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Coming of Age in the Era of Cloud Computing


Sun Offers... Microsoft Offers...

So your first decision is whether these resources are useful for your needs. Are they the right granularity and composition to serve your special needs?

After identifying a match to your resource needs, several other concerns occur. Is the information safe? Is it protected? Again the cloud resources above offer various levels of protection as part of the resource. Many offer protection services analogous and even superior to a well protected enterprise computing center. After all they have a strong interest in not allowing the intentional or accidental damage. In fact they are probably more focused and more expert than many IT staffs. Amazon, for example, allows the encryption of almost everything. Computing resources offer firewalls and other types of protection. Additionally, the distributed nature of the cloud allows a new type of protection often the opposite of enterprise computing. Traditional computing places all the computing resources in one or two highly guarded locations. Cloud computing allows you to place your applications all over the world. Yes, one site may come down but it is unlikely that the entire globe goes down -- and if that happens your applications should be the least of your worries. This dispersion can also better serve your users from where they are and not where your servers are.

Now that you have the right resources and you are satisfied with their protection, now you must interface with their resources. And there is the current rub. Each vendor's interface is unique to their offering. Tools and standards are elvoing to help insulate your solutions from the actual implementations but they are not there yet. The Open Cloud Consortium is a set of universities and businesses working on cloud standards, interoperability standards, and benchmarks. Right now you must march to the non-standard or proprietary interface methods. This need not stop you. Successful cloud offerings may become the standard or at least a market for tools that align the standard to the offering. But of course, that depends on you picking the winners which history has shown is not always clear.

Cost and Quality of Service (QoS) vary greatly due to the many cloud implementations. Some offering don't even go this far some detail these issues. In fact some are currently free. The importance of cost and QoS depend greatly on your particular cloud use. It depends on how coupled your business is to a particular cloud offering. Testing for example does not have the same dependence as does actually running your business on the cloud.

Lastly consider how you are taking advantage of the cloud capabilities. Do you leverage the dynamics of allocating resources and moving them to where they are needed? Have you modularized your solution so as to make these movements efficient? Have you designed to minimize your costs given the various use charges? Will the quality of service meet your customer's expectations? Will the cloud implementation continue to advance and offer support?

Cloud Computing Is Here -- Where are You?

Although the effect known as the shock of the new often tends to make managers uncomfortable, the momentum behind cloud computing is unquestionable and its impact in the enterprise seems inevitable but as yet, not well qualified. Consider what you already do know though and how to consider your position going forward:

  • Cloud computing can be evaluated much in the same way as a new operating system. And yet, it's somethng more as well. It has the usual system services but also some fantastic ones -- unlimited memory, unlimited storage, unlimited network bandwidth, unlimited (and on-demand) scalability and parallelism.
  • Like general operating systems, it supports a number of architectural paradigms from very light client and heavyweight server to one where the client computer does most of the heavy lifting and the server is primarily just a datastore.
  • As an architectural phenomenon, it's being supported and actively promoted in offerings that have emerged from familiar names such as Google, Amazon, Sun, and Microsoft.
  • Although analogous to operating systems with core services (for example, CPU, Memory, Disk, managed network connectivity), cloud architectures are inherently internet scale. Although like operating systems, they offer infrastructure level services (database lookup, message passing, and so on), some (Google Application Engine, for example) offer such a high-level abstraction of the concept of application services that the heavy lifting of application development consists entirely of typing small bits of business logic to an abstract data model and designing the details of the user experience.

Summary

Cloud computing offers a rich, evolving variety of on-demand resources. Already the same forces that worked to open source operating systems

The change the cost model from peak to average use and the time model from months to minutes. Cloud computing is in its infancy. Standards are lacking. The vendors may drop or change their offerings. But do not let you sit on the side lines. There are many scenarios that would help your team get familiar with cloud potential while addressing significant problems in testing and demand management. Despite an initial concern with the rapid pace of the cloud revolution, it holds the key to better use of your data, processing, and resources. Embracing this specific change and harnessing it faster and better than your competition will put you out in front of the bow wave of adopters and establish you as an industry innovator.


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