Friday, March 14, 2008

Is Cloud Computing nothing but Utility Computing?

So there's this, ahem, interesting blog entry over at RedMonk by James Governer. His assertion on 15 Ways to Tell Its Not Cloud Computing really seems to refer to utility computing rather than cloud computing. And utility computing has been around for a while and matches pretty much all of his assertions. Except for some reason, providers of utility computing, and, worse, consumers of utility computing are still hard to find. Oh, they exist, Amazon EC2 provides effectively a utility computing model, other major vendors have various offerings in this space. But that is not what Cloud Computing is.

More importantly, Cloud Computing provides utility computing, either for a business, or for an internet community. Utility computing is an output, but somewhere underneath that utility there is a lot of coal mining, a lot of power plants, a lot of sub stations that provide that utility computing. And, despite the long time goals of the Grid community, the performance and security challenges (and a few others) haven't allowed for effective sharing of computing power between companies. And, to be honest, even the paradigm shift to Cloud Computing is not going to bring us to that Nirvana over night. Even with some of the greatest computing shifts, change occurs over several years, and with several steps that allow the industry to keep up and to adapt to those paradigm shifts.

As an example, I have been a part of IBM's Linux strategy since about 1999. I've also been involved heavily with the Linux and several open source communities. One realization there was that Linux was going to transform the desktop first, then data center, and then the world. Well, we had the order wrong. And we had the order wrong because the place where change happened on this scale was actually in the Data Center. And that is exactly where the change for Cloud Computing will come from first. And, if you look at the 15 tests to see which ones matter to Enterprises, you'll see that most of them just don't matter. And that is not because Enterprise's don't want utility computing today - it is because they still want a high level of control and management over their data.

I would assert that of the Fortune 500 or Global 1000, there are very few companies putting their trust in an Amazon EC2 offering, nor would they do so for a very long time. And, for small mom & pop shops, they may start with EC2 as a cheap entry point, but there is a point where they need more control, more flexibility, more capability than they can get from today's utility computing providers. And that is the point where, having tasted the services that a Cloud can offer, they will want to build their own, with their own requirements built into it. (Yes, there are more of the Fortune 500 that outsource compute resources, but I would assert that for the most part, those are not clouds for various reasons too lengthy to get into here).

So, if you've read James' blog, here are a few brief comments: I'd agree with James on OGSA, on provisioning/deprovisioning (although Cloud Computing is *sooo* much more than that, see one of my earlier blog entries on that). Well, I thought there'd be more that I agreed with. But I don't disagree with all the rest - but I don't think any of those have any basis in determining whether or not something is or is not a cloud.

Maybe this is part of the core: Amazon (and google, and others) have provided a very visible, very interesting model which demonstrates that underneath the utility computing, they have built a cloud. They maintain that cloud, they provide the services, the manpower (Human IT resources), the intelligence of reducing the cost of managing that cloud, the data centers, the power management, the service and hardware and software maintenance of that cloud. The end users benefit from (and pay for) the utility provided by that cloud.

But what about those companies that want all of the best practices, the simplification of management, the ability to create their own virtual appliances matching their workload, their ability to manage Sorbanes-Oaxley requirements and do it in house? Those are the companies that today are interested in buying into the Cloud Computing vision, not just as a consumer of some of its services, but as companies who push the envelope on innovation as a way to fuel their own business.


At 8:14 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

actually i think we probably see this about 180 degrees in opposition. i think you're over-complicating cloud computing, rebadging earlier efforts as cloud computing. cloud computing should be simple from the user perspective. cloud computing came from the internet, not the data center. learn from it.

At 3:27 PM, Blogger Gerrit said...

Oh - good, I almost agree without about *something* - the point about how cloud computing comes from the internet - although it is really using the internet that makes it possible to share excess computing power, per Google, Amazon, etc. But also keep in mind that like the Internet, we started with UUCP, Usenet, Bitnet, and various relay services long before we made it to internet. And Cloud Computing is about as early in progress as local token ring networks connected via UUCP hubs with the EC2 representing the deployment of the first of the 3 IMPs of the DARPA Internet days. There is a LOT of infrastructure to build before Cloud Computing is as pervasive as the Internet - but we'll get there within ten years, and maybe even sooner.


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