Pawel Serwan Blog

Citrix, Microsoft and other stuff

CloudBusters: Episode 1 – What is the Cloud?

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smallWith this post we are launching finally the CloudBusters series. It was very hard to decide what should be presented in the first episode. After some struggles I’ve decided to start from the scratch –  from the explanation of what the CLOUD really is. It seems that everyone heard about it but probably not everyone knows exactly what does it mean. Does it ?

The term “cloud” is relatively new in IT and for a long time there was no structured definition. In 2012 the National Institute of Standards and Technology published its own definition that in my opinion the best describes what really the cloud computing is and what it differs from other technologies. The full definition can be found under the below URL:

http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-145/SP800-145.pdf

But in simpler words – what is the cloud? Simply – The Cloud is just a network of computing resources (servers, networks, storage, applications etc.). So basically everyone can have or already have it’s own cloud 😀 isn’t that great? Is that the case then that everyone can advertise  its own solutions as cloud based? Where is the hack here? As always the devil is in the details. Let’s look one more time on the NIST definition. The cloud should have the following characteristic:

1. On-demand self-service – the end user should be able to do whatever she or he wants without any need to contact support team. It seems to be easily achievable – with use of tools like System Center App Controller or other widely available tools from other vendors (VMware, Citrix etc.). If you cannot afford buying them why not use the Powershell scripts to automate those tasks. So agreed – I can make my servers and probably my internal services available for my end users. Good, let’s check the next step.

2.  Broad-network access – you have to allow your end users to connect to your service from anywhere and any device. Hmmm, this might be tough but probably possible. For example you can use now RDP client as it is now widely available and supports all mobile platforms: iOS, Android and of course Windows Phone.  You can allow your end users to connect to your network via Remote Desktop Gateway and voila you have just passed the next step to call your datacenter a cloud 🙂 Wasn’t that easy? Ok, but still we are in the midway. Let’s go further.

3. Resource pooling – what does it exactly mean? Well the science definitions have it to themselves that they are not always clear enough and hard to understand, especially for the beginners. And sometimes even for insiders 🙂  This condition and the next one are in my opinion the best showing what can be and what cannot be named the cloud. If you have limited resources located in the one data center or rather server room it will be hard for you to pass this condition. It defines that resources should be available in most cases globally (or at least on wider scale) and that is why we say sometimes about the hosting and sometimes about the cloud computing. Not every service provider can guarantee availability of his service all around the world. And the same is with the companies. But do not loose hope in the middle of the road, there is one hack here that can be used, but let’s do not reveal it right now…

4. Rapid elasticity – resources are a main bottleneck here. One of the main features of the cloud is that you can demand/order an unlimited power/resources at anytime. Of course unlimited is not defined precisely – for sure you will have  always some numbers regarding servers, throughput of the network links, storage capacity etc. In my understanding it just means that you can temporarily get access to much more capacity than your really need in your everyday service lifecycle. For example you just won the contract for a promotional campaign of a new Star Wars film. You think:

“Wow. That’s great, but I will need now much more servers to host the new websites. But what to do with them after the campaign end? ”

And here you can see the main feature of the cloud – elasticity – if you will have a temporary peak in resources utilization you can get more power from the cloud provider and then just shut down everything after all and forget. And that is the greatest advantage of the cloud computing. For sure you cannot do that with your own datacentre. So to sum up this point – Cloud is Elastic as a gum and you can stretch it as much as you want.

5. Measured service – this point seems to be the less descriptive when it comes to the definition of the cloud computing. Today you can measure everything, for everyone and anytime. So in my understanding it is not something that can easily allow us to categorize one service as cloud enabled and the second one as not.

To sum up whole discussion here it seems that there are 2 main factors that decides or categorize your service as cloud enabled:

1. Resource availability – cloud is unlimited when it comes to resources for a specific customer/end user – we do not need to order any new servers or other resources – they are there waiting for us and our demands.

2. Elasticity – your demand might be fulfilled at any time and no one expects that you will provide any forecast or calculations regarding usage of resources for the next week/moth/year.

I hope that right now you will be able to categorize your service properly and do not overuse the term “cloud” in your daily discussions.

In the end as promised – the “hack” that you can use to fulfill above definition – we should remember that we can have few different deployment models of the cloud computing:

1. Private cloud – in that case the customers are the internal departments/end users of the company/organization. And due to the fact that the demands and scale are smaller we will also have “lighter” requirements for our cloud environment. As I wrote above – private cloud doesn’t need to fulfill points 3 and 4 from the NIST definition. So easily you can get your own private cloud and deliver cloud services to your internal users. Isn’t that great? And imagine what might be the outcome of the news that you will announce to your CIO/CEO:

“Boss, I proudly inform you that we have the CLOUD from now on in our company!!!”

2. Public clouds – in that case all requirements must be met and that is the reason why there is only few companies that they call themselves as Cloud Providers. Money is of course the main cause of that. You have to invest a lot to get a good profit in the future.

3. Hybrid clouds –  mix of private and public cloud – I will focus on that topic in one of the next posts.

All in all cloud computing seems to step into our everyday life and there is no other direction. I hope however that after reading that post you will know when you really buy and use cloud service and when that is just sales chatter.

See you on the next episode of CloudBusters series!

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One thought on “CloudBusters: Episode 1 – What is the Cloud?

  1. Neat post Paweł. I am going through VMware Cloud course now http://mylearn.vmware.com/mgrReg/courses.cfm?ui=www_edu&a=det&id_course=189017 where you can learn as well from scratch what cloud is.

    Like

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