Turing's Man Blog

Data center. A place where “clouds” become physical matter

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Each time I listen to the cloud evangelism I become frustrated. Since the introduction of this, in my opinion, unfortunate term – the "cloud" – I haven’t heard anything new and nothing specific about the involved technologies and standards. The same slogans and doubts, the same pros and cons of – so called – "clouds" all the time. Indeed, it is a great subject for presentations and public speeches, but when it comes to the hard facts… No numbers, no standards, no measures, nothing, but words… No IT at all! Therefore, my strongest counterargument against "cloud computing" was – show me the standards and uncover infrastructure concepts and designs. Wait… Did I change my mind?

 

I still believe that there are no "clouds" in IT at all. I believe the "cloud" is nothing more than a new name for the bunch of old, rebranded and repackaged technologies. Yes, I’m very sceptic now. I’m looking from the critical point of view all the time, but maybe something has changed – just a little bit – in me recently.

Until now, I was impressed by the Oracle’s CEO Larry Ellison opinion on the "clouds" – presented during the discussion with Ed Zander (former CEO, Motorola and former President of Sun Microsystems) in Churchill Club, 2009.

 

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison extremely sceptical on "cloud computing" hype (Churchill Club, 2009), as presented by ForaTv channel on YouTube

 

And, however, Larry Ellison changed his mind – which has a very easy commercial explanation – I can see that Oracle is trying to organize the "cloud" in the first place. Such approach can give this term a solid, industrial meaning based on the IT technologies (and not the marketing) and standards as a foundation.

 

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison defines his meaning of "cloud computing", as presented by NetworkWorld channel on Youtube

 

Please note, what Larry Ellison has said during the announcement presentation of Oracle Public Cloud that held at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, 2011:

 

[...]
The key difference is that our cloud is based on industry standards and supports full operability with other clouds and data centers on-premise.
[...]

 

So, here we have the key concepts of the Oracle "clouds": industry standards, full operability… This interoperability of "clouds" can be achieved when all vendors will define common industrial standards, agree on and follow them in their "clouds" implementations. Hence, wide integration of currently available infrastructure, hardware and software solutions will be possible under the one name – "cloud".

 

Larry Ellison announces Oracle Public Cloud with strong emphasis on industry standards (Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, 2011). As presented by ZDNet Video channel on Youtube

 

Although, in reality things are not going so easy for the "clouds". Especially when it comes to these "industry standards". The problem is that all other significant market players have their own understanding of the "cloud" and the way it should be organized. Therefore, it’s hard to say what industry standards can be applied to build the solid foundation for the "clouds". In fact, this is the thing I don’t like too much about "clouds" – no simple vision of what it is and how it should be implemented. Everything looks great as long as we have a bird’s-eye view on the "clouds", but there are too many questions when we go down to the level of actual technologies and standards, including their composition.

So? It seems there are no real industrial standards at all for the "clouds" now. Rather – standards and technologies defined by all significant vendors (Microsoft and VMWare to name the most important players) to gain the "cloud" market themselves. It should be emphasized that during his speech on Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, 2011, Larry Ellison made a distinction between "standards-based cloud" vs. "vendor-proprietary cloud". Of course, these first "true clouds" belong to Oracle, but I’m sure all other vendors can quite easily prove the same concept for their own "cloud" solutions. Where is the truth? Outside the actual "cloud" marketing – it is hidden in the technological details.

All this "cloud" concept seems to be blurred. This is the main reason why, each time I’m involved into discussion concerning "clouds", I start to ask about standards, technologies, actual design patterns on all layers: software, hardware, infrastructure. I start to think about interoperability – on local and global scale. I don’t want to care about vendors and their own standards. This is the point where there are more questions than answers and the whole – nice – concept of "cloud" becomes frustrating.

However, recently, I’ve discovered an interesting counterargument to all my doubts and criticism about the lack of standards for "clouds". It was provided by Pat Gelsinger, CEO at VMWare, VMworld Europe in Barcelona, 2012. Who knows, maybe I’ll start to consider "clouds" from this new perspective in the nearest future? According to the Datacenter Dynamics FOCUS magazine (November 2012 issue), when asked about whether a lack of standards is restricting cloud adoption, Pat Gelsinger said:

 

[...]
I disagree with the way the question is phrased. A lack of cloud standards is not restricting the adoption of private or public cloud – governance, security and SLAs are concerns, but not standards. Standards will emerge from services, and we will work with standards bodies as they emerge.
[...]

 

I must say – I like this explanation. As it was said here – I feel something has maybe changed in me considering "clouds". There is much more optimism right now.

Finally, what I like in all these "cloud" debates the most is the fact that "data center" term is repeated so many times by all vendors. It’s nothing strange. Although "cloud" is a very abstract concept there is no other way to this abstraction layer than through the virtualization of IT resources, but based on solid, reliable, physical infrastructure which can be provided by hi-tech data centers only. Therefore, we can fell in love with "clouds" as we can easily start to believe that we don’t have to take care about all these infrastructure, hardware and software issues we don’t want to see (data center, anyone?). However, it means only the fact, that someone will have to take care about these things for us.

 

So, go on IT world – data center industry will boost heavily with wide "clouds" adoption!

 

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