As 2011 begins to wind down, we can look back on the progress made over the last 11 months with a lot of pride. The market stepped significantly forward with big gains in adoption by leaders Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Rackspace, significant growth in the use of clouds for big data, training, test and development, the creation of landmark new services, and the dawning of the App-Internet era. Cloud technologies matured nearly across the board as did transparency, security, and best practice use and adoption. But there’s much more growth ahead as the cloud is no longer a toddler but has entered the awkward teenage years. And much as found in human development, the cloud is now beginning to fight for its own identity, independence, and place in society. The next few years will be a painful period of rebellion, defiance, exploration, experimentation, and undoubtedly explosive creativity. While many of us would prefer our kids go from the cute pre-teen period straight to adulthood, we don’t become who we are without surviving the teenage years. For infrastructure & operations professionals, charged with
Cloud – people can’t agree on exactly what it is, but everyone can agree that they want some piece of it. I have not talked to a single client who isn’t doing something proactively to pursue cloud in some form or fashion. This cloud-obsession was really evident in our 2011 technology tweet jam as well, which is why this year’s business technology and technology trends reports cover cloud extensively. Our research further supports this – for example, 29% of infrastructure and operations executives surveyed stated that building a private cloud was a critical priority for 2011, while 28% plan to use public offerings, and these numbers are rising every year.
So what should EAs think about cloud? My suggestion is that you think about how your current IT strategy supports taking advantage of what cloud is offering (and what it’s not). Here are our cloud-related technology trends along with some food for thought:
The next phase of IT industrialization begins. This trend points out how unprepared our current IT delivery model is for the coming pace of technology change, which is why cloud is appealing. It offers potentially faster ways to acquire technology services. Ask yourself – is my firm’s current IT model and strategy good enough to meet technology demands of the future?
Today HP announced a new set of technology programs and future products designed to move x86 server technology for both Windows and Linux more fully into the realm of truly mission-critical computing. My interpretation of these moves is that it is both a combined defensive and pro-active offensive action on HP’s part that will both protect them as their Itanium/HP-UX portfolio slowly declines as well as offer attractive and potentially unique options for both current and future customers who want to deploy increasingly critical services on x86 platforms.
Bearing in mind that the earliest of these elements will not be in place until approximately mid-2012, the key elements that HP is currently disclosing are:
ServiceGuard for Linux – This is a big win for Linux users on HP, and removes a major operational and architectural hurdle for HP-UX migrations. ServiceGuard is a highly regarded clustering and HA facility on HP-UX, and includes many features for local and geographically distributed HA. The lack of ServiceGuard is often cited as a risk in HP-UX migrations. The availability of ServiceGuard by mid-2012 will remove yet another barrier to smooth migration from HP-UX to Linux, and will help make sure that HP retains the business as it migrates from HP-UX.
Analysis engine for x86 – Analysis engine is internal software that provides system diagnostics, predictive failure analysis and self-repair on HP-UX systems. With an uncommitted delivery date, HP will port this to selected x86 servers. My guess is that since the analysis engine probably requires some level of hardware assist, the analysis engine will be paired with the next item on the list…
Since cloud became a household word, vendors and enterprises alike have jumped to declare victory on cloud with services and infrastructure implementations that really don't deliver cloud value but have the same foundation - something we call "cloudwashing." This is a dangerous gambit as you claim legitimacy but don't activate the same economics, deliver the autonomy that cloud services offer to your internal users and aren't standardized or automated enough to deliver transformative agility. In other words you claim cloud but are achieving only incrementally better value.
This week AMD finally released their AMD 6200 and 4200 series CPUs. These are the long-awaited server-oriented Interlagos and Valencia CPUs, based on their new “Bulldozer” core, offering up to 16 x86 cores in a single socket. The announcement was targeted at (drum roll, one guess per customer only) … “The Cloud.” AMD appears to be positioning its new architectures as the platform of choice for cloud-oriented workloads, focusing on highly threaded throughput oriented benchmarks that take full advantage of its high core count and unique floating point architecture, along with what look like excellent throughput per Watt metrics.
At the same time it is pushing the now seemingly mandatory “cloud” message, AMD is not ignoring the meat-and-potatoes enterprise workloads that have been the mainstay of server CPUs sales –virtualization, database, and HPC, where the combination of many cores, excellent memory bandwidth and large memory configurations should yield excellent results. In its competitive comparisons, AMD targets Intel’s 5640 CPU, which it claims represents Intel’s most widely used Xeon CPU, and shows very favorable comparisons in regards to performance, price and power consumption. Among the features that AMD cites as contributing to these results are:
Advanced power and thermal management, including the ability to power off inactive cores contributing to an idle power of less than 4.4W per core. Interlagos offers a unique capability called TDP, which allows I&O groups to set the total power threshold of the CPU in 1W increments to allow fine-grained tailoring of power in the server racks.
Turbo CORE, which allows boosting the clock speed of cores by up to 1 GHz for half the cores or 500 MHz for all the cores, depending on workload.
My colleague John Rymer expects platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technology to “cross the chasm” into mainstream status over the next three years (2012-2014). Today, PaaS solutions, which provide application development and deployment tools abstracted from the underlying cloud infrastructure on which they run your apps, fall into four types: 1) Pure cloud integrated development environments (IDEs); 2) Traditional IDEs that offer the option of cloud deployment; 3) IDE-neutral cloud runtimes that can run apps built by multiple types of IDEs; and 4) PaaS solutions designed for use by business developers. John sees all four of these categories aiming to cross the chasm in this timeframe but doesn’t expect all four segments to succeed in making that transition.
Why does this matter? PaaS is one of the easiest and most productive ways to take advantage of cloud economics, and the elasticity of the cloud, by providing an easily consumable elastic app platform. Today, most apps for the cloud either lack the ability to automatically scale up or down in their use of cloud resources, based on demand, or else gain that ability through complex programming to low-level APIs and frameworks. PaaS provides access to the cloud without all the drama. Only through taking full advantage of these attributes of the cloud can your business realize the full benefits the cloud theoretically provides.
Forrester has done quite a number of reports in the last two years around platform-as-a-service (PaaS) from the long-term strategy perspective from me and from the application developer perspective from my friend John R. Rymer. During this time, we saw many different business cases around PaaS. We have predicted and quantified that the major buying power of PaaS will come out of three camps:
ISVs are buying PaaS technology. This is a model that we saw with many ISVs on major platforms that managed to create a viable marketplace such as salesforce.com's AppExchange and Google's marketplace.
Corporate application developers are using PaaS to deploy custom apps and add-ons around SaaS applications. They are doing this significantly faster and at a lower TCO than before.
Forrester just published parts I & II of its market overview of the public cloud market and these reports, written primarily for the Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) professionals, reveal as much about you – the customers of the clouds – as it does about the clouds themselves.
As discussed during our client teleconference about these reports, clearly the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) market is maturing and evolving and the vendors are adapting their solutions to deliver greater value to their current customers and appeal to a broader set of buyers. In the case of pure clouds such as Amazon Web Services, GoGrid and Joyent, the current customers are developers who are mostly building new applications on these platforms. Their demands focus on enabling greater innovation, performance, scale, autonomy and productivity. To broaden the appeal of their cloud services, they aim to deliver better transparency, monitoring, security and support – all things that appeal more to I&O and security & risk managers (SRM).
Emerging ARM server Calxeda has been hinting for some time that they had a significant partnership announcement in the works, and while we didn’t necessarily not believe them, we hear a lot of claims from startups telling us to “stay tuned” for something big. Sometimes they pan out, sometimes they simply go away. But this morning Calxeda surpassed our expectations by unveiling just one major systems partner – but it just happens to be Hewlett Packard, which dominates the WW market for x86 servers.
At its core (unintended but not bad pun), the HP Hyperscale business unit Project Moonshot and Calxeda’s server technology are about improving the efficiency of web and cloud workloads, and promises improvements in excess of 90% in power efficiency and similar improvements in physical density compared with current x86 solutions. As I noted in my first post on ARM servers and other documents, even if these estimates turn out to be exaggerated, there is still a generous window within which to do much, much, better than current technologies. And workloads (such as memcache, Hadoop, static web servers) will be selected for their fit to this new platform, so the workloads that run on these new platforms will potentially come close to the cases quoted by HP and Calxeda.