Lawyer Bait

The views expressed herein solely represent the author’s personal views and opinions and not of anyone else - person or organization.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Is there a CLOUD Acronym beginning to emerge?

I was wondering that this week as I started to see more expo/trade show emails starting to show up. The noise around cloud seems to be gaining, not subsiding, and it has me wondering why.

It also got me thinking that CLOUD was not a form of computing, but an Acronym.

Offerings of

A year and a half ago, Grid changed to Cloud. Public cloud. Amazon and then Google started using (publicizing) 'The Cloud' and became legit. Then in an attempt to coin something new, 'The Industry' split into Public Cloud and Private Cloud, which gave us mortals something new to chew on. It was also something to divert us away from looking at the nature of cloud and what it really means. AKA Marketing figured out it was a way to create buzz and get their company looked at.

If you don't want to know what I think about the whole cloud thing, you should bail out now. Since this is my personal blog, I share personal opinions (right and wrong) with anyone who cares to read them.

The nature of cloud is that it has very little to do with computing and a LOT to do with accounting for IT spend.

The model has existed for years. Instead of building/buying a supercomputer I will rent cycles and schedule jobs on one. This way I get the benefit, and 'pay by the drink' based on consumption. I have also referred to it as a 'cash bar' or 'pay by the drink' model. You pay for what you use when you want to use it.

This was in stark contrast to the 'Open Bar' model where an organization bought (or in most cases overbought) their IT resources for any 'what if' scenario someone could think of. As a result, a lot of money is spent and a lot of IT resources go under utilized. Amazon filled a data center to process orders for the Christmas deluge, but then had to pay for the infrastructure for the other 10 months.

So Amazon came up with a way to utilize that infrstaructure the other 10 months a year - EC2 and AWS offerings. Now they could recoup some of that investmeant by leasing out their infrastructure in small bits to people who needed some resources. The public cloud became the next New Thing.

EMC did the same thing with Atmos - roll out a bunch of EMC gear and charge for it in small bits for people who needed storage. Carbonite is out there too.

So at the end of the day someone still needs to buy all of this gear, house it, carve it up, and dynamically provision and deprovision units of IT components - memory, disk, bandwidth and storage. Instead of leasing a 1U server, you can now lease pices of a 1U server, in multiple places and have your own cloud.

The shift then was to private clouds since customers wanted to own their data, and be able to secure it. The issue then arose, of how does a cloud provider secure data that is owned by users/customers? Isn't this just the same thing as a managed services provider leasing someone a server, and introducing per untit costs for data storage, network, and security?

At the end of the day, Cloud is about how you account for computing resources. It is moving IT resources from CapEx to OpEx down to the smallest untits possible. In many ways this is what data center colocation copmanies do today at a more macro level - they buy buildings, add electrical distribution systems, air handling/conditioning equipment, and then carve up buildings into cabinets, cages, rooms, pods, etc.

This is far easier to do as a single tenant facility vs a multi tenant facility because in a single tenant facility the customer has control of everything from the building to the systems, right down to the servers, apps, security - the whole nine. In a multi tenant facility you will see cages that go to the ceiling, some 8' high. Biometrics into the room and/or cage, and different locks on cabinets. The multi tenant facility must account for many more requirements that in a single tenant facility.

So what is happening is companies are rolling out their own clouds (islands) of computing, and if one provider can put marks in more checkboxes on an RFI, they get the business. The downside is that vendor lock can enter the picture, and without a way to federate the clouds, you need to hope your provider gets more islands to build an archipeligo for your requirements or you'll end up managing different island regions and you're no better off than had you taken space with a provider with multiple locations.

So I come back to the nature of cloud and ask - isn't Cloud computing just a different way of paying (accounting) for IT resources?

I will also offer that telcos are in the best position to offer a decent cloud becuase they have some of the most complex billing systems to layer on top of the equipment necessary to bill for cloud resources.


Monday, January 18, 2010

A Hit and a Miss - with Verari I mean...

Like few of my blogging colleagues I admit when I missed something. It's humbling, won't kill me and it's the truth - I missed on my prediction that Dell, HP and IBM would submit a bid for Verari. From what I understand they didn't. Whoops.

What I also understand however is that Dave Driggers did put in a bid for the company and will in fact be standing it back up.

So the container world has corrected itself. At least for this week. I am looking forward to learning more about HP's servers that will go in the containers later this week - I understand they have some cool stuff in the works. In fact HP almost always does - and I don't mean in a sparkly new 'het that's cool this week' way.

I will keep you posted, and let you know if I missed with HP's coolness too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What we can learn about disasters from the earthquake in Haiti

When I saw the news break last night, I was with a colleague and we were discussing the DR plans - or lack thereof - of Katrina, and wondering if there were any lessons learned that would apply to Haiti in the areas of IT and communications.

We tried to put ourselves on the ground and thought - what is most important immediately after a disaster happens and we determined that communication - Telephone and Internet were vital, but also very vulnerable in a natural disaster.

So after the earthquake happens, and it begins to be reported we envisioned that calls to emergency personnel couldn't go through, nor could calls from family members in the US and around the world for that matter. The cell towers would be laying in the ground, and the wireline systems severed to a large degree. Satellite phones would be the main form of communication - and in an impoverished nation in chaos - hard to come by.

So we began to discuss how communications could be deplyed quickly after a disater - be it hurricane, IED, earthquake, or act of terrorism and the conversation dovetailed into discussions we had been having with State and Federal Emergency Management organizations about this very thing. Let me share what has been discussed and shed some light on the communcations portion.

I will use Haiti as the example since it is releveant and unfolding now. The high level question was - how do we quickly set up a communications network to handle communcation with the outside world from inside a disater zone?

Our answer was that utilizing shipping containers to house satellite and wireless communication network gear made infinite sense. They can be stored and deployed from in any government locale - County, State, or Federal facility - so that you have a system that can be driven or flown to an area in a matter of minutes and operational in a few hours. It is a portable telco CO.

So in the case of Haiti, a fully operational communcations system - telephone and internet - would be housed in a container. Servers, switches, even satellite dishes to establish a connection via satellite to the world. There would be 4 of these systems/boxes deployed around the Island - in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. If a particular group/agency wanted their own unit they could choose to have their own as well, configured however they wanted it configured, but there needs to be a set that is for restoration of basic service for the disaster relief efforts. Even if one was at the Presidential Palace and was crushed or inaccesible, there are still 3 others that could be brought in quickly to establish a link with the rest of the world and stem the chaos and frustration following the event. The other thing we discussed was to have a backup of key systems on other tectonic plates and regions so that you can at least have access to a web site and a form of broadcast for status updates, etc. In this case hosting a site in Miami or Dallas or Rio would be ideal as well.

I will be attending several meetings of Emergency Management Personnel all over the US this year as it is important to bring pertinent solutions to a forum and raise awareness of what can be done proactively. We are so willing and able to throw money at a disaster after it happens when for 1/3 of the cost it could be addressed and more importantly give citizens and governments assurance that those responsible for response have actually done their jobs by thinking through what may happen before it happens, vs. after it happens.

I hope the politicians will read this entry because for 1/10 of what the spend to get re-elected they could virtually guarantee reelection by being proactive about deploying solutions that help their constituents when they need it most.

My thoughts and prayers are with the survivors, the familes, the emergency reponse personnel being deployed - there is much grief ahead and my heart is with you.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why Cisco needs to buy Verari, and why Dell IBM, Rackable, and HP will fight for it

I have been covering the Verari story for the past several weeks, talking with folks close to the situation every other day. I keep coming back to Why Cisco Needs to buy Verari:

1. Protect IP
2. Support the brand
3. Have a container play in the market
4. Maintain a level of credibility in a market they said they were entering - servers

The other reason they should make an offer is because they have a financial backer who will do the deal with them and pony up 50-60% of the cash.

So why would Cisco want to protect the IP? The technology is solid, Verari has customers, and if they don't Cisco must now go after another hardware manufacturer to secure solid (and deployed) server technology to make good on its announcement that it was going after HP's server business to get market share inside the data center.

There is also being in a position to address what a data center is since the move is clearly going towards modularity and container deployments in very key areas. If Cisco doesn't have a story, their competitors craft deals so Cisco can't play. Ouch.

Support the brand - Verari, when it comes out of the ashes, will be recapitalized with Carlyle, Citibank, Sierra Ventures and others out of the picture. In other words the company has a running head start in that it has customers, a pipeline, a brand, production, the whole nine yards supporting the brand. Cisco believed in it enough to do an OEM deal, now they get to put a Verari server in a pillow case for a data center technology beat down of the competition.

Have a container play in the market. For people who follow this blog and colleagues in the data center industry know I have been a strong proponent of containerized data centers for about two years - since before there was a lot of buzz about them anyway. Having a container play is absolutely crucial - why? Because companies who offer high performance computing, serve civilian and defense agencies, are in the oil and gas business, and cloud computing companies are all looking at and/or purchasing them. There was a question on Linked In a few weeks ago - 'why havent we heard about all these container deployments?' and there are a couple of answers both of which point back to 'we could tell you but then we'd have to kill you'. People don't want their strategic advantage broadcast to the world. Nor does the military. So containers are crucial - not for companies who need a couple of cabinets, but for companies who need hundreds of cabinets - containers are cheaper and more secure hands down.

Maintain a level of credibility - this one is crucial. I cannot and do not see companies today making large announcements that create seismic events in certain markets, pull back after a few months and say - Ha! Just kidding!. Cisco could buy Sun's server business and let Oracle ravage the software side, and that's about it. There are slim pickens for proven server technology out there where ther companies don't already have a relationship with IBM, Dell, and HP - Cisco's partners and in many circles now - the enemy.

Cisco solves a lot of problems for short money with this deal. On the flip side Cisco's competitors can create a lot of problems for Cisco for short money - real and in the press - by buying Verari. They keep Cisco out of the Server Hardware Club for a few more months, which is a lifetime in this business. and with the tech refreshes that need to happen in the next 12-24 months, a misstep or delay means a few hundred million are at stake.

This one will be fun to watch...