Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cloud Databases

Joab Jackson, in his "Cloud computing leaving relational databases behind" article, makes some pretty interesting points on the incompatibility of relational databases with cloud-based infrastructures. He first list the various cloud optimized databases:

And then notes that they all have cloud computing-specific characteristics.

  • They can be run in distributed environments,
  • None of them are transactional in nature, and
  • They all sacrifice some advanced querying capability for faster performance.

Since the national security community literally lives and dies by the information in their relational databases, what does that mean if the community adopts cloud technology in order to benefit from the scalability and economy?

The key issue here is that in cloud implementations, database material is spread across different locations. Executing complex queries with relational databases across vast geographic distances can slow response time. It is also difficult to design and maintain an architecture to replicate relational data across different locations and keep that data in sync if one location goes down.

Since cloud implementations are seemingly the wave of the future, community CIO's and analyst alike need to start thinking about the implications of the coming transition from relational databases today.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The 6 layers of the Cloud Computing Stack

From Sam Johnston's Taxonomy post

Friday, September 26, 2008

Thank You KMI Media Group

In this month's Editor's Perspective, Mr. Harrison Donnelly announced the new KMI Media Group collaborative effort. Military Information Technology will be using the blogosphere to get their government and industry partners to talk about future products and services on-line. For the next two month's, they are "asking government and industry to discuss the cloud issue on the Web, via a pre-established cloud computing blog hosted by subject-matter expert Kevin Jackson.

I want to publicly thank Mr. Donnelly, Dean Sprague and KMI Media Group for their interest in cloud computing and their trust in "Cloud Musings" as an unbiased forum for this industry discussion. I look forward to working with them on this project and supporting their future efforts.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

VMware, Cisco and the Virtual Datacenter

Last week, VMware and Cisco announced their latest collaboration for the virtual datacenter of the future. The Cisco Nexus® 1000V distributed virtual software switch is expected to be an integrated option in VMware Infrastructure. "In this highly agile environment, the new Cisco Virtual Network Link (VN-Link) technology on the Nexus 1000V will integrate with VMware’s vNetwork Distributed Switch framework to create a logical network infrastructure that will provide full visibility, control and consistency of the network."

If you pair this virtual networking capability with VMware's VDC-OS' capability to manage virtual infrastructures over the on-premise and off-premise cloud the cloud-based datacenter of the future, is now a reality today.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

DISA Chief Technologist States Plan for Cloud

In an interview reported on in this month's Military Information Technology magazine, David Mihelcic, DISA Chief Technology Officer, has laid out his goal for the agency's cloud computing initiative. As CTO, he serves as the agency's senior authority on scientific, technical and engineering matters. Mr. Mehelcic wants the DISA cloud to be able to "enter a piece of software into a cloud, and have that automatically provisioned on servers globally, close to the customers who need the service". DISA's CTO clearly wants to move well beyond the current RACE infrastructure. In the interview, he states that the current stretch goal for provisioning computing capacity is 24 minutes. I say keep pushing. It's good to see that DISA plans to expand their cloud computing activities. What other goals do you think DISA should lay out for itself?

Google, GeoEye, Twitter. What a Combination!

On September 9th, Bob Lozano posted his kudos to GeoEye for a successful launch of GeoEye-1. (Hey Bob! Where's that post on your "cloud failure" last week?)

According to their press release, GeoEye-1 will be able to collect images with a ground resolution of 0.41-meters or 16 inches in the panchromatic, or black-and-white mode, and collect multi spectral, or color imagery, at 1.65-meter resolution. (Under current government rules, the company can only offer the public half-meter images.)

I would like to add my congratulations as well, but the thing that immediately comes to my mind is the GeoEye deal to provide "the highest quality satellite imagery available" to Google and the (you know it too) coming Android-powered mash-up between those images, GPS location services and Google-Earth.

All you need now is some real-time queuing from a Twitter-powered ad-hoc information network and you really got something going.

Isn't the cloud a wonderful thing !!

Monday, September 22, 2008

RightScale goes Transcloud

Over the weekend, Maureen O'Gara of SYS-CON media reported that RightScale is now offering a "first in industry" capability to provide application management across multiple cloud infrastructures. It now offers application deployment options on Amazon EC2, GoGrid and Flexiscale. For mission critical applications, this capability could provide enhance fault tolerance and what I would call "cloud redundancy". When I've discussed cloud deployments with some Government customer, they have cited concerns about vendor lock-in. While this cross cloud capability doesn't really address that issue immediately, it does give hope that, in the near future, many vendors will be offering transcloud hosting solutions. According to their website, RightScale is also "working with Rackspace to assure compatibility with their cloud offerings, including Mosso and CloudFS".

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Bill to Outlaw Cloud Computing.....

... is what we may see if we don't educate our lawmakers now! That seemed to be one of the main point at last week's Google workshop in DC. Berin Szoka's post accurately outlines the challenge using a matrix and the Wuala backup service as an example.

"[R]egulations imposed on companies storing users’ personal data may stymie peer-to-peer backup applications like Wuala, which distributes each user’s backup data to other users, but uses encryption to prevent users from accessing the data they’re storing for others. Wuala might be forced to close down if regulations requiring companies to keep records for a set period of time or follow separate procedures for minors were interpreted to apply to each Wuala user."

Let's heed the warning because we all know how dense Congress can be !!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

NCOIC and Cloud Computing

Yesterday the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium (NCOIC) had a very good session on cloud computing during their plenary session in Falls Church, VA. Led by NCOIC's Bob Marcus, speakers included:
  • Susanne Balle, Architect, Hewlett Packard Scalable Computing and Infrastructure Organization on "Emergence of Cloud Computing"
  • Lauren States, VP, IBM Cloud Computing, and David Lindquist, Cloud Computing Chief Architect/IBM Fellow on "IBM's Perspective on Cloud Computing"
  • Todd Wiseman, Manager, Google's Federal Enterprise Team on "Cloud Computing from Google"
  • Jeff Barr, Chief Evangelist for Amazon Web Services on "Amazon Web Services: Cloud Computing in Action"

Attendees included representatives from many government agencies including:

  • DISA,
  • US Air Force,
  • US Army,
  • NATO, and
  • National Science Foundation.

Their were also serious discussion about forming an "Enterprise Cloud Computing Group". The five hour program, attended by over 150 energized national security professionals, was a strong testament to the value that some see in cloud computing for the national security space. A follow-up meeting is already scheduled for February.

Update: Presentations from the NCOIC event are now available in the SOA-R wiki.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Military Information Technology Cloud Computing Collaboration

Today, we're happy to announce what we believe to be an industry first. "Military Information Technology Magazine", as the publication of record for the defense information technology community, is collaborating with "Cloud Musings" in an exploration of cloud computing technologies within the defense community. This effort will leverage both print and Web 2.0 technologies to set the conditions for a substantive discussion on the business trade space bounded by physically consolidated data centers and the virtually distributed nature of cloud computing. We will also use this effort to explore how Web 2.0 technolgies could be used in the furture to augment and enhance the standard "Request for Information" process.

Using a simple online survey, this 60 day effort will gather information from both government and industry on their views about cloud computing technology. MIT correspondents will also conduct in-depth interviews with selected government decisionmakers and industry leaders. Survey participants can also agree to participate in the interview process. The collected information will then be organized and published in five formats:

  • A "Cloud Computing Special Report" in the November issue of Military Information Technology Magazine;

  • "Cloud Computing: A Government Customer View" via email to all industry survey participants that request a final report;

  • "Cloud Computing: Industry Offerings" via email to all government survey participants that request a final report;

  • A "Cloud Computing Technology Information" section online available to all SOA-R Interactive Network Group wiki members; and

  • Selected government and industry interviews will be posted on "Cloud Musings" for discussion and comment by the community at large.

Community participation is crucial to the success of this exciting endeavour. Please support your community by filling out the simple online survey. Qualified survey participant can also register to recieve a free subscription to Military Information Technology magazine.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is 99.999% reliability good enough?

According to Reuven Cohen in his recent post, Cloud Failure: The Myth of Nines , the whole concept of reliability may be meaningless.

"In the case of a physical failure such as Flexiscales recent one, the hardware downtime might be small, but the time to restore from a backup might be considerably longer. A minor cloud failure could cause a cascading series of software failures causing further application outage of hours or even days for those who depended on the availability of the given cloud. Meaning your cloud may achive five nines, but your application hosted on it doesn't."

I agree. When dealing with a system of systems, like the cloud, component and function SLA's are meaningless. The cloud architect must brush up on their Bayesian probability theory, plan for failure and ensure that no matter what happens, the users can complete whatever workflow is requested.

"One of the major benefits to using cloud computing is that you can make these types of failover assumptions well before they happen using an emerging global toolset of cloud components. It's not a matter of if, but a matter of when, when you take into consideration that application components will fail then you can build an application that features "failure as service". One that is always available, one with Zero Nines. "

Monday, September 15, 2008

You Probably Use Cloud Computing Already.

  • 56% of internet users use webmail services such as Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo! Mail.
  • 34% store personal photos online.
  • 29% use online applications such as Google Documents or Adobe Photoshop Express.
  • 7% store personal videos online.
  • 5% pay to store computer files online.
  • 5% back up hard drive to an online site.
And you do so because it's easy.

  • 51% of internet users who have done a cloud computing activity say a major reason they do this is that it is easy and convenient.
  • 41% of cloud users say a major reason they use these applications is that they like being able to access their data from whatever computer they are using.
  • 39% cite the ease of sharing information as a major reason they use applications in cyberspace or store data there.

Even in light of your personal concerns.

  • 90% of cloud application users say they would be very concerned if the company at which their data were stored sold it to another party.
  • 80% say they would be very concerned if companies used their photos or other data in marketing campaigns.
  • 68% of users of at least one of the six cloud applications say they would be very concerned if companies who provided these services analyzed their information and then displayed ads to them based on their actions.

From the Pew Internet and American Life project report "Use of Cloud Applications and Services".

Friday, September 12, 2008

20 Real-Life Challenges of Cloud Computing

Nikita Ivanov of GridGain offers some excellent insight into the nuts and bolts of getting the cloud to work. Definitely worth a read. To summarize:
  • Most likely you do NOT need cloud computing
  • The best way to think about cloud computing is “Data Center with API”
  • You will spend weeks and months fine tuning your cloud based application
  • You are about to deal with 100s and 1000s of remote nodes
  • You cannot rely on the fact that environment will be homogeneous
  • Debugging problem on a cloud scale requires deep understanding of distributed computing
  • IP multicast will likely not work or work with significant networking limitations.
  • Traffic inside is very cheap or free – but traffic outside is expensive and can “get you” very quickly
  • If you have to use cloud all the time, the economics change and it may be cheaper to traditionally rent in a data center
  • Up time and per-computer reliability is low – comprehensive failover support on grid middleware is a must
  • Static IPs are not guaranteed
  • Almost always plan on having multiple clouds
  • External clouds may present data sharing problems
  • Carefully think through dev/qa/prod layout and how this is all organized
  • Clunky (re)deployment of your application onto the cloud can stop your development process
  • Connections are often one-directional so comprehensive communication capabilities supporting one-directional connectivity and disjoint clouds in grid middleware is a must
  • Cloud are implemented based on hardware virtualization – make sure your grid middleware can dynamically provision such images on demand
  • Stick with open source stack
  • Linear scalability can only be achieved in a control test environment. Real world applications will exhibit non-linear scalability.
  • [His] Personal recommendation: use Amazon EC2/S3 services

Thursday, September 11, 2008

3Tera Announces Global Cloud Services

Last week, 3Tera has announced the availability of global cloud services, based on their AppLogic grid operating system. 3Tera is currently running data centers in seven countries (United States, Japan, Singapore, Argentina, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Serbia) and four continents (North America, South America, Asia, and Europe) with additional resources in South America and Australia soon to be available as well.

Learn more about how this infrastructure could be used to support national security mission requirements at the next SOA-R Cloud Computing event on October 8th. Peter Nickolov, President and COO of 3TERA, is scheduled to speak.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ambient Awareness. The cloud killer app?

Ambient Awareness: the ability to acquire, process, and act upon application specific contextual information, taking the current user preferences and state of mind into account.
In the September 5th New York Times article, "Brave New World of Digital Intimacy", Clive Thompson really got me thinking about how cloud computing, social networking sites like Facebook and adhoc information networking tools like Twitter are combining to mold our future social interactions. This social transformation may also provide new tools to address situational awareness requirements within the national security community.
While a Twitter stream of consciousness may, on the surface, seem useless, the paradox of ambient awareness may make such technologies incredibly useful. As Clive Thompson says in his article:
"Each little update — each individual bit of social information — is insignificant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting. This was never before possible, because in the real world, no friend would bother to call you up and detail the sandwiches she was eating. The ambient information becomes like “a type of E.S.P.,” as [Ben] Haley described it to me, an invisible dimension floating over everyday life.

“It’s like I can distantly read everyone’s mind,” Haley went on to say. “I love that. I feel like I’m getting to something raw about my friends. It’s like I’ve got this heads-up display for them.” It can also lead to more real-life contact, because when one member of Haley’s group decides to go out to a bar or see a band and Twitters about his plans, the others see it, and some decide to drop by — ad hoc, self-organizing socializing. And when they do socialize face to face, it feels oddly as if they’ve never actually been apart. They don’t need to ask, “So, what have you been up to?” because they already know. Instead, they’ll begin discussing something that one of the friends Twittered that afternoon, as if picking up a conversation in the middle."
To me, this is the essences of situational awareness. An ability to sense and understand your environment and the actions of others in that environment. Clive goes on to explain that sociologists have found that “weak ties”, such as those created by twittering, greatly expands an individual's ability to solve problems.

Laura Fitton, a social-media consultant, with over 5,300 followers on Twitter, brags that she can solve any problem on Twitter in six minutes!
Yes. This certainly is a brave new world.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Cloud Wins in Minneapolis at the RNC!

Little did I know that while I was watching the Republicans cheer their standard bearer inside the Xcel Energy Center that the cloud infrastructure was outside defeating the forces of civil obedience!

From "The revolution will be Twittered":

"Riot police were dressed in black body armor from head to toe, equipped with advanced communications systems and the latest in crowd-control weaponry. However, the greatest advancement in the age-old grudge match between an angry citizenry and the state was not found on the side of the police and it did not come from the millions of taxpayer dollars. A free and public social-media website called Twitter, which publishes brief messages sent in from cell phones and computers, was a game-changer for protesters, organizers, and journalists covering the event. ....What developed was an ad hoc information system that provided a vast amount of first-hand accounts, insight and the opportunity for rumors and misinformation. By the end of the convention there had been 1,375 sources posting more than 17,000 messages about the events inside and outside the convention sight [sic]"

This wouldn't be possible without wireless connectivity, a virtualized IT infrastructure and open source application technology. In short, it wouldn't be possible without the underlying cloud computing technologies.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cloud Computing vs. Virtualization

Yesterday, Reuven Cohen in ElasticVapor, provided an excellent post on the title subject. I'd like to "second his emotion" and, for my audience, add that cloud computing technologies and techniques are all about netcentricity. As Reuven put it "... cloud computing is about the move away from the desktop to a network centric software model".

The SOA-R architecture, that I'm associated with, also leverages virtualization. In fact, the SOA-R approach virtualizes storage, servers and the network. It also virtualizes the individual applications through mission specific workflows on a service oriented architecture. Isn't mash-up technology nothing more than using the drag-and-drop approach to create virtual applications on the fly? Isn't this is how our community needs to access data and create information in an event-driven world?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Government Technology Cloud Recommendations

Recommendation on the cloud from Government Technology:

No. 1: Educate your team about cloud computing. Don't just ignore this topic as hype - the future is in this direction. Go to Cloud Security and other reputable online resources to learn more about cloud computing security implications.

No. 2: For now, the cloud consists of your outsourced vendor relationships. The required security and trust comes in terms of good contract language, the payment card industry and the National Institute of Standards and Technology 800-53-compliant solutions, and ensuring data privacy. You can do this by always knowing where your data is, encrypting when needed, knowing who has access and who doesn't, and ensuring good management of your outsourced vendors - which isn't easy.

No. 3: Try new technologies but be careful with new startups and know who you're really dealing with "in the cloud." Get compliance guarantees with your data - even on short-term pilots.

The recent listing of Top Cloud Providers of 2008 can help you with this.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cloud Computing: A pay-by-consumption scalable service

John Edwards (not the Senator) of Computerworld sees cloud computing as a "...pay-by-consumption scalable service that's usually free of long-term contracts and is typically application- and operating system-independent". His recent article discusses AT&T, 3Tera, Google, IBM, Sun, Terremark Worldwide, XCalibre and Amazon.

Cloud Computing Dictionary

Geva Perry will be presenting at the October 8th SOA-R event. Before attending, you may want to visit his cloud computing dictionary to catch up on the current cloud computing terminology.

As the Chief Marketing Officer at GigaSpaces Technologies, Geva is seen as a leading expert and evangelist on cloud computing. His presentation promises to be both exciting and informative.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Google Launches Chrome: Desktop-centric to Network-centric

According to Nicholas Carr, "Chrome is the first cloud browser". If you're not familiar with Chrome, this application is Google's entry into the browser wars. In his blog, Mr. Carr describes it as " the first browser built from the ground up with the idea of running applications rather than displaying pages".

For the national security community this event really highlights the current shift from a desktop-centric world to the network-centric world.

Words from Google.

"All of us at Google spend much of our time working inside a browser. We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser. And in our spare time, we shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends -- all using a browser. Because we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elements out there. We realized that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build."

Read more on Chrome on the Official Google blog.

Boeing Gives Up On Interoperable Modelling and SimulationNnetworks

Last week a Flightglobal article reported on the softening of Boeing's stance on the need to establish standards for networking protocols across the US and global defence industry. Citing the company's 2004 efforts in creating the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium "to create a body of standards for defence and aerospace firms", their position has apparently changed because open source information is sufficient to meet the objectives of most simulations and the value added by a network's density is not nearly as great as previously believed.

I personally believe that the ability to connect network through internet protocols, the rise of open systems and the viability of cloud computing technologies have just made industry specific networking protocols obsolete. I also see the inclusion of a cloud computing session in the NCOIC September Plenary speaks volumes for the future of this approach.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cisco: A Cloud Computing Company?

Yes Cisco ! Red Herring's report on Cisco's acquisition of PostPath last week presents a strong case for this.
  • If finalized, PostPath would become Cisco's fifteenth acquisition in less than two years and its eleventh software application and services company.
  • Cisco has bought its way into many application software-dominated markets, including cloud computing, social networking, collaboration, and now email.
  • With cloud computing and social networking blurring the lines between networking hardware, application software, and services, many other traditional IT equipment companies have moved into the software application business.
  • According to analyst, the emergence of cloud computing is changing the economics of networking hardware and software markets