Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Ed Featherston, Dalibor Siroky, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Xenia von Wedel

Related Topics: @CloudExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

A Recipe for Cloud Design

Isn’t it time you started creating the infrastructure designs your business consumers want?

The deployment of infrastructure systems to support applications has been a challenge since we first developed a choice beyond the venerable mainframe. To some it’s a simple formula; take a server, toss in a little network and storage, bake for a few weeks and you’re done. If you’re having a few friends over (need a little more) then simply add a few more servers and you’re done. What the heck, hardware is cheap and gets cheaper every year...the advent of Cloud makes it even easier to maintain that philosophy.

Unfortunately that mentality is pervasive in much of IT, not to mention the business world. But there are two fundamental flaws: the first revolves around the design effectiveness, and the second pertains to operational sustainability.

Let’s talk about the latter flaw first, since it is more obvious and by now most readers are familiar with it. Until recently, much of the past decade in IT focused on optimizing our data centers. Why? Because for far too many years we simply threw hardware at the problem, and then suddenly – in the post dot-com IT budget slashing era – we realized we had thousands upon thousands of servers that were very poorly utilized and cost far more to support than procure. Enter server consolidation, virtualization, and the ostensibly never-ending IT Optimization / Transformation programs. We will come back to this a little later.

Now let's discuss effective design. As it's the season to cook and consume far too much food, it seems fitting to employ the “recipe” analogy. To the casual observer, the process of cooking something seems like an extraordinarily simple exercise: mix the ingredients, cook to proper time and temperature, and voila – the meal is done (if only it were that simple…think back to all the times when you took a bite and immediately wished you hadn’t). How about the first time you tried to cook something by yourself? Suddenly it didn’t seem quite so simple – who knew that there were a dozen different kinds of chocolate chips, or that it really does make a difference when you use a 10x10 pan instead of the recommended 8x14.

There are so many different choices to make when selecting the ingredients, and even more when you discover there are also multiple cooking methods. The permutations are more than most minds can grasp, and you start to understand a little better why it costs so much to dine in a five-star restaurant. A good chef does not arbitrarily select ingredients or the cooking method; he/she considers carefully the audience they are cooking for, the budget, and the amount of time available. Are you cooking for the President and his family, for 30 important guests, or for your local Cub Scout Pack? Each option provides different criteria, requiring decisions throughout the meal preparation process to be made, any one of which (if made poorly) may negatively impact the outcome. Dinner will be late, bad, or hastily ordered pizzas.

Is IT design any different? There are many, many varieties of servers, storage, and networking gear with varying elements of cost and performance benefits. So why do many organizations generally behave like they are cooking for the Cub Scouts on a campout, using low cost ingredients and cooking to feed 100 people? The answer lies in all three of the concepts we’ve discussed:

1. Hardware is cheap, and Cloud makes it appear even cheaper

2. We don’t understand the users (who’s coming to the party)

3. We don’t know how many we’re cooking for, so lets adopt an approach that allows us to serve as many as possible (quantity is more important than quality).

As amusing as this analogy may be, it’s actually a vicious cycle that we’ve been trapped in for some time. If our users don’t like the result at the end of step 3, we simply give them more resources … see step 1. Does that make our business partners happy (probably not)? Does it ensure we’ll be perpetually optimizing our IT landscape (definitely yes)? Is it any wonder that our business partners often opt to “go out for dinner”? Despite the many benefits of Cloud Computing, it does not fix this problem – it is the IT equivalent of ‘fast food’. What we gain in speed of service is (today) lost in quality, and I’ll politely suggest that long-term dining in the Cloud may have an adverse effect on our IT waistlines.

Ok, ok, enough with the food analogy – you get the point. The fact of the matter is that with our current approach to designing IT systems the leverage of Cloud as a delivery mechanism simply transfers the inefficiencies of that approach to the Cloud provider, who has greater economies of scale and can thus provide it for a lower cost. What are we to do?

The correct approach starts with understanding the workload demand from the beginning, and characterizing it in terms of something we call Quality of Experience (QoE). This is a composite metric, based loosely on an understanding of the relative importance of performance, cost, and efficiency to the intended workload. If that was as clear as mud, imagine you have 100 points to assign to each of those attributes; you can assign the points any way you want so long as the total adds up to 100. Critical revenue generating systems probably get 80 points or more for performance, whereas an employee expense reporting application likely gets 70+ points on the cost scale.

Now that we have a business understanding of the workload, we need to look at the various solutions (patterns, reference architectures) available and begin to apply our design rules to select the one that best matches the desired QoE and workload characteristics. What are design rules? Those are the decisions we make when taking an abstract pattern and decide what hardware choices to fulfill with, how to scale to meet the anticipated peak demand, how to make it highly available (if necessary), and how to recover if there’s a fault. Good organizations take it a step further and apply still more rules on what types of monitoring and reporting will be added to the solution, and top-notch groups with flexibility in their run- time environment will also determine the ‘when’ and ‘how’ a workload can be dynamically allocated more resources … or have them taken away by a higher priority workload.

If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is – this is the fundamental reason most IT shops say, “The heck with it, lets just cook for the Cub Scouts” and adopt very rigid infrastructure deployment options. It takes too long, and requires someone with a wide range of skills and considerable experience to participate in each and every project.

It doesn’t have to be that way any more.

What we’ve done is taken a step back and looked at this process with discipline of an engineer. In doing so we made two critical observations:

• A small percentage of projects actually require in-depth, manual design...the vast majority are simply a repeat application of something that’s been done in the past with minor variations.

• The majority of complex decisions and permutations an experienced designer (architect or engineer) makes can be codified into software rules.

That realization led us to develop our Blueprint platform; a flexible design suite that allows for the use of patterns and reference architecture and applies your (or our) design rules to generate mass-producible Blueprint designs specific to the workload requirements (QoE). Even the rules for run-time execution can be codified, whether it belongs in a tradition environment or in a private/public/hybrid Cloud. Isn’t it time you started creating the infrastructure designs your business consumers want, while also freeing up your best people to work on the projects that actually require their skills?

More Stories By James Houghton

James Houghton is Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer of Adaptivity. In his CTO capacity Jim interacts with key technology providers to evolve capabilities and partnerships that enable Adaptivity to offer its complete SOIT, RTI, and Utility Computing solutions. In addition, he engages with key clients to ensure successful leverage of the ADIOS methodology.

Most recently, Houghton was the SVP Architecture & Strategy Executive for the infrastructure organization at Bank of America, where he drove legacy infrastructure transformation initiatives across 40+ data centers. Prior to that he was the Head of Wachovia’s Utility Product Management, where he drove the design, services, and offering for SOA and Utility Computing for the technology division of Wachovia’s Corporate & Investment Bank. He has also led leading-edge consulting practices at IBM Global Technology Services and Deloitte Consulting.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
Blockchain. A day doesn’t seem to go by without seeing articles and discussions about the technology. According to PwC executive Seamus Cushley, approximately $1.4B has been invested in blockchain just last year. In Gartner’s recent hype cycle for emerging technologies, blockchain is approaching the peak. It is considered by Gartner as one of the ‘Key platform-enabling technologies to track.’ While there is a lot of ‘hype vs reality’ discussions going on, there is no arguing that blockchain is b...
Blockchain is a shared, secure record of exchange that establishes trust, accountability and transparency across business networks. Supported by the Linux Foundation's open source, open-standards based Hyperledger Project, Blockchain has the potential to improve regulatory compliance, reduce cost as well as advance trade. Are you curious about how Blockchain is built for business? In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, discussed the b...
"Storpool does only block-level storage so we do one thing extremely well. The growth in data is what drives the move to software-defined technologies in general and software-defined storage," explained Boyan Ivanov, CEO and co-founder at StorPool, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 16th Cloud Expo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
Is advanced scheduling in Kubernetes achievable?Yes, however, how do you properly accommodate every real-life scenario that a Kubernetes user might encounter? How do you leverage advanced scheduling techniques to shape and describe each scenario in easy-to-use rules and configurations? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Oleg Chunikhin, CTO at Kublr, answered these questions and demonstrated techniques for implementing advanced scheduling. For example, using spot instances and co...
As Marc Andreessen says software is eating the world. Everything is rapidly moving toward being software-defined – from our phones and cars through our washing machines to the datacenter. However, there are larger challenges when implementing software defined on a larger scale - when building software defined infrastructure. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Boyan Ivanov, CEO of StorPool, provided some practical insights on what, how and why when implementing "software-defined" in the datacent...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
The use of containers by developers -- and now increasingly IT operators -- has grown from infatuation to deep and abiding love. But as with any long-term affair, the honeymoon soon leads to needing to live well together ... and maybe even getting some relationship help along the way. And so it goes with container orchestration and automation solutions, which are rapidly emerging as the means to maintain the bliss between rapid container adoption and broad container use among multiple cloud host...
The cloud era has reached the stage where it is no longer a question of whether a company should migrate, but when. Enterprises have embraced the outsourcing of where their various applications are stored and who manages them, saving significant investment along the way. Plus, the cloud has become a defining competitive edge. Companies that fail to successfully adapt risk failure. The media, of course, continues to extol the virtues of the cloud, including how easy it is to get there. Migrating...
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
The need for greater agility and scalability necessitated the digital transformation in the form of following equation: monolithic to microservices to serverless architecture (FaaS). To keep up with the cut-throat competition, the organisations need to update their technology stack to make software development their differentiating factor. Thus microservices architecture emerged as a potential method to provide development teams with greater flexibility and other advantages, such as the abili...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
As DevOps methodologies expand their reach across the enterprise, organizations face the daunting challenge of adapting related cloud strategies to ensure optimal alignment, from managing complexity to ensuring proper governance. How can culture, automation, legacy apps and even budget be reexamined to enable this ongoing shift within the modern software factory? In her Day 2 Keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Aruna Ravichandran, VP, DevOps Solutions Marketing, CA Technologies, was jo...
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Dumas, Calligo’s Vice President and G.M. of US operations, discussed the new Global Data Protection Regulation and how Calligo can help business stay compliant in digitally globalized world. Greg Dumas is Calligo's Vice President and G.M. of US operations. Calligo is an established service provider that provides an innovative platform for trusted cloud solutions. Calligo’s customers are typically most concerned about GDPR compliance, application p...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...