Monthly Archives: July 2009

CloudCamp Boston

Whew!  The last few days have been very busy, but totally fun.  Last night we kicked off the first CloudCamp event for the Greater Boston area at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge.  If you have not been to this facility, you should check it out.  Microsft is being very generous with this for technology events in the community.

There were well over 300 people registered for the event, and about half showed on a hot evening in the middle of the Summer.  Thanks again to all of our sponsors, especially Microsoft for their facility and Iron Mountain for stepping up to a platinum sponsorship.

We’re going to post presentations and videos at the CloudCamp Boston page shortly.  In the meantime, there was a nice write-up of CloudCamp on CNET by Gordon Haff.  Rosalyn Metz of Wheaton College also put up a nice post.  If you wrote up CloudCamp Boston – please add a link to the comments below and I’ll update this post.

One note about CloudCamps, and this is important.  We are catering to a vary diverse set of knowledge levels and comfort with the content.  The goal for this CloudCamp was to get some of the basics out there in a community that is largely new to Cloud Computing.  The unConference breakouts are great for deep diving in a particular area.  Even so, any criticism about too much basic stuff up front is totally fair and we hear you.  Our next CloudCamp is likely to occur later in the Fall and we promise to get into more meaty topics early in the event and allocate more time to the unConference part.

Here is the keynote slide deck that Judith Hurtiz and I delivered at the top of the session.  We’ll get the video of this up on the main CloudCamp site shortly.

Thank you to all who attended!

John

Hyper-Scale Cloud Apps with GigaSpaces XAP

I had a call with Nati Shalom, CTO of GigaSpaces this morning to discuss their announcement of their XAP (eXtreme Application Platform) 7.0 release.  XAP is like JBoss or WebSphere on steroids with lots of support for scaling out and leveraging today’s multi-core server environment.  There are a lot of reasons why someone might want to look at GigaSpaces, including the ability to squeeze a lot more performance out of the same number of boxes.

Here’s the marketecture view that shows support for a variety of application frameworks — not just Java.

One thing that’s cool about them is their support for cloud deployment on Amazon.  Specifically, you can deploy several applications on top of each EC2 instance running XAP – sort of a virtualization of virtualization.  Of course, you can run multiple apps in JBoss too, but ultimately XAP is a lot smarter than JBoss with respect to being aware of application status and SLA management (e.g. a given application may require that n instances always be running and manage both XAP and Ec2 instances to make sure that happens).  Note that only Java and C++ are supported on Ec2 – not .NET.

You can run XAP both in-house and in the cloud, and the management, configurations, SLA support etc. are consistently applied. Any company looking to support hybrid cloud environments – such as IBM, Unisys, 3tera, and others – might want to look at how to exploit XAP.

However, they are running a fairly high-end pricing model.   Interestingly, they provide three license models:  perpetual license ($20k/CPU), annual subscription ($7.5k/CPU/year), and per instance hour ($0.38 to $3.00 per hour inclusive of the Ec2 fees – the “large instance” is $1.50/hour = $13k/year).  The theory is that committing more up front can get you a smaller cost.

They have several customers, though I suspect that they are going to struggle to scale this to be a large business with the heavy license fees.  Financial services has been a core market, though now they are putting a lot of focus on large-scale Web (SaaS and eBusiness companies).  One of their customers is eBay Marketplaats where they moved from a very large PHP server farm to a 16-server XAP cluster and saved a lot on hardware.  This will be detailed more in an webinar they have scheduled for next week.

Databases and Cloud Computing Roundup

There is a lot going on in the cloud related to database management systems (DBMS) these days, but I could not find a good roundup to reference – so here you go.

For the purpose of this analysis, I divide cloud DBMS offerings into four categories based on whether or not they are “relational” and the degree to which they are “native” to the cloud (e.g. integrated part of a cloud service).  Note that I specifically exclude SaaS platforms with their underlying databases because often it’s not possible to tell what’s under the covers.  Here’s the general breakdown:

cloud database graphic

Note that just about any database can be run in a cloud-based infrastructure.  The key requirement is the ability have administrator rights to be able to install and configure the database, and the ability to generally have persistent volumes to mount the database.  Virtually any RDBMS – Oracle, IBM DB2, SQL Server, Sybase, etc. – can run in most of the cloud infrastructures.

Recently there have been a lot of non-relational database systems gaining traction f or “web-scale” applications.  These tend to be distributed “key-value” systems or document databases.  They are all open source as well.  HyperTable is an open source copy of the Google BigTable (“datastore”).  HBase is a database that sits on top of Hadoop.  Project Cassandra was developed at Facebook and released into open source. Collectively these entrants are being called the “NoSQL Movement.”

There are far fewer “native” cloud database options.  On the non-relational front, SimpleDB from Amazon was among the first, followed by the Google AppEngine Datastore (based on BigTable).  Amazon’s Elastic MapReduce is not a database, per se, but is a cloud version of Hadoop and enables large scale data manipulation (some people might object if I leave it out).

For relational databases, only Microsoft with their SQL Azure Database (aka “SQL Services”) is the only RDBMS-as-a-service that I can find. Initially the Microsoft offering, called SQL Data Services, did not offer full support for SQL.  Based on a lot of feedback (presumably negative), Microsoft accelerated their support for complete relational functionality and their Tranact-SQL (T-SQL) interface.  It is not clear if existing T-SQL applications can be migrated as is to SQL Azure, but that would presumably be the goal in the long term.

Based on what I’m seeing, the concept of native cloud database offering has yet to really take off.  SimpleDB and Google Datastore (BigTable) are too proprietary and not widely adopted.  SQL Azure is not even fully available yet.  Perhaps the market is not there yet because there’s not much demand?  Or perhaps it’s just early.  Time will tell.

Let me know if I’ve missed anything with this simple roundup (post in the comments below).

Unisys – A Clear Vision for the Cloud

ScreenHunter 0183

Following Unisys’ announcement on Wednesday regarding their cloud computing strategy (Unisys Moves to Break Through Barriers to Adoption of Cloud Computing) I had the opportunity to speak with Rich Marcello, president of Unisys Systems & Technology, and Sam Gross, VP of Unisys Global IT Outsourcing Solutions. What struck me was the coherence and clarity of their cloud computing vision as compared to HP or IBM.

Unisys’ strategy bridges public, private and hybrid cloud models, and includes well-differentiated infrastructure, platform and software as a service offerings (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS). Further, they wrap this all in a set of comprehensive service offerings that they can deliver globally. It’s a big vision, and if they can pull it off it should make them one of the more interesting providers out there. One of their key differentiators is Unisys Stealth (described below).

The Big Picture

As you see here, Unisys is providing a pretty comprehensive vision.

Unisys Cloud Vision

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  1. Private Cloud – Unisys will turn your existing data center assets into a private internal cloud with all of the things you’d expect – virtualization, automated provisioning, etc.
  2. External Cloud – through a network of five data centers owned an operated by Unisys, they will provide companies with external cloud computing environments. This is not really a public cloud in that people can’t just come in and sign up. It’s part of their managed services portfolio and is tightly aligned with their private cloud solutions.
  3. Cloud-in-a-Box – due later this year, Cloud-in-a-Box will be a pre-configured cloud infrastructure delivered either as software or with a software+hardware model. This is like Joyent or Enomaly.
  4. Hybrid – early next year Unisys plans to provide a hybrid cloud model where your applications can run on both internal and external cloud resources. This is a virtual data center model.

XaaS – X as a Service

To my knowledge, Unisys is the first to publicly support having a complete set of offerings for XaaS. Amazon is really IaaS, and Google is more of a PaaS play. Salesforce is a combined PaaS/SaaS offering (PaaS for force.com and SaaS for their SFA/CRM applications). Even within these offerings, Unisys has some interesting differentiation.

ScreenHunter 0186

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  1. IaaS – most public clouds are built on a “scale out” model with many smaller machines. In addition to “scale out,” Unisys also includes “scale up” capabilities to allow you to use large, enterprise-class hardware in your cloud (for running databases, for example). What’s important about this is that Unisys allows you to provision servers that match the software licenses you already own. If you have an Oracle database license for an 8-way Solaris server with 8GB of RAM, you can’t use that on Amazon’s EC2.
  2. PaaS: Java and .NET – Unlike Salesforce which requires you to program to their model, Unisys provides a container model to allow your Java and .NET applications to run in the cloud. You write the application and deploy into these containers – you don’t have to install or manage the core components (e.g. WebSphere and DB2 or Windows and Oracle), you just deploy your applications. This should appeal to IT.
  3. SaaS – while the offering is a bit limited at this point, Unisys is offering a set of end user business applications in their cloud (email, SharePoint, virtual desktops).
  4. My Secure Application as a Service: AaaS – this is where an existing application you have deployed can be moved into the cloud and managed from a provisioning and security perspective.

People Services

Unisys claims to have an 800-person services organization that can provide a complete range of assessment, advisory and implementation services to their customers. This is in contrast to what they termed “do-it-yourself” clouds from the other guys.

Cloud Services

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Unisys Stealth – A Secret Weapon

As has been reported in many quarters, security is the #1 deterrent to more enterprise cloud adoption. While Unisys uses standard enterprise-grade security technologies you’d expect to find in a large IT shop, they also have a unique solution called Unisys Stealth (link goes to a paper describing Stealth that is specifically targeting the Defense industry). Announced last November, Stealth is a network appliance that makes data and even hardware (desktops and servers) invisible to network sniffers and other similar technologies.

Stealth works at the link layer (layer 2) of the TCP/IP stack, which means that every packet on the network is cloaked unless you have the right key.

“The result is a cloaked network that secures data-in-motion
and hides servers and PCs in plain sight. Devices that do
not have the same workgroup key remain cloaked from
unauthorized eyes. Without the correct key, users cannot ask
for the data from the server or send data to the server or
workstation. They can’t even ping the server or workstation.”

Unisys Cloud with Stealth

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So now you can run any application in the cloud and only authorized users (controlled by your network administrators) can access the information. Stealth even applies to your storage infrastructure — your SAN becomes invisible and therefore inaccessible to hackers. All of this is accomplished without any changes to your application. You add the appliance to your network, Unisys deploys it in the cloud, and voila – instant cloaking.

Conclusion

Unisys has articulated a comprehensive and cohesive cloud computing vision, while simultaneously addressing security in a new and very powerful way. If they deliver all that they are claiming, Unisys should be well-positioned for success in the great cloud migration.

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