So, I normally teach this class as a two hour session and I had a heck of a time cutting out material and getting it down to something digestible for Internet (and slide deck) viewing. It’s a quick introduction to cloud managers and a continuation of my introductory cloud computing course.
My wife asked me the other day how does she log into her iCloud and get some data? This is the problem with Apple’s cloud strategy – My wife doesn’t understand it. My wife is a typical user – not a geek or even a power user. She uses her computing devices as a tool unlike most readers of my blog. She is the typical person that would walk in the Apple Store and purchase an iPad, iPhone and MacBook Pro (she doesn’t get the appeal of the Air). Just casually she expected to sync her documents, music and pictures to her iCloud and access it from any of her Apple branded devices and access the data via an iCloud website. She perfectly understood if she couldn’t access the data from her PC. After all it is the “iCloud”.
When I tried to explain to her that it didn’t work that way, she just had this blank look on her face like “Isn’t this an Apple solution?” When I showed her the first version Photo Stream and how you can sync pictures across iOS devices she initially was ecstatic until she found out you couldn’t delete any of the pictures. Her question was “Why doesn’t this work like that Dropbox program you installed for me? It just works.”
She appreciates iTunes match but doesn’t understand why should doesn’t have that functionality across all of her data. I couldn’t have captured Apple’s challenges with cloud any better.
I’ve been in enough cloud engagements to realize that the Cloud is not (just) about saving money. Sure, you can reduce start-up costs and pay “On-Demand” for resources. If you have 1001 e-mail users you can subscribe to 1001 instances of Google Apps or Office 365 and pay for exactly what you use. Does that mean you’ll save money over deploying Exchange or some other groupware? Maybe. The focus shouldn’t be on just savings rather the functionality gained by the cloud.
In this Cisco video Forester talks about some of the drivers for engaging a cloud strategy and the business stakeholders making the case for cloud. It’s not always cost savings or IT. In most instances that I’ve been involved in it’s about capability. Why does Netflix stay with a cloud for distribution? I’m sure at this point they could build out their own data centers and probably save money over AWS.
For each business, it will be a different driver. For Netflix, I believe the driver is the scalability of AWS. And not just AWS, if projects like OpenStack/CloudStack take off then organizations leveraging the cloud will have a much larger pool of IaaS providers to choose from if they aren’t already leveraging other cloud providers. You can’t easily build that type of redundancy. Even if Netflix chooses to bring their compute in-house, I’m sure they’d benefit from some type of hybrid public/private cloud model.
We have Netflix on one side of the coin and small enterprises on the other. Why engage Google for a Google Apps deployment? Creating an LAN with servers, remote access, office applications, e-mail and collaboration tools is an old trick at this point. This has become a commodity solution where any jack of all trades can get your business up in running. What they can’t do is give you the seamless integration of services and support that a Google Apps or Microsoft 365 can give you. You can also easily share data between your organization and your business partners without worrying about firewalls and user accounts.
A great example is that I use WordPress.com not because it’s less expensive than hosting my own WordPress blog on AWS or any number of hosting providers. I’m obviously capable of hosting a virtual server running WordPress. I choose to run on WordPress.com because I’d rather spend my time doing research and writing vs. patching and maintaining.
Of course, there are considerations to have when it comes to security and features but these issues are slowly but surely being resolved.
For me the battle between Google Drive, Dropbox and Skydrive comes down to whom I trust with my data. All of the solutions have very strong attributes. Dropbox has the best and most widely adopted API’s. Google has extremely strong integration with Google Docs and I’m sure superior search capability and Skydrive is a great value.
However, this is my data you’re talking about and in the end my data is what is important. I don’t believe any one of the vendors are in any trouble of going out of business and they all give you the ability to have your data available to your offline so, even if there is a service interruption you should still be able to get at some version of your files and data.
The bigger question comes down to what is being done with my data and who has access to it. All there services allow you to put access controls on your shared data but I’m more concerned at the security practices of each company. Google is an advertising company and their terms of service has caused somewhat of a stir. Microsoft is a just a really big target. Their infrastructure will always be attacked but MS has done a fairly good job of promoting security in their products ever since Windows XP SP2.
The one provider I just don’t trust is Dropbox. The one escape they had with allowing anyone access to your dropbox data is just unforgivable. I just can’t see myself entrusting any real important or sensitive data to them. The nature of their security issue speaks to the culture or at least lends a perception to the culture of their development team.
Who do you trust with your data?
Update 07/31/12: Dropbox has another major security issue http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/31/dropbox-admits-user-accounts-were-hijacked-adds-new-security-features/
The Megaupload case represents one of the major challenges with the public Cloud. The obvious issue for legal use cases for their service has been that non-infringing data is trapped in limbo along with the alleged infringing data. One may say that a legitimate user should have seen this coming. Megaupload’s primary use case was no secret and hosting critical data on their service was a risk. However, what if the U.S. government didn’t trust the controls of their provider Carpathia?
I’m sure Megaupload wasn’t Carpathia’s only customer. I don’t believe Congress really has a handle on how to enact laws that deal with the complicated relationship between cloud provider, their customers and end user. What if the FBI had interpreted the relationship differently? What if instead of just going after Megaupload they went after Carpathia as some are suggesting?
I’ve heard horror stories of the Feds coming in and seizing all of the servers in a hosting provider’s infrastructure. Many hosting providers just fold at any request from law enforcement for data. What can you do to protect your organization’s applications and data? What relationship are you looking for your hosting provider to have with law enforcement to prevent this type of activity? What’s the right balance?
I live in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). Most of the projects I’ve been involved in have been around either building these services or deploying applications built on these services. It’s also easy to get customers to relate to single instances of VM’s hosted in the cloud or e-mail as a service. So, when you talk about Platform as a Service (PaaS) we are getting a little out of my element. However, I believe the real value in cloud will come from PaaS. PaaS is the plumbing that will allow organizations to build true cloud aware applications. Popular application providers like Instagram, Tumblr etc. have built great applications on IaaS services like Amazon’s AWS. However, this isn’t the best long term strategy for the enterprise.
IaaS is just another way to host your application on virtual machines. Sure if you re-write your application you can build it to take advantage of scalable virtual machine instances. Same thing with SaaS, it works great just as long as your use case matches well with the features of the service. But when Salesforce.com model doesn’t fit your 50,000 users/1,000,000 customer enterprise where are you going to turn?
When you talk about building your next generation custom supply chain application or CRM, PaaS is where the enterprise can see value. The ability to point your application at a database, web or messaging service in the cloud has great appeal. You are now outsourcing the performance and maintenance of these subsystems to your cloud provider. No need to worry about disk, CPU or memory performance for the underlying infrastructure as the Cloud provider now takes care of all of the plumbing for these components. Your organization can focus on application innovation which will help gain a competitive edge.
So you may say, “Show me to this PaaS of which you speak?” The challenge today is that there is no standard across PaaS providers. You have to pick a provider, a language and marry your success to the viability of the single provider as you are locked in to the provider’s framework. You no long like the service you are getting from your current provider? Well what are you going to do re-write your application for a new provider? This is a problem that the Cloud is supposed to solve. If you wanted vendor lock in you would have gone with Oracle or SAP.
Ideally PaaS services would be just as portable as virtual machines. That’s where the VMware sponsored CloudFoundary comes into play. CloudFoundary gives you a consistent framework across different cloud providers. You say you like Amazon’s database instances but want to have messaging in your private cloud – no problem. You write your application to the CloudFoundary framework and it will be a seamless experience across the two clouds.
Same goes for building a redundant application across multiple public clouds. You can put your production services on Amazon’s cloud and have it backed up by any other provider that has a CloudFoundary service. There are countless use cases for this type of application environment. You could have your development environment provided by a value player or your laptop and your production served by Terremark.
That’s the dream. The reality is that the platform has a ways to go. VMware has made great strides over the past year but similar to the OpenStack this is a big and complex problem. VMware cannot be the only major contributor to the project (at least brand wise). They need more heft to get this to critical mass and wide adoption. OpenStack brought on major open source contributors in IBM and Oracle. I believe CloudFoundry needs another big name to continue the momentum.
I haven’t had time to review or weigh in on Citrix’s announcement on dropping support for OpenStack and embracing CloudStack. I know since the announcement OpenStack has had a couple of major wins but I don’t think they come close to offsetting the loss of Citrix in the camp.
Citrix really wants to compete in the datacenter with VMware. At the same time VMware is making a compelling argument for their Cloud ecosystem. If you are looking at rolling a private cloud and you already have a vSphere infrastructure it’s difficult to weed through all the commercial options and the basically non-existent open source options for a VMWare environment. vCloud becomes the defacto option when you don’t have months to research alternatives. This puts Citrix at a handicap when it comes to competing in the data center and the private cloud.
I believe the Citrix move is positioned to help those who haven’t already invested heavily into VMware and are considering both a virtualization and cloud strategy a compelling option. I commented earlier on the progress of the OpenStack platform and how far they have to go. Citrix can’t afford to wait on the platform to mature.
If Citrix executes well they will have a great story to tell customers about potential seamless integration with AWS. I think Citrix looks at Amazon more of a partner than VMware does. The ability to provide surge capability of your XenServer based private cloud to AWS is enticing.