Mind the Cloud - Home
Thoran Rodrigues
SEP 28, 2012 04:48 AM
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Hello everyone, and welcome to “Mind the Cloud”. Cloud computing is one of the hottest topics in technology today, and for good reason. Will the cloud completely transform IT and other industries? Is the cloud something truly new, or just a rehash of old technologies? Can we possibly create a cloud environment that is secure enough to hold even the most sensitive data? What are the future trends for cloud technology? There is no definitive answer. The uncertainty and the debate that surround the cloud are a part of what make this topic so hot.

The second part is the increasing size of the cloud computing market. There are dozens of predictions and estimates of the total market size and the year-on-year growth, and the one thing that they all agree on is that it is growing, and growing fast. Companies, especially small and mid-size ones, are quickly adopting the more “vanilla” cloud solutions (such as email), and using cloud-based infrastructure, instead of buying servers or building internal datacenters.

This, then, is a place for us to talk about and discuss everything related to the cloud. I will go into the questions and issues that still surround the cloud, bringing problems to light, and, whenever possible, presenting possible solutions. I will talk about industry solutions and news, new technologies and techniques, interesting articles, and anything else that might be of interest.

I have been running a cloud-based services company for almost three years. Our entire infrastructure is hosted on the public cloud, and I’ve had the chance to work with several of the cloud providers on all levels of the stack (infrastructure, platform and software). Whenever possible, I’ll share my experiences, good and bad, and provide what advice I can.

To get the ball rolling, here is the NIST definition of cloud computing. It’s an excellent starting point for any cloud discussion, setting a baseline of understanding of the cloud stack, its key characteristics, and the different deployment models. Comparing the products that vendors label as “cloud” to this definition allows us to easily discern instances of cloudwashing, that is, situations where vendors slap the cloud label on something that clearly isn’t. An example: are web-based email solutions instances of cloud software? Strictly speaking, according to the NIST definition, and contrary to popular belief, they aren’t. They lack the “Rapid elasticity” characteristic, in that they don’t allow users to provision their main capability, storage space, up and down according to demand. You have a maximum inbox size, and that’s it. On the other hand, they have every other characteristic mentioned in the definition, so we get a case of “close-enough”.

The only point where I disagree with the definition is in the inclusion of “Private Cloud” as a deployment model, because this ends up equating a company’s datacenter with the public cloud infrastructure. A company can offer cloud-like capabilities on its internal datacenters, but that’s just virtualization, not cloud computing. The inclusion of this deployment model ends up creating confusion, instead of reducing it, and just feeds into the private vs. public cloud debate.

The NIST definition is an interesting read for newcomers and experienced cloud veterans alike, and I’ll be referring to it time and again on future discussions. Although the term cloud computing is still an evolving concept – and this is acknowledged in the NIST document – having a starting point makes any discussion and future evolutions and changes to the concept that much easier.  If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please share in the comments.     

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