Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cloud Computing, it's all about the "ilities"

Hi, Craig Vosburgh here. Starting today, I'll be one of the authors contributing to the Cassatt Data Center Dialog blog. Given my role here at Cassatt as Chief Engineer, my posts will be on the technical side of things, with an emphasis on real-world implications, with the occasional peek into how we do what we do. Well with the intro out of the way, on to today's posting...

In my 20+ years of being in the tech sector I haven't seen any other emerging technology with as many buzz words as what is now being termed "Cloud Computing." Normally, I'd want to stay away from using the term du jour, as the past few years have shown that if you wait just a few days someone will likely create a new name to further muddy the waters. However, in this case, I think the industry may finally have found the one that'll stick for the transformations underway at companies around the globe as they re-invent their computing infrastructures and IT processes to better serve their needs.

Let's start by grounding ourselves on some of the terms being used and get us on the same page before we begin this discussion (or at least closer to the same page). If you've been around the space for any time you've likely heard people throw around terms like Autonomic Computing, Adaptive Computing, On Demand Computing, Virtualization, Utility Computing and the new comers to the stage Cloud Computing and Internal or Private Clouds. All of these terms are in one way or another trying to describe a transformation of a company's IT infrastructure from today's rigid stovepipes to one that efficiently and dynamically addresses the company's evolving IT needs.

Over the past few years, many people have begun to recognize that they can't continue to manage their IT infrastructure with 10- to 20-year-old practices as those practices have resulted in too much sprawl, too much complexity, too much management cost, too much power usage and too little utilization.

As we move forward, we have to figure out how to unlock the available IT capacity (most companies believe they are running 10-20% utilized on their existing infrastructure) and leverage that excess capacity to increase the company's agility in reacting to the ever-changing business climate. As one of my co-workers, Steve Oberlin, points out, there is only so much you can save by optimizing efficiency within IT as it is usually a fixed percentage of a company's overall budget. To the extent companies look only to increase IT efficiency, they limit their savings to only their bottom line.

If, instead, companies focus not only on increasing efficiency but also on increasing their internal IT's ability to respond to new company products with their existing IT investment, they will allow for growth of the top line at a much faster pace. I believe that over the next three to five years Internal Cloud Computing (or Private Clouds as Gartner refers to them) will be the vehicle to allow companies to unlock their IT infrastructure to enable (rather than hinder) their new business ventures.

Now, before we jump into just the efficiency/agility topic (more on that in an upcoming post), let's broaden the discussion a bit to include all of the other "-ilities" we need to consider as a part of a Cloud Computing solution. Off the top of my head some of the big ones that come to mind are: Scalability, Availability, Recoverability, Usability, Interoperability, Extensibility, Swizzleability (more on what I mean by that later), Affordability (as in minimizing the huge amount of money spent to purchase, maintain and power all of this IT infrastructure) and the already discussed Agility.

Over the next few months I'm going to spend time talking about each one of these "-ilities" and how Cloud Computing can help address problems in each specific area. In addition, I'm going to talk about some real-world problems and how they have been solved today by our currently available Cassatt Active Response product line (turns out that here at Cassatt we've been thinking about and working on this transformation for five years now and we have some pretty cool stuff to show for it. I think it's time to show it off).

I hope you'll come back and check in on me and my musings over the next few months as I explore this thing called Cloud Computing.

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