Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Pat Romanski, Scott Allen, Talend Inc., SmartBear Blog, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: @CloudExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

A Brief History of Cloud Computing: Is the Cloud There Yet?

A look at the Cloud's forerunners and the problems they encountered

Paul Wallis's Blog

In order to discuss some of the issues surrounding The Cloud concept, I think it is important to place it in historical context. Looking at the Cloud's forerunners, and the problems they encountered, gives us the reference points to guide us through the challenges it needs to overcome before it is adopted.

Nick Carr recently commented on IBM's new initiative called Project KittyHawk, which sets out to use their Blue Gene technology. The project aspires to create a “global-scale shared computer capable of hosting the entire Internet as an application”.

There have been a range of online discussions on the back of the article as, once again, Nick Carr manages to hit more than a couple of raw nerves.

The premise of the article is that IBM Blue Gene technology is creating computers of such power that data centres can offer vast amounts of computational power that businesses can plug into and use according to need at a particular time.

These supercomputers can emulate many individual smaller servers (virtualisation) so businesses can migrate their IT services to this new model.

Rather than data centres just offering a place to put your own servers, they can start to offer virtual servers or services, enabling new business models to be adopted.

The IBM technology is so fast that Project Kittyhawk can emulate the entire internet.

In the past, there have been two ways of creating a supercomputer. Firstly, there is the Blue Gene style approach, which creates a massive computer with thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of CPUs. The other approach, as adopted by Google, is to take hundreds of thousands of small, low cost, computers and hook them together in a “cluster” in such a way that they all work together as one large computer.

Basically, supercomputers have many processors plugged into a single machine, sharing common memory and I/O, while clusters are made up of many smaller machines, each of which contain a fewer number of processors with each machine having it's own local memory and I/O.

There have always been advocates on both sides of the fence, and Nick Carr's article has done a fine job of stirring them into action again - but this time it has become clear that the concept of “The Cloud” is gaining momentum, a concept whose origins lie in clustering and grid computing.

John Willis seeks to 'demystify' clouds and received some interesting comments. James Urquhart is an advocate of cloud computing and thinks that, as with any disruptive change, some people are in denial about The Cloud. He has responded to some criticism of his opinions. Bob Lewis, one of Urquhart's “deniers” has written a few posts on the subject and offers a space for discussion of Nick Carr's arguments.

In order to discuss some of the issues surrounding The Cloud concept, I think it is important to place it in historical context. Looking at the Cloud's forerunners, and the problems they encountered, gives us the reference points to guide us through the challenges it needs to overcome before it is adopted.

In the past computers were clustered together to form a single larger computer. This was a technique common to the industry, and used by many IT departments. The technique allowed you to configure computers to talk with each other using specially designed protocols to balance the computational load across the machines. As a user, you didn't care about which CPU ran your program, and the cluster management software ensured that the “best” CPU at that time was used to run the code.

In the early 1990s Ian Foster and Carl Kesselman came up with a new concept of “The Grid”. The analogy used was of the electricity grid where users could plug into the grid and use a metered utility service. If companies don't have their own powers stations, but rather access a third party electricity supply, why can't the same apply to computing resources? Plug into a grid of computers and pay for what you use.

Grid computing expands the techniques of clustering where multiple independent clusters act like a grid due to their nature of not being located in a single domain.

A key to efficient cluster management was engineering where the data was held, known as “data residency”. The computers in the cluster were usually physically connected to the disks holding the data, meaning that the CPUs could quickly perform I/O to fetch, process and output the data.

One of the hurdles that had to be jumped with the move from clustering to grid was data residency. Because of the distributed nature of the Grid the computational nodes could be situated anywhere in the world. It was fine having all that CPU power available, but the data on which the CPU performed its operations could be thousands of miles away, causing a delay (latency) between data fetch and execution. CPUs need to be fed and watered with different volumes of data depending on the tasks they are processing. Running a data intensive process with disparate data sources can create a bottleneck in the I/O, causing the CPU to run inefficiently, and affecting economic viability.

Storage management, security provisioning and data movement became the nuts to be cracked in order for grid to succeed. A toolkit, called Globus, was created to solve these issues, but the infrastructure hardware available still has not progressed to a level where true grid computing can be wholly achieved.

But, more important than these technical limitations, was the lack of business buy in. The nature of Grid/Cloud computing means a business has to migrate its applications and data to a third party solution. This creates huge barriers to the uptake.

In 2002 I had many long conversations with the European grid specialist for the leading vendor of grid solutions. He was tasked with gaining traction for the grid concept with the large financial institutions and, although his company had the computational resource needed to process the transactions from many banks, his company could not convince them to make the change.

Each financial institution needed to know that the grid company understood their business, not just the portfolio of applications they ran and the infrastructure they ran upon. This was critical to them. They needed to know that whoever supported their systems knew exactly what the effect of any change could potentially make to their shareholders.

The other bridge that had to be crossed was that of data security and confidentiality. For many businesses their data is the most sensitive, business critical thing they possess. To hand this over to a third party was simply not going to happen. Banks were happy to outsource part of their services, but wanted to be in control of the hardware and software - basically using the outsourcer as an agency for staff.

Traditionally, banks do not like to take risks. In recent years, as the market sector has consolidated and they have had to become more competitive, they have experimented outwith their usual lending practice, only to be bitten by sub-prime lending. Would they really risk moving to a totally outsourced IT solution under today's technological conditions?

Taking grid further into the service offering, is “The Cloud”. This takes the concepts of grid computing and wraps it up in a service offered by data centres. The most high profile of the new “cloud” services is Amazons S3 (Simple Storage Service) third party storage solution. Amazon's solution provides developers with a web service to store data. Any amount of data can be read, written or deleted on a pay per use basis.

EMC plans to offer a rival data service. EMCs solution creates a global network of data centres each with massive storage capabilities. They take the approach that no-one can afford to place all their data in one place, so data is distributed around the globe. Their cloud will monitor data usage, and it automatically shunts data around to load-balance data requests and internet traffic, being self tuning to automatically react to surges in demand.

However, the recent problems at Amazon S3, which suffered a “massive” outage in February, has only served to highlight the risks involved with adopting third party solutions.

So is The Cloud a reality? In my opinion we're not yet there with the technology nor the economics required to make it all hang together.

In 2003 the late Jim Gray published a paper on Distributed Computing Economics:

Computing economics are changing. Today there is rough price parity between (1) one database access, (2) ten bytes of network traffic, (3) 100,000 instructions, (4) 10 bytes of disk storage, and (5) a megabyte of disk bandwidth. This has implications for how one structures Internet-scale distributed computing: one puts computing as close to the data as possible in order to avoid expensive network traffic.

The recurrent theme of this analysis is that “On Demand” computing is only economical for very cpu-intensive (100,000 instructions per byte or a cpu-day-per gigabyte of network traffic) applications. Pre-provisioned computing is likely to be more economical for most applications - especially data-intensive ones.

If telecom prices drop faster than Moore's law, the analysis fails. If telecom prices drop slower than Moore's law, the analysis becomes stronger.

When Jim published this paper the fastest Supercomputers were operating at a speed of 36 TFLOPS. A new Blue Gene/Q is planned for 2010-2012 which will operate at 10,000 TFLOPS, out stripping Moore's law by a factor of 10. Telecom prices have fallen and bandwidth has increased, but more slowly than processing power, leaving the economics worse than in 2003.

I'm sure that advances will appear over the coming years to bring us closer, but at the moment there are too many issues and costs with network traffic and data movements to allow it to happen for all but select processor intensive applications, such as image rendering and finite modelling.

There has been talk of a two tier internet where businesses pay for a particular Quality of Service, and this will almost certainly need to happen for The Cloud to become a reality. Internet infrastructure will need to be upgraded, newer faster technologies will need to be created to ensure data clouds speak to supercomputer clouds with the efficiency to keep the CPUs working. This will push the telecoms costs higher rather than bringing them in line with Moore's Law, making the economics less viable.

Then comes the problem of selling to the business. Many routine tasks which are not processor intensive and time critical are the most likely candidates to be migrated to cloud computing, yet these are the least economical to be transferred to that architecture. Recently we've seen the London Stock Exchange fail, undersea data cables cut in the Gulf, espionage in Lithuania and the failure of the most modern and well-known data farm at Amazon.

In such a climate it will require asking the business to take a leap of faith to find solid footing in the cloud for mission critical applications.

And that is never a good way to sell to the business.

[This appeared originally here and is republished by kind permission of the author, who retains copyright.]

 

More Stories By Paul Wallis

Paul Wallis is Chief Technology Officer at Stroma Software Limited. He blogs at www.keystonesandrivets.com, where he tries to bridge the understanding gap between business and IT.

Comments (1) View Comments

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.


Most Recent Comments
Virtualization news for the channel community and you ! 06/08/08 04:59:13 PM EDT

Trackback Added: From Virtualization to cloud computing?; Over the last months, years (as virtualization grew big) more and more people started thinking again about Cloud Computing. Now cloud computing has been around for over decades, yet it has not been able to become mainstream. Possibly with the trend to ...

@CloudExpo Stories
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
Father business cycles and digital consumers are forcing enterprises to respond faster to customer needs and competitive demands. Successful integration of DevOps and Agile development will be key for business success in today’s digital economy. In his session at DevOps Summit, Pradeep Prabhu, Co-Founder & CEO of Cloudmunch, covered the critical practices that enterprises should consider to seamlessly integrate Agile and DevOps processes, barriers to implementing this in the enterprise, and pr...
It's easy to assume that your app will run on a fast and reliable network. The reality for your app's users, though, is often a slow, unreliable network with spotty coverage. What happens when the network doesn't work, or when the device is in airplane mode? You get unhappy, frustrated users. An offline-first app is an app that works, without error, when there is no network connection.
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
SYS-CON Events announced today that VAI, a leading ERP software provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. VAI (Vormittag Associates, Inc.) is a leading independent mid-market ERP software developer renowned for its flexible solutions and ability to automate critical business functions for the distribution, manufacturing, specialty retail and service sectors. An IBM Premier Business Part...
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes ho...
With the proliferation of both SQL and NoSQL databases, organizations can now target specific fit-for-purpose database tools for their different application needs regarding scalability, ease of use, ACID support, etc. Platform as a Service offerings make this even easier now, enabling developers to roll out their own database infrastructure in minutes with minimal management overhead. However, this same amount of flexibility also comes with the challenges of picking the right tool, on the right ...
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint Systems, Inc., a provider of innovative web and infrastructure monitoring solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit at 18th Cloud Expo New York, which will take place June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into customer-critical services to help consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed...
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
In most cases, it is convenient to have some human interaction with a web (micro-)service, no matter how small it is. A traditional approach would be to create an HTTP interface, where user requests will be dispatched and HTML/CSS pages must be served. This approach is indeed very traditional for a web site, but not really convenient for a web service, which is not intended to be good looking, 24x7 up and running and UX-optimized. Instead, talking to a web service in a chat-bot mode would be muc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
SYS-CON Events announced today that iDevices®, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. iDevices, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, has a growing line of HomeKit-enabled products available at the largest retailers worldwide. Through the “Designed with iDevices” co-development program and its custom-built IoT Cloud Infrastruc...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies adopt disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevO...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
Advances in technology and ubiquitous connectivity have made the utilization of a dispersed workforce more common. Whether that remote team is located across the street or country, management styles/ approaches will have to be adjusted to accommodate this new dynamic. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Sagi Brody, Chief Technology Officer at Webair Internet Development Inc., focused on the challenges of managing remote teams, providing real-world examples that demonstrate what works and what do...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
As someone who has been dedicated to automation and Application Release Automation (ARA) technology for almost six years now, one of the most common questions I get asked regards Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Specifically, people want to know whether release automation is still needed when a PaaS is in place, and why. Isn't that what a PaaS provides? A solution to the deployment and runtime challenges of an application? Why would anyone using a PaaS then need an automation engine with workflow ...
Predictive analytics tools monitor, report, and troubleshoot in order to make proactive decisions about the health, performance, and utilization of storage. Most enterprises combine cloud and on-premise storage, resulting in blended environments of physical, virtual, cloud, and other platforms, which justifies more sophisticated storage analytics. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Peter McCallum, Vice President of Datacenter Solutions at FalconStor, will discuss using predictive analytics to ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...