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January 18, 2009

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Jeremiah Cook

Chuck, I think this discussion about private clouds is very interesting. As more and more organizations build towards a virtualization-first datacenter, these 'private clouds' are popping up everywhere. Whether the organization thinks of it as a 'cloud' or not is a different story. I still think of today's virtualized datacenters as a move towards 'clouds' but for now I just view them as silo'd resource farms. I think when hardware and software and networks can bridge the gap between resource sharing and true distributed grid computing, I will begin to think of it more as a cloud.

I think the biggest hurdle to overcome is to integrate the legacy applications into the cloud. I still dream of the day when legacy applications can be distributed-grid-enabled. There are so many components to consider when thinking about spreading applications across both internal and outsourced resources. Here are a few I can think of:

What will be the common access method to these legacy applications that will be in a mixed cloud?

What security protocols will be used to connect the private cloud to the outsourced cloud? Identity Federation will need to play into this as well.

How will the data be distributed and/or striped/mirrored between the different clouds?

At what point do you decide what components run in the outsourced cloud vs the private cloud?

How can you leverage outsourced cloud services to make legacy applications perform with geographically local performance? i.e. How can I leverage a cloud to make my legacy application perform just as well in China as it does in the United States?

I think today's tactical mission is to build more dependable process-oriented utility computing infrastructures. But the strategic mission of the future is to figure out what development language will be used to truly grid-enable your infrastructure.

Some organizations need nothing more than a dependable farm of resources on which to run their applications. Some would even pay for a redundant farm to pick up the load when the primary farm fails. We have technology today that can meet these needs and the costs will continue to go down as we continually improve upon today's available technologies.

But other organizations, those that do big business globally and at a large scale locall, need help building a truly efficient and scalable global grid infrastructure, what I think is truly a cloud. And this will be where proprietary grid-enabled software development standards are needed, coupled with advanced storage and network solutions. Google AppEngine with BigTable, Amazon SimpleDB, and many other grid-enabled systems bring all this together. Here is a good post on alternatives to Google App Engine, touches on many different grid/cloud solutions, including Amazon and others.

Truly though, I am just rambling and I need to really review the definition of a 'cloud'. I'm just talking out of my area of expertise but this is a fun discussion nonetheless.

Keep up the good thinking.

Jeremiah Cook

I forgot that link to a post about some other grid enabled solutions:

http://codecrafter.wordpress.com/2008/10/17/alternatives-to-app-engine/

Chuck Hollis

Hi Jeremiah -- great commentary, so thanks.

Clearly, there's a layer of federated middleware needed to make the combined internal/external private cloud work in some of the more advanced models. Some of that work is definitely going on now, though. Can't spill too many details, though.

One clarification, though -- it's pretty obvious that private clouds will go through evolutionary stages, e.g. (1) near 100% virualization of owned IT resources, (2) pairwise relationships with selected service providers, (3) more open and federated models. And all of this won't happen all at once, will it?

You bring up an important point -- the need to compose external services from some of the uber-clouds as part of a private cloud. I think that will be dependent as to whether or not these uber-clouds agree to play by the rules of private clouds -- something they're not really incentivized to do these days.

Thanks for the intelligent commentary -- I look forward to more of the same!

-- Chuck

Sudhir Brahma

A very topical article Chuck! I will like to share something which I do every day and it works very well- something that is close to this topic and I assume there must be a lot of people doing this- am not sure if u find it relevant enough to post, but I am going to tell u about it any way :-)!! I hate carrying my Laptop back and forth to office, and besides, the measly 80 GB is not enough to store all that I need when I work from home in the evening (I need about 500+ GB). Besides, I have to have 2 machines that access 2 separate Exchange Servers and I need to have all of it running simultaneously, and I need all the tools on my system when at work. At home, my wife would not let me have more than 1 desktop machine! So here is what I do: I run 2 Virtual Machines- completely loaded and carry them with me on 2 mid-sized SATA drives. That way I carry my 2 Virtual desktops me- fully functional. I have pulled out the SATA cables on my home computer and the office-lab machine and I connect my drives to them directly (I don't mind going under the table to do that...I avoid enclosures because of the noise their fan makes). I realize I can create several Virtual machines (clone my virtual drive files )any time and run them as fully functional- well loaded independent virtual desktops. I just need to ensure that I have the storage space for the additional Virtual drives and some memory if that becomes a bottleneck (not yet for me with 4 GB RAM I have)....am I creating such a private cloud you refer to (albeit on a micro scale)? I can even avoid carrying these 2 drives if this "cloud" extends to my house via a last mile network that is fast enough. I can imagine such a service which also allows me to create virtual desktops on the fly and destroy them or back them up on a need basis...I guess that is getting closer to the full blown cloud computing?
regards sudhir.brahma@gmail.com

Jay Fry

Hadn't read your stuff before, Chuck. Very cogent explanation of the private/internal cloud concept. One area I'd push back on, though: you mention the idea of "fully virtualized data center environments" being equal to these internal clouds. I would argue that virtualization has been a stepping stone to getting this cloud computing frenzy going, but a 100% virtualized data center is not required nor likely. An internal cloud needs to be able to pool, allocate, and pull back both physical and virtual compute resources as appropriate. Some of it will be virtual, some not. My take on the internal cloud thing is here: http://datacenterdialog.blogspot.com/2009/01/are-internal-clouds-bogus.html . VMware's talk about their idea of a data center operating system suffers from the same blindspot. Ken Oestreich did a good post on it here: http://fountnhead.blogspot.com/2008/09/early-biased-analysis-of-vmware-vcloud.html

Ken Cowan

RE: composing services from uber-cloud in my private cloud

Microsoft and Amazon do have incentive to play nice.

In the Microsoft and Amazon models, the cloud services are endpoints on the public internet, protected with appropriate, Internet-compatible, security technology. The services can't tell if the client is running in a traditional data center or a private cloud. If Microsoft and Amazon are going to get any traction with enterprise IT, their solutions ought to work in private clouds too.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Chuck Hollis


  • Chuck Hollis
    Chief Strategist, VMware SAS BU
    @chuckhollis

    Chuck has recently joined VMware in a new role, and is quite enthused!

    Previously, he was with EMC for 18 years, most of them great.

    He enjoys speaking to customer and industry audiences about a variety of technology topics, and -- of course -- enjoys blogging.

    Chuck lives in Holliston, MA with his wife, three kids and four dogs when he's not travelling. In his spare time, Chuck is working on his second career as an aging rock musician.

    Warning: do not buy him a drink when there is a piano nearby.
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