abattre

Removing barriers to cloud computing for the Small & Medium Business space.

Introduction to Infrastructure Cloud Computing for Small Business

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Cloud computing is a game changer for the small and medium business space.  In a nutshell, it provides enterprise class software and hardware infrastructure at a utility price that is affordable for the small and medium business user.  Gartner places the market size at $30B by 2014.  In essence, cloud computing levels the game in ways not possible until the last two years AND it has huge market potential.  I personally think $30B is a little low given worldwide trends.

What is IaaS?

I would argue that Infrastructure-as-a-Service, IaaS, is the most heated space in cloud computing.  It is still early in the cloud computing adoption cycle and no one vendor is a clear leader yet and probably won’t be for another few years.  To be a IaaS vendor, you must provide a compute platform with a nominal amount of management tools to run virtual machines in a hosted data center.  Most vendors use XenKVM or vmware as their primary hypervisor platform to provide compute capabilities.

Outside of compute capabilities, all IaaS vendors provide some sort of blob storage to provide speedy retrieval and download of large files.  Two very good examples are Amazon’s product called S3, Rackspace’s aptly named Cloud Files.

Hence, A Definition

Infrastructure-as-a-Service, IaaS, is a platform that provides two key components, compute capacity typically delivered via virtualization technology in a data center and file storage for very large file types.  Customers purchase both services at a utility price which is typically based on usage and capability of the compute resources reserved on their behalf.  The pricing is typically fixed and non-negotiable.

How do you decide on a vendor or find out who the vendors even are?  Most rely on Gartner to provide initial research into making those type of decisions.  Let’s look at their most recent publication of their magic quadrant for IaaS.

The 2011 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Infrastructure

gartner-iaas-magicq.png

This past quarter of 2010, Gartner published their most recent review of all the vendors in the Infrastructure business.  At first glance, you notice that Amazon is clearly the most visionary of the vendors in their eyes, in fact, many would argue that Amazon created this space back in 2006 when they launched Elastic Computing based on virtual machine technology which is now marketed as EC2.

However, others have been in the hosting business for a very long time and easily could take the lead over the next 3 years.  Savvis, Rackspace, Terramark and GoGrid are four very strong contenders that provide both compute and file storage.  And they have tons of small businesses already running their web sites on their servers.  They are veteran hosting providers and understand Internet infrastructure needs in addition to having excellent reputations with many small and medium businesses.

Of significant note, Rackspace recently launched OpenStack in a partnership with NASA which is an open-source cloud computing platform.  This is exciting because they’ve actually said, we’ll compete on service and completeness of solution, but we’ll allow anyone else to see the actual application code upon which they run their solution.

Decisions

Choosing an Infrastructure provider can be difficult.  When making the decision, choose a vendor you feel you can trust and is willing to provide excellent service.  Get a phone number to call when you run into issues and do your homework.  All vendors are not alike, find one willing to invest in you.

I like Infrastructure-as-a-Service because it allows businesses the freedom to move applications to the cloud and minimize their capital expenditures, on hardware/software/data center costs, while improving operating margins on the applications they use to run their business.


Written by abattre

January 11, 2011 at 4:30 pm

OpenStack

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I wanted to familiarize myself with OpenStack today, as usual, I built out a mindmap of OpenStack.  It is interesting that in they have a current release of Austin out and are on track to deliver the Bexar release in early February with the Cactus release coming just 2 shorts months later in April.  Even more interesting is that Rackspace is committed to deploying the Cactus release on their own servers.

On a similar note, it is suggested the filesystem used be XFS, you know, the old filesystem left over from SGI and donated to the open source community.

Open Stack.png

I didn’t have an opportunity today, but I really want to take a harder look at the architecture in Object Storage.  From what I can discern, Cloudfiles is built on top of Object Storage with CDN capabilities.  On a lighter note, I saw folks on Twitter were having CDN issues because they were using Google DNS server or OpenDNS servers instead of their local ISPs DNS servers… woops!!  An inherent by-design flaw in most CDN implementations…

Also, Amazon just upped the game announcing an S3 block size limit of 5TB.

Current logical view of Object Storage I made while messing around with Omnigraffle – not my best work:

OpenStack Objects Architecture.png

 

Written by abattre

December 31, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Democratization of Enterprise Software

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Democratization of Enterprise Software

I’ve been reading everyone’s prognostications for 2011 around Cloud Computing and want to weigh in.  I think an area most are missing is the democratization of Enterprise Software for the Small & Medium sized businesses worldwide.  Think about it, commodity level pricing for software that runs my business, but at a level I can afford.  Everything the largest and strongest companies use to deliver efficiency and heightened proficiency.

Changes in the Game

This opens up a whole new world of efficacy, efficiency and process standardization to the small & medium business owner not previously available.  They can now use the same software and methodologies as the large businesses use to track their supply chain, manage human resources and deliver sales excellence through the use of customer resource management.

Who Wins

Most SaaS business models include a free level meant as a loss-leader, but are golden opportunity for the small business owner.  Bottom line, this provides the small business owner a potentially huge market advantage and they effectively leap-frog their competitors if they can execute quickly and nimbly.

Written by abattre

December 30, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Thoughts on rackspace

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Since this past weekend I’ve been putting together a post for InfoQ.com on Cloud Computing trends in 2011.  There is a lot of fluff out there and sorting through it all has been exhausting, especially when combined with the holiday.  Every hosting provider out there is now claiming to be Cloud Computing IaaS or PaaS vendor.  Amazon is clearly the frontrunner at the moment and I think I close second is rackspace, with GoGrid hot on their heels. Microsoft and Google are quickly marshaling their resources and will have endless amounts of capital to spend, but they are clearly PaaS vendors.  Up a level from IaaS.

 

As to one of the bigger questions I’m forming in my head, I’m noticing that both Amazon and rackspace only support the Standard Edition of SQL Server in their out-of-the-box instances.  I’m trying to determine why and I’m betting it is a pricing/licensing issue.

 

Differentiators

When looking at both hosting solutions, it does seem there are some differentiators such as file storage comes as part of the package with rackspace whereas if you want to maintain your filesystem or database with AWS, you had better implement EBS.

 

As for dead-simple site hosting, rackspace provides a better solution hands down, especially with their management tool and the 3 very simple steps to create a server as compared to the draconian process needed to create an EC2 instance that can survive a catastrophic failure.

 

Expectations

As for maturity in the market, Amazon clearly has penetrated the Enterprise Software space as an IaaS vendor with a nice case study on Lawson Software.  They even have the likes of Engine Yard and Heroku running on top of their service showing they are a proven infrastructure vendor.  (as a side note, what is salesforce.com going to do with Heroku – will they migrate to their own servers or continue with Amazon AWS?)

 

I’d like to see rackspace go after tier 2 and tier 3 enterprise software vendors and put together some nice case studies.  I’d also like to see rackspace implement a noSQL stand-alone data solution.  Further, they really need to shore up their marketing around their CDN solution rather than delegate it simply as a mention in a side-note feature to cloudfiles.  Lastly, if they really want into the HPC cloud computing space, they need to provide a map/reduce solution ala Hadoop which I understand they already use internally.

 

Mindmap of the current rackspace.com solutions:

 

rackspace.png

Written by abattre

December 27, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Mindmap of Amazon AWS

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Earlier this month I published a mindmap of SQL Azure since I’m consulting with the SQL Azure team at Microsoft.  Cleaning up my laptop I found a mindmap I’d made of Amazon AWS.  It is quite large, but it provides a quick overview of all their services and is useful for quick comparisons.

Amazon AWS.png

Here is another one of Cloud Providers which I need to segment out to IaaS, PaaS, SaaS.  Perhaps I’ll break them up by public, private and hybrid solutions as well.

Cloud Providers.png

Written by abattre

December 27, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Concept Map of SQL Azure

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I’ve been reading through the SQL Azure blog and their wiki to get a complete view of its current state.  I’m helping the SQL Azure team with marketing and strategy.  As an artifact of my efforts to ramp on SQL Azure, I built a concept map or mind map using FreeMind.  FreeMind really helps me collect my thoughts in a manner where I can collect, sort and graph so that I can quickly view complex concepts in a easily consumable manner.

 

SQL Azure MindMap

I like that SQL Azure was architected with High-Availability and Failover from the start.  I like that you can use the same tools and data access mechanisms.  I’m not sold on OData yet nor do I like that unless you have an MSDN subscription, you don’t have a free access tier for usage.  Amazon provides one for their cloud data products.

Written by abattre

December 14, 2010 at 7:35 pm

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Killer Cloud App – Data Storage

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If you talk with the folks over Amazon, they use S3 buckets instead of local drive space to store log files, dumps, images/graphics and all sorts of odds and ends.  I was having a discussion yesterday with a  colleague on what we think the next killer solution will be and I kept thinking back to the almost entirely vertical slope for 2009-2010 shown on any Werner Vogels slide deck demonstrating the usage of S3 since 2006. 

Data. 

The world runs on data and information management is key surviving in a post-manufacturing world.  At one time, Microsoft wanted to build a file system which was database driven to overcome those pesky file gremlins which so often eat the file you need “right now”

When you look at data solutions you have several vendors with solutions:

  • EMC / Mozy
  • Amazon
    • SimpleDB
    • S3
    • RDS
  • Microsoft with SQL Azure
  • Google with BigTable
  • Caspio
  • IBM
    • DB2 Express
    • Informix Dynamic Server
  • NoSQL Alternatives in a private cloud
    • CouchDB
    • MongoDB
    • NEO4J
    • Cassandra

What the world doesn’t need to have happen is a mass movement of relational databases to virtualized multi-tenant hosting, but that is exactly what is happening.  What needs to happen is an evolution of data and information storage.  Something where the data is stored and retrieved in a like manner in which it is used.  Perhaps along the NoSQL movement, but on a grander scale….

Written by abattre

December 8, 2010 at 10:26 pm