Archive for May, 2014

Is it time to privatize the cloud?

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Sure thing, the talking king heads of cloud have been preaching for a long time how public clouds will take over the world and become the new utility behemoths. The big (or early) ones – AWS, Azure, Google – have certainly seen rapid growth and this growth will likely continue for a long period of time. But, is the future all public cloud or does the private cloud have any chance to exist?

To answer this question, there are several dimensions to be considered. To start with, is the question of privacy of information. Even if a company may choose to go for a model of remote delivery of software (think Office 365), rules or just company policy will often require that sensitive data will be kept within the legal and physical control of the data owner (i.e., never made available to the cloud service provider). Recent news and the legal framework under which many major cloud service providers operate make this issue even more stringent and important and many companies will be legally bound to keep their data within their infrastructure – especially if operating in sensitive areas such as communications, financial system or government which make up a sizable chunk of the potential cloud clientele. In short, even if you discard the cost associated with shoveling a lot of data around, data privacy will be a serious catalyst for not embracing fully public cloud solutions.

The second aspect has to do with scale and simple economics. When your installation is small, operational costs will dominate and using a public cloud is the more sensible choice. As your business scales, at one point internalizing your infrastructure is simply more cost efficient, as many case studies with AWS will show you (think Netflix). Public cloud is a bit like a kickstarter thing to get rolling; once your business is ready for prime time, using a bank is a more sensible choice.

The third aspect has to do with the segmentation of the cloud market in terms of unique requirements. While initially a cloud service was just a uniform service, as the market is maturing more stringent and differentiated requirements come to the front. Whether it is real-time performance, availability, security or something else, segmentation is a fact of life – as illustrated by AWS’ differentiated offering. However with segmentation come additional costs and downsizing of individual segments where economies of scale will have to take a back seat.

Putting it all together – while public cloud providers have done a decent job kickstarting the industry, it’s time to re-focus on private cloud deployments. Public cloud will continue to grow, but private cloud demand – volume wise – will grow faster and will be a more differentiated market. How should big public cloud companies respond?

To stay relevant, they need to expand their customer base to those who would never use their public cloud offering. How? The answer is simple: privatize their cloud stack and sell it to those planning to build private clouds. Couple it with devops services and they can replicate their success at a totally different level. Compatibility with their public cloud will be a huge asset.

Are they ready?

Should you pass on PaaS?

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

It’s funny to watch all the predictions on how fast different parts of the cloud market will grow – but also how some analysts “adjust” their forecast from 30+ CAGR to meager single low digits within just a few months or go from multi-ten billion market sizes to just a couple of billions. All these adjustments reveal one key thing: there’s a large degree of uncertainty with regards to how fast the cloud market will grow (no one really question the enormous growth potential) and where the focus will really be within a couple of years.

No other area reflects this better than Platform as a Service (PaaS). Once it has been touted as the main source of growth; nowadays it’s more a necessary add on for successful IaaS providers. 451 research recently released a research note highlighting the movements in the market and how PaaS solutions are really used – that is, which got acquired by whom. So, should anyone care about PaaS? Or should we just pass on it?

It’s always good to remind ourselves what PaaS really is. Essentially, any self-respecting PaaS solution offers three types of services: application life cycle management, application run time environments and services (which, in most cases, can be extended by other, user defined services). Typically life cycle management includes staging, termination, scaling (auto-scaling), policy based SLA enforcement – just what you would expect from any serious cloud management solution. On the run-time environment side you will find support for Ruby, JavaScript, Java, Python and the likes. As for services, security, database, messaging are typically present in most solutions.

Before answering the question, let me make an attempt to lay out a few ground truths and principles around PaaS:

1. Just as for programming languages, don’t expect a PaaS standard anytime soon. It may be sparser or thicker, but still a jungle it will be and portability will be a pain
2. Services will be used on a “need to have” as well portability basis. An LDAP based security service is a safe bet. An esoteric say messaging service less so.
3. If your app works with one PaaS, it’s not guaranteed that it will work with another one. Staging, policy enforcement, service usage will differ – it may start, but may fail miserably along the road
4. Be sure you use an application framework that is widely supported: node.js, JVM based ones, Ruby, Python are good. Other, not so much.
5. PaaS will not replace a cloud management solution, it adds an extra layer to be managed

So, should you just pass on PaaS and stay with IaaS and whatever application framework you use?

The answer is yes and no. Yes, you should pass on the dream of a “universal PaaS” that would allow you to run your application on “any” cloud and get the same services. This will simply not happen – cloud providers will work towards making sure to provide you with a PaaS layer, but a PaaS layer that is tailored for their particular cloud infrastructure. AWS has one, VMWare (for their private cloud) have another one (Cloud Foundry), for RedHat based clouds you have OpenShift. Moving these around and getting the same level of service is hard, if not impossible.

The answer is also No. No, it’s not a good idea to pass on PaaS. It does provide a platform that insulates the application from some complex aspects of cloud (VM management, scale-out/in, fault management) and allows the programmer to focus on the task at hand – if you are developing a new application. Given the tendency of cloud providers to offer a bundled PaaS solution, the real question to answer is the same old one: which cloud is right for you? Public or private? VMWare based or Linux/KVM/OpenStack or CloudStack based or Azure based? Redhat or some other distro? Once you answered those questions, you implicitly made the choice of PaaS too – in fact, it may be one of the decision criteria.

Just don’t expect “seamless” portability and interoperability. Go for performance, low cost or ease of migrating your legacy – whichever is more important for you.

Back in business

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Wow, it has been over two years since my last post (it was about OpenStack vs CloudStack) – and a lot has happened during this time. But now it’s finally time to get rolling again, both on the blog as well as on Twitter.

A lot of things have happened in the meanwhile. Professionally, we are making cloud – telco cloud – really happen, spiced up with a bit of SDN too (hence my change of work title and focus). Personally, our family has grown with one new member, Örs András, who just passed the solid age of 1 year two months ago.

I guess this is enough to get this blog active again 🙂 Watch out for a new post on PaaS and cloud computing coming up soon.