Born on a Different Cloud?

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Apologies for the lack of blogging recently, but a combination of practising for a couple of Christmas gigs (I play keyboards and guitar) and being laid low by one of those tedious stomach bugs means that I have been somewhat occupied. Anyway, I am now out  of bed and the next practice isn't till later this evening, so I thought I would try and start a conversation on this whole cloud thing - makes a change from talking about Tiger Woods!

The title above is not the one I was going to use originally - I am more of the "Hey, you, get off of my cloud" generation (Rolling Stones for the youth readership). However, the song title, which Google tells me is from Oasis (grossly overrated IMHO) seemed very apt as:

1.Everyone has a different opinion as to what "Cloud" is, so
2.Every vendor has it, and hence
3.It is, like all new things in computing, the solution to all known problems, and therefore
4.It is also not the solution to all known problems, and will introduce a whole new raft of issues and problems.

For those who think that is a tad cynical, I have been in computing for 38 years - enough said.
Having said all that, "Cloud" will happen in some way or another and the data centre of the future will by definition be a selectively outsourced beast with e.g. one company running the network, another the desktop apps etc.

Hence, what I would like to throw open to debate is how do you set, measure and report SLAs in that environment? Who owns the service? Who reports to whom? Who knows how to react to a problem? Is it critical to them as a provider or critical to you as their customer? What does an outsourcing contract look like in a "Cloud" world"? etc. etc. 

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Recently I participated in two vendor discussions on Virtualization …one dealing with Virtualized Desktop Integration (Quest) and the other on Virtualized Voice over IP (Mitel). What was interesting was the emphasis in both on the management benefits that Virtualization brings …from the presentations, you’d think it was one of the primary reasons for investing in Virtualization. That’s good news from my perspective.

In this blog, Peter identifies some of the management requirements of cloud computing (…and implied virtualization). In the rush to ease provisioning, and the hype that cloud computing is going to resolve all of the enterprises IT problems …someone needs to ask if “this dog don’t hunt.” The IT management requirements don’t go away …the enterprise is merely outsourcing the management issues to an external provider …be it private or public. Unfortunately in the process, the hand-off only makes the management issues worse for the cloud provider as it relates to the end user.

From the perspective of the IT customer or the business unit, how does the cloud provider provide application performance information for unknown applications? How is change management accommodated when provisioning speed is increased, the volume of changes/modifications increase substantially, and current change processes and tools are still stuck in the mire? How are IT assets identified, tracked and audited when IT assets within the cloud infrastructure are unknown? How is capacity planning accommodated when there is no asset management and the advertised benefit of cloud computing is abundant capacity whenever you need it?

I’m sure there are or will be answers to these questions, but the question remains whether this dog (…management of cloud computing) hunts or not. With my current (…limited) perspective, I support Peter’s assertion that some type of disruption from management has yet to visibly surface re: cloud computing services.

I'd like to add a few other thoughts to this thread before attempting any recommended solutions. Part of the challenge in addressing 'Service Management in the Cloud' is that the definition of the 'Cloud' is so very amorphous today. Virtually any approach that supports the delivery of services or involves a computer-based application can be manipulated into a 'cloud' solution.

For some the focus is on the particulars of the implementation. Does a 'Cloud' require a server farm? Or, can a single, well-partitioned, shared mainframe qualify as a 'cloud'? Or, does it require a collection of distributed server farms? This is the view taken by existing owners of massive banks of servers, some infrastructure vendors and those concerned with he more technical aspects of building and maintaining 'cloud' operations.

For others, the implementation is the least interesting aspect of a 'cloud'. What's important to them is what the user experiences and expects. The definition for them centers on distributed access, exceptional reliability, fast response times for all services and change requests, and massive flexibility in capacity. In our opinion, this is the viewpoint of the consumers, financial decision makers and Line of Business Managers responsible for service delivery.

There is a third description of 'cloud' which is the definition which says that 'whatever the customer wants from a 'cloud'', is deliverd by the product/solution set that exists in my sales kit. Unfortunately, every 'hot button' technology/solution/approach will endure a period of such confusion. Usually, these are transient and a bit of due diligence will help most to avoid these charlatans.

There will have to be management tools that meet the needs of both legitimate constituencies. AND, both groups will have, or should have some interest in the information and data used by the other. We'll not consider the third group right now.

The operations/implementation audience want management metrics and functionality that maintains the infrasturcute so that customers have reliable access to the infrastructure and so they can respond quickly to requests for changes while meeting committed service level agreements. Of course, all of this will have to be in compliance with governance directives, mandates and agreements of service, record keeping and reporting that will vary for each customer and is subject to significant outside influences.

The financial and business users want guaranteed Quality of Service Levels, expansion to meet forecast as well as unforecast service demand levels with maximum east of access and minimal complexity for client access. And, incidentally, they want this at the lowest possible cost.

As Bill says, these questions will be resolved. But, it will take a cooperative effort involving both the 'cloud' service provider and the consumer of 'cloud' services. In a somewhat rare move, there are vendors already working to anticipate the functionality required for management of multiple differernt service delivery and implementation 'cloud' models. We're watching the efforts with great interest.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Armstrong published on December 16, 2009 11:57 AM.

Should the Government be run like a Business? was the previous entry in this blog.

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