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"There is No Cloud. It's Just a Bunch of Servers"

My Friend Sam the Developer Weighs In on Amazon AWS

The skeptical viewpoint presented in this article's headline is often expressed to me by a good friend who is in charge of developing a Silicon Valley start-up's website and IT infrastructure.

He zapped me with this truculent view again this week, when discussing the recent Amazon AWS disaster.

My friend - let's call him Sam the Developer, though his real name might be Joe - works in the real world, the measurable world, and seeks to untie knots on a daily basis.

So Cloud Computing smoke and mirrors don't appeal to Sam. Yet, he is working in the Cloud.

Cloud Computing is just a bunch of servers, as Sam says. That's what it looks like to him, as he labors daily to design and deploy features, test their usability and performance, and figure out the level and complexity of computing resources he will really need tomorrow, next week, next month, and beyond.

Consumer v Enterprise
To me, his view again underscores the critical difference between the Consumer Cloud and the Enterprise Cloud.

The Consumer Cloud is anything that people expect to pull from the sky, whether gmail, Facebook, or smartphone apps. The Enterprise Cloud is anything that IT management has offloaded to third-party providers.

Both terms can apply to a single instance of Cloud Computing-that is, there is plenty of heavy-duty IT management going on behind the scenes to deliver any and all Consumer Cloud applications and services.

Who's Responsible?
But the distinction permits a focus on responsibility. Consumers have no responsibility to ensure the apps they use and sites they access are working. IT management, otoh, has complete responsibility to make sure their stuff is working.

Even the most aggressive Cloud deployers-especially the most aggressive Cloud deployers-need highly trained, experienced IT folks to set conditions with third-party Cloud providers, monitor and adjust them over time and in real-time, and be sure that the traditional IT fundamentals of data integrity, throughput, and RAS are being followed.

And itt appears that some IT folks nodded off a bit during the Amazon crisis. As we all now know, AWS is conceived in terms of availability zones and regions. There is a big performance penalty should an application or site need to failover from a zone to a region; as a result, many customers choose to have their resources in a zone alone and take their chances.

It's Like the Movies!
As I've said before, the illusion of infinite scalability is to the Cloud what the willful suspension of disbelief is to moviegoers. Virtualized resources are what makes the former possible; acting (ie, virtualized people) is what makes the latter work.

To Sam, there is no such thing as infinite scalability or a magical world of Cloud services streaming in from a sky-grid. It's just a bunch of servers to him. He thinks this because he has to manage those servers, even if by proxy through his third-party providers.

It can make him crazy. There are many days he wishes he could just have the stuff on-site so he could touch it and control it.

But he can't. His start-up wouldn't be possible without the Cloud, because the company's investors wouldn't spring for the "real" IT they need to build out their vision. And he'd have the same damn problems on-site that he now has off-site.

The Cloud, whether it's just a bunch of servers or is a new paradigm, is responsible for creating his job and the jobs of many others at his start-up.

It will be responsible for many more jobs if my friend Sam and his company are as smart at marketing their new company--and thereby see it grow--as they have been in using the Cloud to get it launched.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.