Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The on ramp to the Cloud

So where are we on the way to the Cloud? In spite of substantial amounts of noise from media, un-conference and un-workshop activities, the reality is that true commercial use of the Cloud has been limited. It is widely recognised that the leader in the space is Amazon Web Services and that de facto, the EC2, S3 and plethora of services offered by Amazon offer the current benchmark for competitors to approach. Their announcement of new, dynamic building blocks or tools, to allow the scalability of service delivery using Cloud shifts the agenda another step forwards. See http://fountnhead.blogspot.com/2009/05/new-aws-enable-real-elastic-clouds.html for a useful  summary of the changes.
Industry rumour has been working overtime on Microsoft's Azure offering and the specific services being offered to their enterprise user base, where the flexibility to offer applications as a service and/or supplemented by cloud based services is proving an attractive prospect. Equally, Google is flexing its considerable muscles to offer its Google Apps and Docs services and with possibly the largest global infrastructure of any vendor, they are well placed to extend their services in a similar vein.
However, the word on the street - or in the Data Centre, is that company data will not be disseminated outside the firewall - over the dead body of the CIO. In fact, given that most shops have ample processing power available and rapidly escalating storage needs, the need to acquire new resources outside the firewall is actually quite low. Enter the discussion about Private Cloud. One of my roles is in the global distributed standards organisation, Open Grid Forum (OGF). In this group we are interested in identifying the building blocks of open standards which allow the end users to assure themselves of interoperation and consistency across their chosen software vendors. As the Enterprise lead for OGF, I am interested in understanding how IT users would really like to incorporate IT Services and Cloud infrastructures into their provisioning and infrastructure management tools. To that end we are running a workshop here at OGF 26 in Chapel Hill this week, which aims to start the process of understanding user requirements and use cases to flow into the OGF Open Cloud Computing Interface (OCCI) standards activity announced in April. OCCI is certainly gaining some traction in the space,a lthough the industry leaders are not yet convinced of the benefits of open standards applied to their services - that's the challenge for the prospective users of these services to argue that it is in the best interests of their vendors to comply with their needs. However, it is early days.

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