Enterprise Grade Cloud Enabled by the Ecosystem

While investing in building new data centers all over the world and creating the management overlay in order to be able to sell their hardware, IaaS operators are also relying on their ecosystem to support the evolving enterprises that go to the cloud (e.g. the “Enterprise Grade Cloud”).

API First – The move to the cloud pushes the data center to re-invent itself within the new environment. It is a fact that, although the cloud is a pure revolution (at least in MHO), terms such as SLA, TCO and ROI are still valid in this new IT era. Thanks to industry leaders such as Salesforce.com that realize the notion of “API first”, vendors such Amazon cloud present new capabilities first through their APIs. In this way, the cloud operator platform enables development of its ecosystem.

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5 Key Essentials of Cloud Workloads Migration

imageThe benefits of migrating workloads between different cloud providers or between private and public clouds can only truly be redeemed with an understanding of the cloud business model and cloud workload management. It seems that cloud adoption has reached the phase where advanced cloud users are creating their own hybrid solutions or migrating between clouds while striving to achieve interoperability values within their systems. This article aims to answer some of the questions that arise when managing cloud workloads.

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IGT: Story of a Leading Cloud Computing Institute

Next week, on Oct 23rd in Tel Aviv we welcome the annual conference of IGT – The Israeli Association of Cloud Computing. Started in 2008, this is the 5th year that this international conference takes place in the vibrant city of Tel Aviv located alongside the Jaffa coastline. This year the conference will no longer discuss what is the cloud and how it disrupting the IT world. This year the conference holds two themes: Big Data and SaaS business.

In a discussion I had with Mr. Avner Algom, Founder and CEO of IGT, he noted:

““Every year we strive to bring the international industry leaders and, as our community grows, it just becomes more appealing and it’s easier to get them to come. Without a doubt, the question “What is Cloud?” is behind us. This year’s conference focus is on Big Data and SaaS. These are important issues for cloud companies and cloud business as these are strongly tied together in the cloud”” said Avner Algom, IGT CEO.

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Developers are from Mars

The three layers of cloud computing IaaS, PaaS and SaaS occupy the headlines with significant capabilities undergo continuous improvement to host services in the cloud. This growing market is slowly changing so that offered services will become generic. The current evolving struggle is the deployment and management of SaaS applications in the cloud, Gartner calls this cloud market portion SEAP (Software Enabled Application Platforms). We will dare to say that developers are from Mars and cloud providers from Venus, let us explain in detail why.

SaaS application developer builds the application architecture structure including the database system, the business logic and the user Interface. The software developer (or the SaaS vendor for that matter) invests on building these main three infrastructure cornerstones in order to bring life to the business idea and launch a new on-line service.

Traditional software delivery puts the responsibility of deployment and maintenance in the hands of the customer. In contrast, the SaaS model key includes building the infrastructure wrapper that allows meeting the requirements to deliver it as a service. The change from the licensing model is that the SaaS vendor (the developer) is also the integrator and the responsible to support standards by adopting technologies which makes the software as a service.

The most popular example is the support of multi-tenant. This feature enables the scalability to perform extensive SaaS sales and effective maintenance on the  non-physical infrastructure.  The virtual infrastructure brings higher level of complexity which requires additional maintenance means. This complexity intensifies as the number of customers grows, hence the demand for more cloud capabilities and resources.

Developers use existing frameworks that enable a short and efficient development such as .NET provided by Microsoft or Ruby on Rails brought by the open source world. Software architects already understand that the application multi-tenancy is a part of the system infrastructure to enable scalability, but is the that enough to make an application as a service? the answer is no, there are more considerations the developer need to bear in mind when planning the architecture of software as a service.

Why Multi-Tenancy ?

In order to plan the development of a robust and automatic scalability, the software architect must understand the cloud dynamic nature that is to say the basic option to start and shut down resources automatically. The software vendor should pick the IaaS vendor as part of the initial development step, learn the IaaS platform’s API capabilities and make sure that the development roadmap includes also a tight integration with the cloud facility. The IaaS platforms offered are still young and automation deployment is still limited due to infrastructure barriers. Most of the IaaS platforms doesn’t provide convenient tools to deploy the application, therefore the SaaS vendoר is forced to invest in purchasing existing tools or even implement independently. Today we still see vendors that are not aware of these requirements as they are not pure application but operations oriented.

Learn how to Scale IT – an article by CloudInsights.org

Check out I Am OnDemand terminology page and learn more about the four levels of Multi-Tenancy.

Another aspect in the SaaS development discussion is the option to build the system on a PaaS. There is a good number of PaaS manufacturers that offer products enable development capabilities as a service and by that solve the developer’s need to maintain a scalable service as described above. We can divide the this group of products to following two categories: 

  1. Objects as a service – force.com is an example for such vendor. The developer will buy the option to use the out of the box software objects to implement a new application. 
  2. Runtime and database as a service – here we can mention platforms as Heruko, Google Apps and MS Azure.

Gartner predicts a growth in the amount of platforms that provide the wrapper for the web development of new and existing application. These platforms already have taken a significant part in the cloud evolution. The number of PaaS providers grows while the existing vendors continue to extend their on-demand tools portfolio, enabling a wide range of services for operation, management and distribution of SaaS applications.

Learn more about the PaaS market

Besides the actual system scalability issues presented here, there are much more “developing for the cloud” considerations such as integration, develop for resources’ optimal utilization and SaaS development with the fast changing clouds’ platforms. Check out Cloud development: 9 gotchas to know before you jump in, an article brought to you by InfoWrold.

The relationship between the actual application development and the operational side of the application becomes stronger. While the SaaS vendor’s board should think on all cloud adoption strategic aspects, the vendor’s software architect as well as the product manager should think “out of the application box” to be able to deliver their product as a service.

Special thanks for Amit Cohen who raised this discussion and took a part in composing this article. Cohen is an experienced  SaaS & Cloud computing consultant for the enterprise who held executive positions at several international software vendors over the last 10 years.

`I Am OnDemand` Discussion: Cloud Computing – Is this a Revolution or just an Evolution ?

Three months ago I started this LinkedIn discussion and I keep getting comments about it. People might say that it is just a defiant question for marketing purposes. I say that this question raises many thoughts and opinions that helps marking the strategy of an IT organization. I invite you to read the following comments that can bring you to think a bit more about your current On-Demand strategy and approach.

> > > > > Answer #1: Just a Buzzword

It’s a buzzword. This is a 70’s-80’s technologies evolution. Remember mainframes, VM/370, per-time payments when using machine. Just another evolutionary loop, development of already existent technologies. In my opinion Cloud computing is an evolution. Started with the revolution of Grid computing, then Utility computing, SAAS computing and now it finds its preliminary conclusion in Cloud computing. Thus no it is not a revolution, it is a revolutionary step in the evolution of what is now called Cloud computing. This is just a good name for number of technologies that was ready years before than customers are become ready for it and useful software was written. Many companies added “Cloud” to the titles of their solutions. Any site can be marked “Cloud ready” or “SaaS solution” 🙂 It means that it’s only marketing. This all is possible because people don’t know what Cloud is in details; sellers often talk about it as about some magic. You can use Magic instead of Cloud; meaning stays the same – marketing.

> > > > > Answer #2 : Depends! From the technology perspective: Evolution and from the business point: Revolution

“From a technology point of view I am pretty positive about categorizing it as evolution and not even sure if representing a significant step; from a business standpoint however I think there is much more value in the concept. I believe that Cloud Computing introduces a capability to rapidly map dynamic changes in the business models that is kind of revolutionary

“My observation is that “cloud” is a description of how IT is supposed to work from a business perspective: flexible, available, efficient (lower cost), secure, dynamic, responsive, etc. If you are an IT specialist, the technology is evolutionary, but the thinking may be revolutionary.”

“I tend to think that the cloud computing Revolution will transform the way all businesses interface include enterprises with technology and communications, and marks the next wave of the fundamental changes that the evolution of the internet has already brought about the Tera Play

> > > > > Answer #3: IaaS just an Evolution. Massive Scaling, supported by PaaS and SaaS, is the Revolution.

“I’ve seen global Trading and risk systems, (30,000 node compute grids, nano second trading platforms), some true cutting edge platforms. And this is really a complete transformation of IT. If you’re thinking just IaaS then it’s just evolutionary. True SaaS and PaaS is a revolution. The fact that Salesforce (and the force.com platform) can deliver millions of users and 97500 customers on a single multi-tenant platform with three major upgrades per year. That’s the power of the cloud. Giving a small 10 user non-profit the same reach and scale as a multibillion dollar organisation. The cloud. No admin or maintenance, pure development and software business process IP. What other technology can scale from 1 to 100,000 users. It can take much less than 10% of the traditional development to build a SaaS app compared to traditional platforms. Cheaper , faster AND better . That’s a revolution.

“The prior comment reflects a deep misunderstanding about what timeshared (outsourced) mainframe computing was all about. Cloud is just another swing in the pendulum. The business owners in the 60’s were right: why should we buy and maintain our own computers when we can better spend the money by renting the computing resources from somebody who knows how to take care of all that “stuff”? It’s not new. We’re just coming around to the fact that PC computing set the industry back 40 years and we’re now where we would have been if PCs had not taken 25 years to “grow up”.

As amorphous as this question might be, the analogy to mainframes is highly misplaced and not very useful. Among other defining characteristics, cloud services allow software developers to control infrastructure resources programmatically. This means that applications specifically designed for cloud environments can bypass the historically slow and error prone layer of IT administrators that maintain computing resources through largely manual, error prone processes. Companies that use such functionality to enable auto-scaling, such as Netflix, are doing so without the need to invest capital into stranded computing capacity that may or may be fully subscribed. I’ll leave the ever so important question of evolution vs. revolution to you, but explain to me how the Netflix development team could have replicated their

“Revolution – Cloud is a disruption of everything internet and application as we know them. The very large infrastructure and service vendors are racing to rework their offers and slow things down to keep their competitive advantage. Revolutions are messy – like a massive earthquake or coup d etat. Evolution is what you study afterwards when learning which creatures adapted and which went extinct.”

> > > > > Revolution by Wikipedia takes place in a short period of time

“According to the Wikipedia definition: A revolution (from the Latin revolutio, “a turnaround”) is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time. So how this aligned with the “Cloud Computing Revolution” that doesn’t seem to come up in a short period of time?… I remind you that Amazon started its AWS 11 years ago… ” I asked

“Ofir – most revolutions have a long lead up time where the angst ferments underground and bursts out in a moment of time when the underlying ability to organize action is catalyzed by some event – Egypt for example (mobile devices & Facebook). Think of the internet revolution in 1995-1997. The internet was slowly building out (DARPA net, etc) with organization by the scientific/defense communities and catalyzed by Tim Berner Lee public gift of http/html. The corporate world was seeking a way to collaborate beyond the bonds of one company’s offer, like IBM & MSFT. Within two years the Internet exploded into the corporate world, literally revolutionizing the ways companies marketed themselves. The coup was over when Bill Gates announced that Msft was an Internet company and Netscape dropped $25 in a day!”

This month Christian Verstraete, HP’s Chief Technologist also raised this question in the CIO magazine. In his post he writes:

“One of the questions that came on the table was whether cloud computing is a revolution, a paradigm shift, or not. I’d like to answer, it’s both.

I say that the cloud computing is Evolving faster to become a Revolution,

what do you think ? Join the discussion

Clouds of Change: MTBC Cloud Conference and 2011 Cloud.com Outlook

Posted by Nir Peled

Last Friday, I attended  MTBC (Metroplex Technology Business Council) Solutions in the Cloud” conference in Dalla, Texas.The main event at the conference was a prestigious panel composed of three IT leaders: Brian Bonner, CIO of Texas Instruments, Toby Pennycuff, CTO of J.C. Penney Company and the panel moderator, Robert Wiseman, CTO of Sabre. 

The panelists shared their thoughts and expertise with more than 300 professionals and academic leaders regarding cloud’s most fundamental questions. This event gave us a chance to hear directly from the decision makers regarding moving into the cloud, how they feel about this new innovative approach, what worries them and their predictions regarding organizations going into the cloud.

The panel was unanimous in their approval of what we all suspected was the main concern of large organizations (when considering going into the cloud), cloud security assurance.

“Providers must have a proven security approach. For us, the cloud provider would have to prove the security of our data before even offering its services to us. This is vital”  said Pennycuff.

“What is the exit strategy? What happens to the data after the lease term is over? How do we get it back and how do we know that it is still secure?” asked Bonner.

Bonner was also concerned regarding migration into the cloud of large traditional organizations like the one he comes from. These types of organizations have some old systems. In most of the cases those enterprises would have multiple layers of systems which were added over the years as the technology evolved. In Bonner’s opinion, the cloud migration would and should be systematic and gradual. The new cloud components must support and communicate with the old/current systems.

Cloud.com conducted a survey in the second quarter of 2011 to determine cloud computing usage trends among IT professionals who participate in the BitNami, Cloud.com and Zenoss open source software and user communities. The final results, presented in “2011 Cloud Computing Outlook” document, include a lot of information on cloud adoption including motivations, barriers and trends. The following chart present important findings on one of the today’s common “cloud adoption” question –

> > >    At what stage are your plans for cloud computing in 2011?

The panel and the survey, both discuss the Cost as the most common motivation to move to the cloud and the Security as the most common challenge.

> > >   What benefits do you believe cloud computing provides to your organization ?

In the large organizations the cloud would need to come up with significant advantages (in terms of cost efficiency) in order to convince migrating from the known, functioning IT (referred to as the “old” approach) to the “new” cloud IT. What matters to organizations is functionality together with speed and above all is security. Security must be trusted in the “old fashioned” approach.

Learn about cloud security basics:  The Cloud Security Part 1: For Dummies

If there are a large number of users how would you control and maintain security? In addition, how would you secure the resources used in a virtual system?

Those interesting questions were asked by a PhD from the Texas academic world which is responsible for $5 million research project for the US Air Force. In response to those questions, the panel agreed that while no major attacks have occurred, we should still use several layers of security. All security mechanisms (such as several ID & password combinations timeouts, identity verification etc…) should all be implemented in the cloud security solution. Using a trusted virtual OS in addition to closely monitoring the US military’s network could assist in preventing attacks. They also mentioned that the concept of asking for a `contract for damages` from the cloud providers scares them and limits their services.

Cloud security is still caught as one of the leading adoption barriers, but it is interesting to see that it is not the first according to 2011 outlook report.

> > >   Are there any factors inhibiting your adoption of cloud computing?

Check the following results for the question – 

> > >   What is your biggest challenge with regards to managing your cloud computing environment? 

Can we say that there is a mind shift ? Does security factor changes from adoption barrier to become a challenge while the decision to move to the cloud already made? 

Another very interesting and important subject was brought up during the panel discussion – Privacy and Regulation in a global cloud environment. Every country and, in some cases, every state has its own regulations and utilizes different approaches toward privacy and ownership rights for data, patents, processing of information in its registration, etc.  This issue presents the world with regulatory challenges. If the data is in the cloud, and the cloud can be everywhere (sometimes in several international locations simultaneously) how would the providers protect the data while also guaranteeing their clients’ rights? Where the data being kept and where/how is it being used?

100 years ago, everyone had to drill for water. Today, everyone drilling for water makes no sense. Same for IT, if cloud would be possible and the obvious way for IT, we would be able to concentrate on our core business. No doubt, there is a place for cloud in IT for some companies. The hardest part is finding out whom to trust (which is common when doing any sort of outsourcing).

The final words were shared by all the panel speakers. They agreed on the fact that the world is going towards cloud for platform, infrastructure and services. There are many challenges to confront and issues to deal with primarily regarding security. Today companies and organizations are looking into moving to the cloud and building and/or modifying their current business modules of the last 20+ years.

“Before going into cloud remember to educate yourself, understand the offer, pay attention to security and have a good “exit” strategy.” Pennycuff’s words of wisdom.

“Take it slow, go step by step and in small groups.“ Bonner added

An interesting comment from a participant received unanimous approval from the audience. It was mentioned that cloud provides a good business opportunity for small and new companies.  Cloud services benefit from the fact that their own architecture is not grounded in the old methods of operating, and has not yet suffered from “spaghetti” code infrustructures. 

Check out the following diagram presenting the survey report in a real creative way:

The author of this article is Nir Peled, a reporter and a contributor `I Am OnDemand` .

Nir Peled

`I Am OnDemand` Opinion: The iCloud iBuzz

iCloud provides the ability to share applications, videos, music, data, and other resources among Apple devices and consume those from the cloud. One account covers as many as 10 devices (including iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch, etc.) It handles contacts, calendars, emails, music, e-books, e-magazines, documents, photos, and apps. If you make a change or purchase on one device, then all your devices will have it. Have all your key data backed up automatically as well. Apple basically becomes your core cloud services provider, offering the synchronization and storage of those files and resources that matter most to you as an individual.

> > > > My iPhone:  a Story of an Infinite Storage

 We’ve had clouds at home for some time now, such as the use of SaaS services like those provided by Google. However, iCloud is certainly an IaaS-oriented service, and the ability to use a mass-marketed IaaS cloud is new. David Linthicum claims the term  “Home Clouds” 

I use iPhone for more than 3 years and I love working with this device. When I bought my iPhone 3G (which I accidently dropped in to the toilet after three months, but nevertheless lived for a year more afterwards… amazing, isn’t it?!) and my lovely iPhone 4, I never picked the one with the biggest storage.

I never understood why I need to pay on storage for my pictures when I find them on Facebook or on Picasa using their iPhone apps. I also store and watch my clips on YouTube and my documents using Dropbox, so in fact I already use my iPhone as a cloud device. The iCloud’s benefits which I can think of are sharing playlists and apps among several devices. In my humble opinion, those benefits don’t really matter in comparison with the powerful increase of customers’ lock-in on Apple’s services. I still can’t see utterly remarkable benefits that will induce me to move my stuff into the iCloud and become a loyal Apple resident.

> > > > Browsing throughout the cloud

“Next time you want to access a cloud based service and have to type in the URL, stop and think how seamless this approach actually is! I look forward to seeing how iCloud develops and the impact/influence it will have on other companies and their Cloud Computing products.

A nice article I read talks about how iCloud will change the way of browsing throughout the cloud, hence not by the web browser but the application itself browses and uses the cloud seamlessly for the end user. Interesting, but this browsing approach has been around for some time now. A lot of mobile applications use the vendors’ cloud to retrieve data and sometimes you will find that those applications are actually pure websites.

Discussing end consumer’s cloud services, we must mention Google Chrome OS. I find that this can be the real revolution for the “Home Cloud” but indeed it will take time for people to adopt. Google and other “Web OS” vendors will need to be patient and learn how to deliver properly. I believe that the web browser will continue to evolve, to be better user friendly and will eventually replace the old fashion OS. I invite you to check I Am OnDemand Magazine to read ZDNet article on Philosophical differences: The Google cloud vs. the Apple cloud.

> > > >    MHO

“We’re going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device,” CEO Steve Jobs said.

Are those breaking news? I’m not really sure. Together with its cool “iname”, the best thing I see about the iCloud is the announcement that serves right the “cloud ibuzz” and the increasing awareness about cloud computing. No doubt that everyone know now that the clouds are not only up in the sky but also inside their computing devices.