Technology Trends and Other Cool Things

Arun Rao

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IaaS Session at Cloud Expo

Intel's co-founder, Gordon Moore, famously predicted [PDF file link] way back in 1965 that transistors on a chip will double every 2 years. And so they have ever since (therefore, Moore's Law). With increased processing power, computers are increasingly able to process more data in less time - helping users be more productive.

So the cycle has been that every few years, hardware in data centers gets obsolete (even though they are in perfectly good working condition), requiring IT departments to spend capital to refresh their data centers to keep productivity levels high and their companies competitive.

Application designs, for their part, have also changed drastically over the past 10 years - with newer technologies built to use that raw processing power. Upgrading applications, therefore, is a routine job these days in all IT environments.

The only part that is constant, with ever so slight modification over the years, is also the most important part of an IT environment: i.e. the data that the business generates and consumes. So when moving from a data-center and in-house application strategy to the Cloud, it is important to keep the data safe, secure and not locked into a vendor platform.

How do you do that? Well, there are several strategies to achieve that in the current Cloud stack.



The simplest of those strategies is to start with the Infrastructure (bottom of the stack in the picture above). You could use the classic Cloud computing pay-as-you-go Public Cloud model - such as Amazon EC2, Rackspace Cloud, GoGrid or the IBM Cloud, and move applications and data as an integrated "virtual machine" images to these clouds.

That's because the underlying architecture of each cloud ultimately adheres to the virtualization concept that helps (along with additional features) to provide scalability as necessary (hence, "elastic").

Amazon EC2 uses Xen virtualization (as do Eucalyptus, RackSpace and GoGrid) - which supports various guest operating systems including Windows, BSD, Linux and Solaris. Writing more about Xen here will be getting into too much detail, but suffice to say that it is "similar" to almost any VM server (in principle). There are other architectures out there - but that technical detail should not be so much of a problem - for instance, if you currently run VMs internally on VMware, no problem... there are conversion tools available.



CloudSwitch, a new company based in Burlington, MA (which has received $15.5 million from VCs), even allows you to "Drag and Drop" your virtual machines to Amazon EC2! How cool is that?! Other companies (such as CloudOptix / Meghaware) allows users to manage hybrid Cloud environments with similar ease. But I digress...

Amazon also allows you to create a Virtual Private Cloud, a secure and isolated Private Cloud on the AWS environment which can be bridged to the company's internal infrastructure through VPN tunnel... therefore, allowing the extension of firewall, security and other rules to the VPC.

This is all well and good, but how (you might ask) does this help solve the problem of vendor lock-in... and the answer is quite simple: with this strategy of creating Public or Private clouds, one can move entire servers out to the Cloud without having to re-write the application, re-load the data or re-learn a new set of tools... The data is still yours - and you can keep it in the same data structure... and, if you don't like the way the Cloud service provider works, well then you can just take your entire virtual machine and move lock-stock-and-barrel.

There are quite a few choices therefore, as to how to setup and manage a Cloud environment... and new companies and tools coming out every week (almost) which eases the process of testing the waters and taking the plunge.

More Stories By Arun Rao

Arun Rao is a seasoned technology executive based in the SF Bay Area.

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