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Cloud Computing? Do you know what you’re asking for? Part 1 July 23, 2010

Posted by templeofthecloud in Application Hosting, Business Continuity, Business Continuity Best Practices, Carrier Neutral Datacenter, Cloud Computing, Colocation, Compliance Assistance, Data Center, Data Center Migration, Data Center Relocation, Datacenter, Datacenter commissioning, Datacenter solutions, Government Cloud Computing, Green datacenter, Hosting, IaaS, Infrastructure as a Service, PaaS, Platform as a Service, SaaS, Software as a Service.
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Reader beware: This is a long entry. You may need to copy this and break it up and read it in pieces, especially if you need help getting to sleep.

So you have heard about cloud computing! And now you want to get your own piece of the cloud, kind of akin to getting a “piece of the rock” back in the day. Well let me tell you, getting a piece of the cloud is as confusing as getting a piece of the rock from your insurance provider.

Do you have to consider LEED compliance to ensure that you have a green data center? Cloud computing can help. Are you faced with a data center relocation or data center migration? How about improving your business continuity, application hosting, development platforms? Is being carrier neutral or carrier diverse a factor that you have to bear in mind?

Guess what? A well constructed and configured cloud infrastructure can solve all of those problems for you. But therein lies the part of the reason that cloud computing is so confusing to so many in the industry. Well, that and all of the “geek snipers” that are running around in the industry just looking for an excuse to flex their geek muscles, foam at the mouth and scream from the hills (blog, forum, trade show, or mom’s basement; as the case may be) that there are no “true” providers of cloud. I will digress because geek snipers are the topic of another blog. And let me tell you, that is a topic that has been brewing for some time.

Am I confusing you yet? Or have you glazed over yet? No? Let me try harder. You know that you want to use cloud computing; but do you want SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS (that IS IaaS, not Ia**, save that for your IT Director). What? Not sure of the difference? Don’t know who to turn to as a provider? Does your mind immediately go to the names that have received the most press in the cloud computing market? IE, Amazon, Google, Microsoft. That is fine, but you owe it to yourself and your organization to take a deeper look. Those providers are good for people who want to dabble in cloud computing, or do not mind a public type of infrastructure; and don’t mind that your stuff disappears when you don’t pay the bill…

Okay, bear with me here. I’ve deliberately been very ambiguous in this blog to demonstrate a point. Cloud computing by its very nature may be an intangible paradigm, but if you take a deep dive, it is a very tangible world to be in. This will be a longer than typical blog, but if you stick with me, I think that we might be able to gain a little bit of geek enlightenment; and you will feel more tingly than after having downed a six pack of Jolt Cola and soaked through a pound of espresso.  Then you can go buy your very own Obi-Wan Kenobi robe, and you can walk around saying things like, “these are not the blades you’re looking for”.

All of that fuzzy haze aside, lets get down to it and make that fluffy cloud, a tangible cloudscape. See what I did there? Landscape to cloudscape… Cloud computing is here to stay, and it is going to stay because modern day IT infrastructures have now come to demand:

– A: Scalable service requirements
– B: Virtualization (duh).
– C: Agnostic cloud computing infrastructures

So you are still with me after reading those bullet points? I will assume that you are that brave soul that needs to re-rack your architecture and manscape your domain, into a tangible cloudscape. Well done, I say to you, intrepid soul. You have taken on the big kitty and given it a bath. You will be a rock star with most luscious geek mind once we are done here. You will get a chuckle that you were ever confused. Shall we continue?

Let us first acknowledge the reality that many in your organization may simply say that cloud computing is a passing fad, and that it is nothing more than “old mainframe” brought back to life. Fair enough, that is true to a degree, but “old mainframe” did not really change the OSI model like cloud computing has. Cloud enables software usage, entire development environments, entire infrastructures by doing as little as making a few simple keystrokes and high speed mouse runs across some radio button’s on a cloud portal. In doing so, cloud computing makes such daunting tasks like data center relocation and migration, disaster recovery, application hosting, web hosting far less difficult to manage and consider. A side benefit for you, the intrepid soul who’s chosen to jump into the cloud, is that you can make the difficult seem easy, and the impossible becomes a simple task that will take more than an hour. So hoist up that Jolie Rouge, or for you more pedestrian types, the Jolly Roger, and set sail. How do you like that? I managed to make this blog classy by inserting a little French lingo there.

One of the first things that needs to occur for IT personnel and the people that love them (senior management), is that IT people now need to become multi-disciplined in their roles. The jack of all trades cliche applies here. To just start to understand how to properly build a cloud, IT staff needs to know network, equipment, software, security, hosting, colo, OS, storage; and they also need to understand the nuanced arts of compliance, enterprise data center solutioning, relocation, migration, business continuity, and disaster recovery. So lets get it straight, up front, we will cross all of those disciplines here. Oh, and let me throw in another tangible intangible art and science: Virtualization and elasticity in a service oriented infrastructure. The hits just keep rolling eh?

At this point, it is not hard to see why there is so much confusion in the cloud computing world. There are a lot of factors to contend with and learn. Lets call this missive the first in a row of several entries that I hope will help alleviate some questions around cloud computing, and to cause the formulation of questions that I would be happy to answer.

Getting to the point was NOT the intent of this blog entry. The intent was to cause confusion, so that confusion could be cured. Kind of like a yin and yang, grasshopper had too much coffee deep thought. However, going forward, I will start to drill down and provide the enlightenment that you seek. Let me go get my Obi-Wan Kenobi robe. Oh, and my Spock ears. Be right back.

Okay, here is what you need to know to just begin to plan your cloud computing instances and infrastructure.

The following list of key cloud computing components will cover your requirements whether they apply towards your green data center Leed certification, business continuity, data center migration or relocation, hosting, colocation, even government cloud computing. You name it, these are the things you need to know. (Even the National Institute for Science and Technology agrees. I know I know, it is not very Jolly Roger Pirate like to agree with The Man; but sometimes you have to compromise).

These are your key cloud computing components:
– On-demand self service:
– Ubiquitous network access:
– Location independent resource pooling and usage:
– Rapid elasticity:
– Measured service:

Everyone of those components will drive your ability to offer, maintain, and sustain a very high level grade of service for a massively scalable architecture, autonomic computing, homogeneity, geographic distribution, advanced security measures, and perhaps most importantly, VIRTUALIZATION.

Are you tracking with what we’re doing here? We are solving for THE critical requirements for any cloud environment: highly scalable service requirements, a robust virtual cloudscape, and an agnostic cloud computing environment. See, this isn’t so bad.

Now, let me introduce what you must understand as you start to take flight towards your cloudscape:
You must have a solid grasp in the arts of cloud provisioning and all that it entails. Think, network, and the particular use for that cloud computing instance in your enterprise.

Cloud data storage, how much persistent and non-persistent cloud storage do you need; and have a plan to set thresholds on when to increase storage, as well as to what processes and/or applications you will dedicate that storage.

Know cloud computing processing infrastructures. Meaning, what do you want to do on that cloud. Besides listen to wofty music played by strange entities strapped to a harp.

Cloud support services, which means prepare your IT Support staff to actually focus on IT issues in your infrastructure not the 1d10t tickets they may have become used to.

Get secure, and know it cold. The “Holy Grail” in the cloud world (especially the private cloud world) is security. Okay, maybe security is the “holy coffee cup”, and totally automated cloud provisioning is the “Holy Grail”, but lets not split hairs here. Taken a step further, know how your security measures will affect your network. If you’re into private cloud, and you should be, think IDS/IPS, Firewalls, load balancing, finally leaving process and policy; all redundant of course.

Buy an ascot, get nuanced and get down with the elastic elements of the cloud: Storage, processing, virtual network, platforms, and domains. Forget the notions of equipment refresh and the paradigm of geography.

For the sake of brevity… No seriously, thus far this entry in regards to cloud computing has been far from loquacious. In fact, I’d say that, thus far, I have in fact been quite laconic in the treatment on the topic of cloud computing. As I was… For the sake of brevity, I will close with the addition of the next topic that will be injected into this cloud discussion. Those topics will be, Saas, PaaS, and IaaS. Furthermore, no discussion would be complete without a battle line view of public v. private cloud computing; a topic that sends geek snipers into fits of rage and spastic movement as if they’ve just had a five dollar bill stuffed in their happy place.

Thus far, we have but just started to pull the curtains back on the subject of cloud computing; just know that it is necessary to start at the Cirrocumulus level, and forage our way through the cloudscape, down into the bowels of the Fog level. And believe me, there is a layer of heavy fog. Just go to a trade show and look for the guys in wranglers, combat sandals, tons of swag and breathing from their mouth; and there my friends, you will see why moisture accumulates around the cumuliform of cloud computing, turning itself into a layer of ice also known as confusion.

Intrepid readers, I promise I will go more tangible in the next entry. So until next time, be sure to spade and neuter your support personnel! Good day!

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