open to anyone who would like to participate. The collaboration focuses on cloud technologies and how those technologies can be used productively in research and commercial environments.
The key issue with productive use of the technologies is effective management of the cloud resources. For broad adoption, cloud resources must be managable with the same (or similar) techniques currently used by administrators of data centers. The initial activities of the collaboration will investigate how different management techniques can be adapted to cloud resources.
EUCALYPTUS - Elastic Utility Computing Architecture for Linking Your Programs To Useful Systems - is an open-source software infrastructure for implementing "cloud computing" on clusters. The current interface to EUCALYPTUS is compatible with Amazon's EC2 interface, but the infrastructure is designed to support multiple client-side interfaces. EUCALYPTUS is implemented using commonly available Linux tools and basic Web-service technologies making it easy to install and maintain.
The current release is version 1.3 and it includes the following features:
Platform components as a service will hit the software marked hard in 2009 and 2010, but until developers and architects understand how to leverage the platform components in a clear and consistant way, they will add more pain than salvation... Read up on some of the architecture axioms and distributed architectures and analyse your current design and architectures before moving to platform component services is adviced.
Cloud computing platforms offer many benefits including:
These platforms exist as the result of the investment of companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft in developing cost-effective infrastructure with system to administrator ratios of 2500:1 (whilst the average enterprise manages around 150:1 and inefficient properties manage maybe 10:1).
Key to allowing these infrastructures to be efficient and in turn deliver the benefits above is having applications architected such that:
In essence an application must be designed for zero administrator intervention and fully automated deployment. It should also have a variable workload component that magnifies the savings of the architectural properties above.
Strange then that many a developer expects to move their existing application, full of enterprise DNA (static configuration, vertical clusters, no horizontal scaling, high administration costs) to such an offering with minimal change. They even complain when it proves difficult because all those "enterprise features" aren't present. Why does this happen?
I believe it's because these developers have fundamentally misunderstood how cloud computing delivers its benefits. They see the cheap prices but don't stop to consider where the cost saving comes from. Some of it is achieved by cloud platform vendors getting large discounts on huge hardware orders but a significant proportion comes from the fact that they don't need to provide (via human resources or APIs) the sysadmin functions required for conventional hosting solutions.
Quite simply typical applications, their architectures and associated administration practices are not setup for cloud platforms. Some of them may be able to run on these platforms with sufficient hackery, brute force and associated cost. However if the motivation for a move to the cloud is merely to reduce kit costs one might well be better off looking for a cheaper conventional hosting solution.
In summary, making the best of the cloud requires that we take an architectural view, something that we've proven remarkably bad at over and over. Simply deploying an application unchanged to the cloud is unlikely to deliver much benefit.
Here are the three criteria I have for determining whether something is a cloud service or not:
1. The service is accessible via a web browser (non-proprietary) or web services API.
Let's say you are running multiple different Amazon Machine Images (AMIs), which contain your applications, libraries, data and configuration settings on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), and you are using Amazon's S3 for storage. Don't think running everything in the cloud will abstract away potential management problems. You'll still have a system administration headache until you script something or update your AMIs with your new software and application code.
A better - and obvious - answer would be if you could have all of your images, code and applications available in a dashboard where you could simply update everything on the fly.
An even better answer would be to not have to perform any system administration functions at all. Currently, the only way to make that happen with Amazon is through third-party tools like 3Tera and |RightScale|http://www.rightscale.com/].
Microsoft, offers a way to host your .Net applications on the Cloud with a pricing model yet to be officially announced, and offers integration with some Microsoft services/applications.
Amazon on the other end, does not offer a way to host your web applications out-of-the-box on the Cloud, but simply provide virtualized hardware on which you can do whatever you'd like to (well, as usual it's it a bit more complex than that, but that's pretty much it).
So basically, Google and Microsoft offers are PaaS solutions: they offer a Platform on which you can deploy your applications. On the other end, Amazon offers an IaaS solution: an Infrastructure which you can use.
Amazon CloudFront delivers your content using a global network of edge locations. Requests for your objects are automatically routed to the nearest edge location, so content is delivered with the best possible performance.
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