Could the Sun Cloud offering be the tipping point?

The Wallstreet Journal article “Internet Industry is on a Cloud”
does not do Cloud computing any justice at all.

Value proposition of Cloud computing is crystal clear. Averaged over 24 hours, and 7 days a week , 52 weeks in a year – many servers have a CPU utilization of 1% or less.  The same is also true of network bandwidth. The  storage capacity on harddisks that can be accessed only from a specific servers is also underutilized. For example, harddisk capacity of harddisks attached to a database server, is used only when certain queries that require intermediate results to be stored to the harddisk.  At all other times the harddisk capacity is not used at all.

Isolated pools of computing, network and storage are underutilized most of the time, but must be provisioned for that hypothetical peak capacity day, or even a peak capacity hour. What if  we could reengineer our Operating Systems, network/storage management as well as all the other higher layers of software to work in a way that we are able to treat hardware resources as a set of “Compute Pools”, “Storage Pools” and “Network Pools”?

Numerous technical challenges have to be overcome to make this happen. This is what today’s Cloud Computing Frameworks are hoping to achieve.

Existing software vendors with their per Server and per CPU pricing have a lot to lose from this disruptive model.  A BI provider like “Vertica”  hosted in the cloud, can compete very well with traditional datawarehousing frameworks.  Imagine, using a BI tool few months in a year, to analyze a year’s worth of data, using temporarily provisioned servers and rented software.  Cost of an approach like this can be an order of magnitude less than traditional buy, install and maintain approach.

I think Sun’s private cloud offering may be the tipping point that will persuade mainstream rather than cutting edge IT organizations to switch to a cloud approach.  With a private cloud, one could share compute, network and storage resources amongst a set of  business units, or even affiliated companies.

You can read a comparison of existing cloud offerings here:

PS: Why do many servers have an average utilization of  1% or less. Consider an IT shop with dedicated set of servers  per application policy. For an application rolled out 8 years ago, the average utilization when in use  was perhaps 15%. With today’s technology the  average utilization when  in use will be 5%.  The average across 365 days, 24 hours,  can certainly be below 1%.


The Sun Cloud…

Sun announced an entry into the Cloud computing space, promising that “Behind Every Cloud you will see the Sun” . By allowing Private onpremises clouds, Sun could persuade mainstream rather than cutting-edge IT organizations to move to the world of Cloud Computing.

“Move over, Amazon. The leading provider of cloud services is about to get some serious competition from Sun Microsystems, which made its entrance into cloud computing Wednesday with plans to offer compute and storage services built on Sun technologies, including OpenSolaris and MySQL.”

Sun’s Cloud offering includes:  Storage based on ZFS- Sun’s distributed file system and an “Enterprise Stack” based on mySQL+ GlassFish Application server.

Unlike Microsoft Azure or Amazon EC2, the Sun Cloud can be created onsite.   This will allow  customers to create their own clouds based on the Sun API.  The Sun’s storage API is portable with Amazon S3 service.

Sun’s cloud is based on the robust pedigree of its proven technologies in the area of Networking and storage, the strong Open Solaris Operating System. It will use the technology acquired from Q ware to do management.

I think customers will like the idea of creating Private clouds using the Sun Technology.  I am disappointed that they have not bundled an ESB product like Mule or WSO2 with their Cloud offering- but may be that is what an independent cloud provider needs to do.  I think that having the Intalio stack preconfigured in the cloud,  may make BPM in the cloud irresistible.

I think Sun’s move of allowing companies to create their own on-site  Private cloud is very  clever. A lot  of companies for legal and emotional reasons simply cannot  allow their infrastructure to be hosted elsewhere.   They will be very happy however to create their own clouds. I see this as a great opportunity.

Where does this leave Azul Systems? I think a vendor could bundle Azul’s Appliance to create a private cloud offering.  The new blade servers from Cisco and competing servers from HP will allow large number of virtual machines to be created on the same blade server, however I still think that the Azul Compute appliance with its pauseless GC and large heaps still has a major role.

I expect Value-added-resellers and other hosting providers to build on top of the Sun Cloud to create extremely competitive Cloud Computing offerings.  For example, an offering could include  JBOSS application server(s), with mySQL  database and WSO2 ESB.  Another offering could include mySQL database for Operational datastore and Vertica for data analysis and OLAP.

I have been trying to figure out what the “Creative Commons” license is? Does anyone know, what it means in practical terms?

Published in: on March 25, 2009 at 9:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Google Cloud ….

Google’s vision of the Cloud seems to be based on the idea of having highly scalable compute nodes that run a framework based on BigTable.  It requires using Python as a language. I was hoping to see Google make its Search Engine, Translation, Google Maps  and all the other functionality available as a service.   The features offered in the Google AppEngine are quite powerful- Some very good websites have been built using the GoogleApp Engine- and they are showcased here.

It offers a DataStore,  MemCache, Mail ,  URLFetch and Images as a service.  This is an impressive set of services.  However,  what if every Google service was made available as a Web Service? One could then compose- “mashups” out of the powerful features Google has.   For example,  one could take “News”  about Venezuela and have it translated in   Spanish, inlcude images and maps, as well as share this using a specially created website.

The number of transactions per second seems quite limited- according to some users. (This is not confirmed. )

“Compared to other scalable hosting services such as Amazon EC2, App Engine provides more infrastructure to make it easy to write scalable applications, but can only run a limited range of applications designed for that infrastructure.

App Engine’s infrastructure removes many of the system administration and development challenges of building applications to scale to millions of hits. Google handles deploying code to a cluster, database sharding, monitoring, failover, and launching application instances as necessary.

While other services let users install and configure nearly any *NIX compatible software, AppEngine requires developers to use Python as the programming language and a limited set of APIs. Current APIs allow storing and retrieving data from a BigTable non-relational database; making HTTP requests; sending e-mail; manipulating images; and caching. Most existing Web applications can’t run on App Engine without modification, because they require a relational database.

Per-day and per-minute quotas restrict bandwidth and CPU use, number of requests served, number of concurrent requests, and calls to the various APIs, and individual requests are terminated if they take more than 30 seconds or return more than 10MB of data.  ”

Overall, the vision of this Framework as a public Cloud did not seem very clear. On Amazon EC2,  one can create an infrastructure that has  a relational database and an application server.  It is therefore possible to be treat Amazon EC2 as just the base Infrastructure, and build sophisticated services on top of it.   This does not seem to be supported by Google at the moment.

The Amazon Cloud…

Amazon has the oldest cloud computing framework. It started with a simple idea, that for at least 10 months in a year, the servers it has are idle. However,  it  has become the leading Cloud Framework with over 500,000 developer accounts.  All emerging cloud frameworks are compared against the Amazon Cloud.

Amazon Cloud features are: Elastic Compute for Computing, S3 Storage for storing arbitary amount of data(maximum object size is 5 GB),  SimpleDB simple database for database access and querying,  and Simple Queue for messaging.

Many small and medium sized websites seem completely satisfied with the capability of the Amazon Cloud.  Numerous relational databases, application servers and  applications like Business Intelligence have been hosted on the cloud.

The base Infrastructure offered by Amazon(SimpleDB+Storage+SimpleQ) seems quite limiting to a number of   Enterprise developers. Many may be shocked by the limitations of the Amazon technology, however a different perspective might be: What  business issues that are  long pending on the wishlist can I solve using  the Amazon Services?  If you have worked in a large company, you might have run into this problem: How do I share a large  file- such as a new build or a presentation across the entire enterprise-while ensuring availability across VPNs and multiple geographies, and not overloading corporate networks.   This simple problem is quite surprisingly unsolved(or solved unsatisfactorily)  in many large enterprises. It will be a very simple problem to solve using the Amazon S3 Service.  When you compare the cost of implementing in the cloud, versus implementing internally the benefits of Cloud computing become quite clear. In other words, even the base Amazon Cloud infrastructure can be a very powerful way of solving numerous long pending Enterprise Business Issues.

A Cloud hosted BI Service from Vertica may be another example of  long pending IT wishlists getting resolved through Cloud Hosting.

On the other hand, Enterprise customers would like to see their IT and SOA Stack hosted in the cloud, by an external vendor. Prepackaged Clouds would make Amazon EC2 much more desirable.

There are no performance benchmarks for applications like Enterprise Portals and core ERP applications hosted in the cloud.