"Cloud Computing - Strategy, Best Practices, and Lessons Learned"
Date: Friday 9 October 2009
Presenter: Tim Rubin
Venue: Augustine's Mansions Private Dining Rooms
First (as always), I'd like to say "Thank You" to Oracle for inviting me along to this event. Even if they actually wanted "Dale Gately", whoever that is (the email just happened to come to me via my domain's default drop-box).
I guess that I should say "Thank You, Dale" as well! Never look a gift-horse in the mouth :-)
I'm not sure that there was actually any 'Strategy', "Best Practices" OR "Lessons Learned" discussed in the presentation.
The guy sitting next to me summarized his response to Tim's spiel as: "Please don't buy into what our competitors are telling you…give us time to work something out…" I guess that's about right.
I loved the opening Larry Ellison quote on Cloud Computing:
The interesting thing about cloud computing is that we've redefined
cloud computing to include everything that we already do. I can't think of anything
that isn't cloud computing with all of these announcements. The computer industry
is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women's fashion. Maybe I'm
an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It's complete
gibberish. It's insane. When is this idiocy going to stop?
We'll make cloud computing announcements. I'm not going to fight this thing. But I
don't understand what we would do differently in the light of cloud computing other
than change the wording of some of our ads. That's my view.
The participants (all CIOs and CTOs…whoever Dale Gately is, he's clearly more important than I am) were…a confused lot, it seems to me. This is what I picked up on:
- We are going to 'do' "Cloud Computing."
- We don't really know what it is.
- We don't really know why we should be doing it.
- We are sceptical that it will buy us anything. At all. In fact, all we can see are a myriad of problems.
- Still, everyone tells us that we should 'do' "Cloud Computing", so we will.
The event's organiser/host made an interesting comment something along the lines of "In Brisbane, we always meet with a healthy 'show-me-the-money' attitude. Much more so than in the other states." Decoded, this means: "Damn! You
luddites are giving me a hard time again. I didn't get this from Sydney or Melbourne."
One question was repeated a couple of times with various phrasing whch I'll summarize as: "If we do 'do' "Cloud Computing", will we still have to do all that yukky Systems Integration?" I'd have hoped that a roomful of CTOs and CIOs
would have a bit more of a grasp on things than they apparently have, but that's life. To his credit, the presenter's answer was quite correct: "Of course! You'll still need to undertake a good round of Business Process Reengineering to
get the benefits of this (or any new) technology."
A few interesting tidbits/notes:
In a typical data center, the Uptime Institute found that up to 30% of servers are 'dead' (ie with <10% utilization).
According to Tim, the major benefit of Cloud Computing is reduced time/cost to provision a system.
According the to Oracle Cloud Computing survey:
- ~24% of respondents saw cloud computing as a way of saving (unspecified) costs
- ~20% saw (unspecified) 'Architectural' benefits
- ~18% considered Cloud Computing to be strategic, in some unspecified way
- ~15% considered that Cloud Computing offered a revenue-raising opportunity
Tim gently made fun of these statistics by pointing out how they seem to show a herd mentality following a fad (my interpretation of his comments).
Tim pointed out that Cloud Computing may actually cost more than self-hosting if you provision it properly and account for it fully (without all the funny intra-organizational 'tweaks' that are often so beloved).
The fact that Cloud Computing introduces a whole new swag of failure modes, critical infrastructure points and training issues was pretty well glossed over (and would probably have taken all the allotted time anyway!).
SLAs and legal issues were almost completely ignored.
IMHO the SLA is probably the most critical aspect of Cloud Computing adoption, and here's why:
Let's say I buy into a cloud on the basis that my cloud will be provisioned for a 'normal' load, but can be scaled on-demand to enable me to handle the bursts that come along every now and then. Everyone in an organization does their
timesheet on a Friday morning, so that's a good illustration. The timesheet system probably runs at 0.01% of maximum load during the rest of the week and so constitutes 'waste', according to the Cloud Computing credo. Consider that the
cloud vendor is only going to make money by ensuring that his infrastructure is as maximally profitable as possible and so wants to handle the load with as little equipment/effort (= as highly shared between customers) as possible. How do
you write an SLA that says: "I need my peak load traffic to be successfully dealt with, REGARDLESS of the traffic being offered at the same time by any of your other customers." All the other customers have their timesheets to fill in,
remember; their peak is Friday morning as well. The only way a cloud vendor could make an appropriate guarantee would be to provision a data center in exactly the same way as we do now: for maximal utilization and accept that the normal
usage is going to be very wasteful. This will fly in the face of the vendor's business case and make their life almost prohibitively expensive.
So: you want to be in the cloud? Expect to achieve worse service (in some unspecified/unspecifiable way). You may not get bitten, but you WILL need to decide how painful a bite you can potentially stand.
Tim makes the very good statement: "Any application that gives you a competitive advantage should NOT be in the cloud." Good advice.
Overall, I came away feeling 'unenlightened' and a little miffed at the shallowness of the coverage.
I didn't even get a desert at the end of the meal 'cos the caterers had run out :-(