Tag Archives: EU

My Gardener is in the Cloud (redux): A Basic Cloud Primer

Gardener as a Service (GaaS)

Robert shows on Tuesday mornings, backing his little van into my driveway, throws open the back door and pulls out his kit: a mower some weeks, a blower others, always a rake and a trimmer… He unlocks the gate and goes about his work and within an hour or so he is gone. All that I need to do is have handy the garden waste bin. Oh, and an espresso: I have him hooked on this once-a-week caffeine rush.

That is, in essence, all that most people need to know to start to understand the cloud: cloud is a commercial model wherein you pay for a service, done as you need it to be done when you want it done without requirement for upfront investment or set-up fees: no purchases required! “Cloud computing” is a generic term for pretty much anything that involves delivering infrastructure or programs over a network. Essentially a figure-of-speech, cloud is hosted IT systems, or managed and hosted services, or managed applications or IT outsourcing… any of the above, or others.

While all true, Cloud delivery has three distinct characteristics which help to identify and to define itself:
1. It is typically sold in an ‘on demand’ model, typically by the minute, the hour or by capacity
2. it is elastic, meaning you can have as much or as little as you want or need at any given time and
3. it can be private or public (shared or not shared)

All of which still means it is basically a billing model… and now, back to Robert:
1. In the spring and autumn, Robert scales up to spend extra time preparing the garden for summer growth or for winter rest
2. Robert is also available on demand and can be scheduled for plantings and transplants, tree removal, or to pop ’round and feed the cat when we go away for a weekend
3. A “shared cloud”, Robert has 15 to 20 customers (whereas before he moved into semi-retirement he was a “private cloud” and took exclusive care of a family estate consisting of three adjacent properties.

Robert also has the knowledge to help me with what to plant, and where, for best results; what to buy and where to buy it; how to solve problems from pests to blight and, most importantly, picks up the approximately six million leaves that fall in my back garden each autumn.

I hope that Robert, my trusty gardener, has simplified this ‘cloud stuff’: the landscape is changing – as it always does – for technology professionals, users, buyers and their executives. There is, as always, an easy three step plan to get it right:
1. Start by documenting your requirements and the desired outcome, not to mention time and budget constraints
2. Collaborate with your vendors and overall supply chain to exploit their knowledge and expertise
3. Plan, plan some more, communicate and apply some rigour and governance to support success (especially since doing otherwise supports failure)

Oh, and, by the way: my cleaners are also in the cloud!

note: I've scaled down in size and in depth of detail to what is, now, I hope, a simple enough analogy that my 83 year old German Father in Law can understand, easily… your comments as always are welcome (the original, slightly more detailed blog entry)

Cloud Warnings

Beware the Cloud-ists!

cloud-warning-sign-370x229

Let's start by saying that I like cloud and have done since well before it was called cloud. Clouds have featured in pretty much every solution I’ve designed in the last decade. These days, however, we have the processing power, capacity and bandwidth to enable smart, utility delivery of the commodity aspects of computing which is, in fact, very cool.

This utility delivery of computing resources – again, also known as cloud – is in many ways the stuff of which dreams are have the potential to be made… reduced risk, reduced cost and reduced barriers across what has become a much-simplified business to consumer to business loop.

Ultimately cloud enables a new layer of commerce by delivering increased service levels at overall (over time) reduced costs for computing and communications. Cloud also takes a more than half-decent step towards closing the "digital divide" by increasing availability and minimising or eliminating other barriers to entry.

All of which is of course a good thing, few would disagree. And all of which means that everybody: Businesses, Governments, Consumers, should drop everything and embrace the cloud as quickly as possible!

That last bit was sarcasm, by the way, and brings me to my point: beware the Cloud-ists for whom the answer to any question of technology is cloud. Cloud now, at all costs, to replace everything else.  It seems that, for some, cloud is so important that truth and reality and risk analysis no longer are!

Awareness is Good, Hype is Bad

Cloud Computing has struck a chord and captured the imagination of the public, business and Government in a way that other attempts at delivering utility model computing, ranging from On Demand to first generation SaaS and other such incarnations never did.

Everywhere you look are analysts blogging and tweeting about it: an unbelievable myriad of real-world experts (some of whom know about that of which they speak, others clearly who do not!) and shed loads of books with Cloud in the title have already been published with hundreds more to come.

And this is good, but it is also bad.  An interest in and an understanding of technology is good all round and enough hype and excitement will encourage a few more students to lean in this direction. New business (those that have primarily online presences) can start and scale for tiny investments. As mentioned, barriers are being reduced and eliminated.

The Cloud-ists maintain that private clouds have been a path for vendors to sell more hardware and software but the operational realities of how, physically and why, from a business requirements point of view, that the private cloud is actually delivered need consideration. Sometimes it needs to be separate hardware and sometimes logical separation is sufficient: the differences are subtle but significant. The solution will be based on insights derived from and the commercial realities that are calculated on the actual requirement: does it save money; does it make money; does it solve a problem; does it prevent a problem.

A similar and related misunderstanding that consistently confuses the business / technical relationship (creating more CIO v CTO arguments than could be imagined) is that of virtualisation. From the business view: it is a single blade running multiple instances of a machine so we should pay for a single computer.

The operational and technical reality is that yes, it is a single blade running multiple instances of a machine but each of those virtual machines requires software licenses, needs to be monitored and managed as though it were a separate machine. It may cost less physically but not from a process perspective or other resources involved, including not-inexpensive people.

Safe and Secure… or Not

The answer is again yes, both, but then again, maybe not… unlike the unequivocally positive (and in my opinion mis-informed view of  Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda) who claims, without qualification, that the cloud “is safe, is secure… like a locker that only you have the key and can put anything you want… and that it will always be there!” It can be safe, if safe is part of what you are paying for or if generally you are lucky. But equipment fails and if you are not paying specifically for a disaster recovery capability you can be pretty certain that you won't be getting a disaster recovery capability. And who is to say that you won’t run across Dirty Disk syndrome (where you can recover data from the sessions of the previous user or, worse yet, they can recover yours?) or other possible issues: we do know that the people who try to hack into systems seem rather clever…

As covered in this CIO Journal discussion, compared with real world, industrial strength managed service hosting solutions, cloud providers don’t negotiate service levels with you: you fill out a form; they don’t provide service managers with 24 hour service desk contact… more often than not the help desk is a web-form or maybe live-chat during core business hours (if you don’t mind waiting until their one-man support department is available).

That this star of the European Union goes on to say that “We are not pleading for a European Cloud, that would be old fashioned" is amazingly misguided, at best. Truth is, from someone who seems otherwise, well, okay, this is poor form.

And why would she bother? Forgetting the fact that government involvement in cloud computing is not a State issue – or at least not beyond data protection and other State-level policies or regulations – how is it that the 'vapour' of a new idea is suddenly so cross-popularised that Government officials have  decided to usurp it for themselves.  (And if the Government needs to get involved every time there is a significant shift in tech, where then  is the Department for the App Store or the Bureau de iPhone?)

Thanks to AWS for Proving my Point

The best summary I can muster will be to thank Amazon for their recent outages (note the use of the plural) to show what can happen with commodity cloud offerings.

But I also say cheers regarding major issues on delivery of an ‘upgrade’ at Royal Bank of Scotland / NatWest (a major UK bank) which also clearly illustrates that problems are possible, whether with “discount services” or with what were, at least until now, considered Industrial-strength systems.

Oh… and beware the Cloud-ists!

Cloud is not a panacea.. oh, wait: didn’t I say that already?

My comment in response to a

Why You Really, Truly Don’t Want a Private Cloud:

This guy speaks at conferences! I would ask for my money back (unless the ticket warned: “Zealots within”)

Simple things that for some reason otherwise-intelligent people seem to constantly forget while preaching cloud:

– legacy system issues include already purchased hardware, systems, licenses, architecture and design, talent, process, etc etc.
— without following through on the original business models the forecast benefits and RoI will never be realised – which if allowed to happen requires calculation into any Cloud cost / savings projections

– as per Dov, existing processes (across both the private and public sectors) require adjustment

– as per my entire 32 year career in solutions architecture and technology planning
— *nothing* ever has been, nor is likely to be, a panacea
— almost everything related to people and change takes longer and delivers less return than was projected

Don’t misunderstand me: he is / they are NOT wrong… but in my opinion based on 32 years in the industry, you are not as correct as you think you are and like many others need to stop the generalisations and pontifications and get on with actual delivery .. which requires listening to needs and situations, making observations and determining requirements rather than picking up a paintbrush and a bucket of beige paint.

Couldn’t help adding this after reading some of other comments on the article:

I forgot one other necessary specific:

Kofi, you can’t really think that all public clouds are magically dispersed, diverse, backed up and accessible within the required SLA and OLA levels for that business to earn as planned.. for dirt cheap prices?

And that the expensive private cloud doesn’t provide any of that luxury and in fact makes that which you have designed..
to meet your needs..
and which is under your control
– you contend that this is more susceptible to what, now?

Are you aware that cloud is a new term for old stuff… and that public v. private is simply a commercial model for the same stuff running on the same tin over the same pipes – – and often even in the same data centres?

If so you might benefit from a simple little blog I wrote called ‘My Gardener is in the Cloud’ and all of the other real world pragmatic discussions I have either written or re-blogged here on this page

My Gardener is in the Cloud: the original blog

My Gardener is in the Cloud aka Gardener as a Service (GaaS)

Robert shows on Tuesday mornings, backing his little van into my driveway, throws open the back door and pulls out his kit: a mower some weeks, a blower others, always a rake and a trimmer… He unlocks the gate and goes about his work and within an hour or so he is gone. All that I need to do is have handy the garden waste bin. Oh, and an espresso: I have him hooked on this once-a-week caffeine rush.

That is, in essence, all that most people need to know to start to understand the cloud: cloud is a commercial model wherein you pay for a service, done as you need it to be done when you want it done without requirement for upfront investment or set-up fees: no purchases required! "Cloud computing" is a generic term for pretty much anything that involves delivering infrastructure or programs over a network (typically but not always the internet). Essentially a figure-of-speech, cloud is hosted IT systems, or managed and hosted services, or managed applications or IT outsourcing… any of the above, or others.

While all true, Cloud delivery has three distinct characteristics which help to identify and to define itself:
1. It is typically sold in an 'on demand' model, typically by the minute, the hour or by capacity (such as disk space)
2. it is elastic, meaning you can have as much or as little as you want or need at any given time and
3. it can be private or public (shared or not shared)

All of which still means it is a billing model… but more importantly it is an exploitation of resources that moves pretty much everything to a different level and we'd be better served using it instead of spending so much time arguing about it. The 'cloud' handle, by the way, was taken from the fact that we solutions and network architects have long used a fluffy little cloud to represent networks (including the internet) on flowcharts and other diagrams.

The funny thing is that the tech community have long delivered services in what *could* have been called cloud, but wasn't. The evolution of computing, as characterised by high speed connectivity, massive scaling of computing power and cheap cheap storage combined with significant innovations in virtualisation and distributed computing (all of the above in terms of both costs and reliability). Add a weak economy and the related need to reduce the costs of sale and to reduce overhead in general and we have pretty much created a 'perfect storm', the nature of which we haven't seen since the appearance of a systems architecture approach known as SOA (a topic for a future conversation).

To illustrate a little further, let's go back to Robert:
1. In the spring and autumn, Robert scales up to spend extra time preparing the garden for summer growth or for winter rest
2. Robert is also available on demand and can be scheduled for plantings and transplants, tree removal, or to pop 'round and feed the cat when we go away for a weekend (Robert also adds value to my supply chain thanks to his expertise and any resultant economies of scale)
3. A shared cloud, Robert has 15 to 20 customers (whereas before he moved into semi-retirement he was a private cloud, taking care of a family estate consisting of three adjacent properties.

Robert also has the knowledge to help me with what to plant, and where, for best results; what to buy and where to buy it; how to solve problems from pests to blight and, most importantly, picks up the approximately six millions leaves that fall in my back garden each autumn.

Pardon the three sets of three, Cloud services are typically divided as either:
1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
2. Software as a Service (SaaS)
3. Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Robert again can be used to provide some apt illustrations:

IaaS, of which Amazon Web Services are a good example, is similar to Robert bringing along his own mower, blower and other tools: my flat rate fee, in this case, covers the petrol for his mower but it also covers me should his mower break down: he will have it repaired or replaced, at no impact to me. And Robert, I know, has some of his old equipment also in the van, just in case: I not only have no need to worry about such issues I also have no responsibility to deal with those issues… and each Tuesday I return home comfortable that I will not have a weekend of yard work in front of me.
Aka the utility model, with IaaS providers such as Amazon your 'server' runs on their hardware in a pay-as-you-go environment (similar to the way that water and electricity and metered and delivered to your home.

SaaS, or software as a service, involves Robert not only supplying the equipment but also that which needs the equipment to operate: from planting our spring purchases from the garden centre through to spending extra time working on the rose bushes or removing a less-than-healthy bit of shubbery. SaaS is a very broad market and is probably today's most common. Salesforce.com, Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 are all examples.

Which brings us to PaaS (and where the "Robert in the cloud" analogy becomes a little stretched but, in other ways, still can work as an example). PaaS is, sort of, a combination of the other two but with a different objective. In this case the customer creates and tests business solutions, over the network, using kit provided by the owner of the Cloud being used. (Force.com from Salesforce and GoogleApps – from a developer point of view, work as examples of PaaS).

I hope that Robert, my trusty gardener, has simplified this 'cloud stuff': the landscape is changing – as it always does – for technology professionals, users, buyers and their executives. There is, as always, an easy three step plan to get it right:
1. Start by documenting your requirements and the desired outcome, not to mention time and budget constraints
2. Collaborate with your vendors and overall supply chain to exploit their knowledge and expertise
3. Plan, plan some more, communicate and apply some rigour and governance to support success (especially since doing otherwise supports failure)

Oh, and, by the way: my cleaners are also in the cloud!