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Cloud Computing and Big Data – It’s the Applications!

An exclusive Q&A with Tom Leyden, Director of Alliances & Marketing at Amplidata

"While there is still a lot of interest in Big Data Analytics, we see an increasing focus on Big Unstructured Data," observed Tom Leyden, Director of Alliances and Marketing at Amplidata, in this exclusive Q&A with Cloud Expo Conference Chair Jeremy Geelan. And, Leyden continued, "Object storage is the new paradigm to store those massive amounts of Big Unstructured Data."

Cloud Computing Journal: Agree or disagree? - "While the IT savings aspect is compelling, the strongest benefit of cloud computing is how it enhances business agility."

Tom Leyden: While I'm not sure whether cloud actually saves IT money, business agility is for sure the biggest benefit. I believe there is a lot more to come. So far we've seen a lot of activity on the IaaS and SaaS levels but not so much on PaaS. There is not a lot of choice for developers today, especially in private clouds. Expect this to be the next wave of innovation. One example here is www.appcara.com, which enables service providers and enterprises to build a PaaS on top of any cloud. Amazon's recently announced marketplace confirms what our focus should be: applications.

Cloud Computing Journal: Which of the recent big acquisitions within the Cloud and/or Big Data space have most grabbed your attention as a sign of things to come?

Leyden: Let's start with acquisitions that have not happened: Nimbula and Abiquo are still around. They are typical for-sale companies: Abiquo's Pete Malcom has a track record of selling companies to CA but he got in too late as CA had just bought 3Tera. I think this indicates the IaaS game has been played. All major players have bought what they need. There may be one or two acquisitions left in the IaaS space, but probably not a lot more.

Citrix's not so recent acquisition of cloud.com is an indication that VMware is still the company to beat in this industry. Oracle hasn't made their cloud mind up yet; Microsoft took a slightly different approach, so Citrix is in good shape. CloudStack has a long way to go to even look like a threat to VMware but they are focusing on the right stuff: applications.

Cloud Computing Journal: In its recent "Sizing the Cloud" report Forrester Research said it expects the global cloud computing market to reach $241BN in 2020 compared to $40.7BN in 2010 - is that kind of rapid growth trajectory being reflected in your own company or in your view is the Forrester number a tad over-optimistic?

Leyden: This depends a lot on what you consider cloud. In the storage industry, for example, we are seeing the start of a paradigm shift from file-based storage to object storage (no file system, a programmable REST API, cloud storage). This is probably just one phenomenon that is added to these numbers. Most enterprises still run on legacy applications for the most part. As the shift is turning to applications in the cloud, we will probably see a big wave of migrations of legacy applications to the cloud, especially as object storage helps facilitate this. How do we explain a factor 6 growth for the cloud industry? Applications.

Cloud Computing Journal: Which do you think is the most important cloud computing standard still to tackle?

Leyden: A standard REST API, especially in the storage industry, is a hot topic: Which REST API should object storage vendors embrace? Vendors are still holding off, but fortunately that is not slowing down the rise of object storage. Many companies understand that file systems will eventually not scale and become obsolete. The role of the file system is taken over by ... applications.

Cloud Computing Journal: Big Data has existed since the early days of computing; why, then, do you think there is such an industry buzz around it right now?

Leyden: Because cloud computing is getting old, the recession is not over and the industry needs a new hype? No seriously, I'd like to refer to one of my blog articles. Analysts expect data storage to grow with a factor 30 over the next decade. Eighty percent of that is unstructured data. Parallel to Big Data Analytics, the massive amount of unstructured data we are all generating is now called Big Unstructured Data. There is a lot of value in that. While there is still a lot of interest in Big Data Analytics, we see an increasing focus on Big Unstructured Data. Companies are turning dead tape archives into live disk archives and investigating ways to actively use the archives (rather than just spending money on tape and not accessing the data ever). A key technology here is erasure coding; an alternative to RAID that provides much more reliability with a lot less overhead and at a much lower cost in general. As mentioned before, object storage is the new paradigm to store those massive amounts of Big Unstructured Data. On its turn, Object Storage enables ... the applications.

Cloud Computing Journal: Do you think Big Data will only ever be used for analytical purposes, or do you envisage that it will actually enable new products?

Leyden: As mentioned in the previous question, there is a lot more than Big Data Analytics. Analytics and Big Unstructured Data are the two main categories, but there are a lot of subcategories. There is, for example, Big Science Data, which refers to genomics research projects for example (both analytics and unstructured). Then there is also Big Data Enterprise, mostly the massive amounts of documents and other unstructured data that is generated by companies. Big Data Entertainment refers to the huge amount of data in the film industry. Improved film quality has a big impact on storage requirements. And then there is Big Data Streams, which refers to large volumes of data generated by cloud applications such as Twitter and Facebook. Yes, again, it's the applications.

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