Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Roger Strukhoff, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Trevor Parsons, Michael Bushong

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, Virtualization

Cloud Expo: Article

Understanding "Clouded" Terms of Cloud Computing

The definitions vary from source to source, author to author

Michael Sheehan's "GoGrid" Blog

There seems to be a lot of debate around different types of Computing Terms being used to describe server and hosting solutions. In fact, in the past, the blogosphere seemed to throw around terms like Grid, Cloud, Utility, Distributed and Cluster computing almost interchangeably. But, as of this revision, one term is rising to the top: Cloud Computing. (See recent trend analysis here.)

The definitions vary from source to source, author to author. While I cannot (and will not) attempt to articulate the end-all definition, I can write about how I view these terms and how they apply to the products that we offer, namely GoGrid. But before I dive into MY interpretation, providing what others view on these subjects may shed some light on our framework.

Terms as defined by Wikipedia

wikipedia_logo_sm Many people view Wikipedia as an authoritative source of information but that is always subject to debate. Wikipedia defines some of these terms as follows (not the end-all definitions though) and I have taken some liberties of removing non-relevant information for argument’s sake:

  • Grid Computing - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grid_computing
    • Multiple independent computing clusters which act like a “grid” because they are composed of resource nodes not located within a single administrative domain. (formal)
    • Offering online computation or storage as a metered commercial service, known as utility computing, computing on demand, or cloud computing.
    • The creation of a “virtual supercomputer” by using spare computing resources within an organization.
  • Cloud Computing - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing
    • Cloud computing is a computing paradigm shift where computing is moved away from personal computers or an individual application server to a “cloud” of computers. Users of the cloud only need to be concerned with the computing service being asked for, as the underlying details of how it is achieved are hidden. This method of distributed computing is done through pooling all computer resources together and being managed by software rather than a human.
    • The services being requested of a cloud are not limited to using web applications, but can also be IT management tasks such as requesting of systems, a software stack or a specific web appliance.
  • Utility Computing - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility_computing :
    • Conventional Internet hosting services have the capability to quickly arrange for the rental of individual servers, for example to provision a bank of web servers to accommodate a sudden surge in traffic to a web site.
    • “Utility computing” usually envisions some form of virtualization so that the amount of storage or computing power available is considerably larger than that of a single time-sharing computer. Multiple servers are used on the “back end” to make this possible. These might be a dedicated computer cluster specifically built for the purpose of being rented out, or even an under-utilized supercomputer. The technique of running a single calculation on multiple computers is known as distributed computing.
  • Distributed Computing - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_computing
    • A method of computer processing in which different parts of a program are run simultaneously on two or more computers that are communicating with each other over a network. Distributed computing is a type of segmented or parallel computing, but the latter term is most commonly used to refer to processing in which different parts of a program run simultaneously on two or more processors that are part of the same computer. While both types of processing require that a program be segmented—divided into sections that can run simultaneously, distributed computing also requires that the division of the program take into account the different environments on which the different sections of the program will be running. For example, two computers are likely to have different file systems and different hardware components.

Upon initial read, Wikipedia seems to be fairly close to my definitions but still not exact. Of note, “metered commercial service” rings true within both the Grid Computing and Cloud Computing definitions. However, it also seems to spill into the Utility Computing mantra. As a side note, our newest product, GoGrid, utilizes a metered service similar to how an energy company would charge you for electricity or gas, basing charges simply on what you use.

Traditional “Clouds” vs. Modern “Clouds”

Grid Computing seems to also have some origins in the idea of harnessing multiple computer resources to gain a more powerful source of shared power and computational resources. folding@home However, I would like to suggest that this definition is showing some age and, in my opinion, falls more under Distributed Computing. When I think about Distributed Computing, SETI@Home or Folding@Home come to mind, which is definitely very different from where things are moving now. So, let’s put Distributed Computing aside for this discussion.

Traditionally, the “cloud” was loosely defined as anything outside of a controlled network. When we, as Hosting Providers, discussed “the cloud” in the past with our customers, it was about the nebulous network that is known as the Internet. The cloud is loosely managed and traditionally unreliable. To that end, we do not refer to anything within our control or our networks as “the cloud” as it is too vague and un-manageable. It is outside of our Service Level Agreement and nothing that we can guarantee or deem reliable. However, once traffic enters our network, we manage it. That is where the modern interpretation of the “Cloud” comes into play. Products like Amazon’s EC2 and ServePath’s GoGrid have internalized Cloud Computing by building a reliable infrastructure around it. While the Internet remains as a Cloud of coupled servers and networks, GoGrid, for example, extends this by creating an infrastructure that offers “control in the cloud.”

Originally, I wrote that “Cloud Computing does not necessarily equate to reliable service.” This, obviously, is a contradiction in itself if you apply both the historic and modern definitions at the same time. If one views the Internet as “Cloud Computing,” there are obvious weaknesses within this vast network. With the Internet, you are at the whim of various service providers, Internet backbones and routers managing the traffic within the Cloud. But if one applies the more modern interpretations of this, Cloud Computing now offers robust infrastructure, features and services that were previously unavailable.

Tying the Grid to the Cloud

In order to provide “modern” Cloud Computing, a provider must have some sort of an organized and controlled network infrastructure and topology. What any particular service provider chooses is up to them. For GoGrid, we elected to build our Cloud offering on top of a Grid of servers as well as utilize a Utility-based billing model to only charge the end-user for what they use within our “Cloud.” The end-result is a tightly controlled Grid infrastructure that provides a Cloud Computing experience, more so than most if not all of the other hosting providers out there.

However, what is important here is looking at Cloud, Grid and/or Utility Computing from the perspective of a Hosting Provider. Definitely this is where things get contentious. As I mentioned before, GoGrid offers a traditional utility billing process where you simply pay for what you uses. This breaks from many “old school” hosting billing processes of paying up-front for server(s) and bandwidth, month or year-long contracts and then paying for overages. Does this mean that it is Utility Computing? Not really. One has to dig into this a bit more. GoGrid uses a network of similarly-configured servers bound together by management and administrative servers and virtualization tools to provide a very unique Cloud offering that is distinct from traditional hosting.

Dedicated, Managed and Cloud Servers offered by ServePath guarantee hardware resources like RAM and Load Balancing and full root and administrator access but these paths rapidly diverge at this point. Once one steps into the virtualization arena, or dare I say “the cloud,” new features are available including rapid deployments, cloning, snapshots, fault tolerance, and on-demand scalability.

ServePath chose Grid Computing to power GoGrid and provide the flexibility, scalability and robust infrastructure as the fundamental foundation of an award-winning Cloud Infrastructure product, GoGrid. The end results is a Cloud Hosting Provider offering that delivers better environmental properties, faster vertical and horizontal scalability and ultimately better fits for cost, performance and energy-concerned customers.


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

More Stories By Michael Sheehan

Michael Sheehan is the Technology Evangelist for Cloud Computing Infrastructure provider GoGrid and ServePath and is an avid technology pundit. GoGrid is the cloud hosting division of ServePath Dedicated Hosting, a company with extensive expertise and experience in web hosting infrastructure. Follow him on Twitter.

Comments (4) 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
maydbs 10/30/08 12:11:04 PM EDT

Hi Michael,

even thought you wrote this a few months ago, i got to read it today and thought it was very current, if you notice how much resistance we've been having to Cloud Computing. I linked this post on the blog i'm working on to illustrate that maybe some people are just too afraid because they dont understand about it enough! let me know if it offends you in anyway and i'll remove it immediately. Tks!

Snehal Antani 07/17/08 12:57:37 PM EDT

So in response to a blog post that positions Grid and Cloud computing, I've expanded on my thoughts in this area. You can read the discussions at: http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/forums/thread.jspa?threadID=214794...

The post is as follows:
I see "Grid Computing" as the coordinated execution of a complex task across a collection of resources. The burden of the "grid" is to provide control over that execution (initiating the execution, stopping the execution, aggregating results of the execution, reporting the status of the execution, and so on).

The "grid" should be transparent to the end user. Take SETI@Home for example. The "User" is the researcher that will analyze the results of all of the computations. The SETI@Home platform manages partitioning the data into discrete chunks, dispatching & monitoring the results across the collection of CPU's spread across the world, and aggregating the results to provide a single view to the "user".

Cloud Computing on the other hand provides the virtualized infrastructure upon which the Grid Endpoints will execute. So for example, the "cloud" would provide an "infinite" number of operating system images on which the SETI@Home software would execute. The cloud shouldn't care about application-specific data, nor should it care about the business logic that is actually executing within a virtualized image. The cloud cares about allocating new images (synonymous to LPAR's) for applications to run, keeping track of how much physical resources (actual CPU cycles for example) the virtual images consumed, cleaning up the virtual images upon completion, and billing the client for the amount of resources consumed. So with these definitions, going back to my example of SETI@Home, I would argue that this software has both a grid computing component as well as a cloud computing component, where the # of registered computers is part of a pool of hardware resources that already have the SETI@Home grid application containers installed and ready to go), but we should be sure to see 2 separate components and responsibilities: the decision to pick a physical machine to dispatch to, and the grid container that executes the scientific processing.

To summarize, grid applications and therefore the "Grid Computing" paradigm, which I consider an application architecture and containers for running the business logic, would execute on top of an "infrastructure cloud", which appears as an infinite # of LPAR's.

BTW, we've had the ability to run'private clouds' for 30-40 years - multi-tenancy via S/390 & MVS - and we do it all over the place today. The key difference is that today, w/ Amazon EC2 for example, we can dynamically create and then destroy complete 'LPARS' relatively cheaply; whereas in the mainframe and other big iron hardware, LPAR's tend to be statically defined. In both cases the hardware is virtualized under the covers, some sort of VM/hypervisor contains the operating system image, some type of application server or container executes the business logic, and some type of workload manager assures workload priorities and provides the chargeback.

I've alluded to some of this in my article on 'enterprise grid and batch computing': http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/websphere/techjournal/080 4_antani/0804_antani.html.

The Parallel Job Manager (described in that article) in WebSphere XD Compute Grid would essentially be the Grid Manager, whose job is to coordinate the execution of complex tasks across the cluster of resources (Grid Execution Environments). Today we don't discuss the ability to dynamically create new LPAR's (and therefore call ourselves a cloud computing infrastructure), but you can easily do this with a product like Tivoli Provisioning Manager. Basically, take the bottom image in my article: http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/websphere/techjourn al/0804_antani/0804_antani.html#xdegc and connect Tivoli Provisioning Manager to the On-Demand Router (part of WebSphere Virtual Enterprise).

Snehal Antani 06/29/08 06:41:06 PM EDT

Excellent article. This provides an excellent survey of the technologies and helps put each of them in perspective. I wrote an article that compliments this one; I discuss how various patterns from each of these domains can be brought together to provide a complete grid and batch solution: http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/websphere/techjournal/0804_antani/0804...

Blue Grid 06/06/08 04:00:15 PM EDT

IBM has devoted 200 researchers to its cloud computing project.

Cloud Expo Breaking News
File sync and share. Endpoint protection. Both are massive opportunities for today’s enterprise thanks to their business benefits and widespread user appeal. But one size does not fit all, especially user-adopted consumer technologies. Organizations must apply the right enterprise-ready tool for the job in order to properly manage and protect endpoint data. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Michael Bachman, Senior Enterprise Systems Architect at Code42, he will discuss how the synergy of an enterprise platform – where sync/share and endpoint protection converge – delivers incredible value for the business.
Simply defined the SDDC promises that you’ll be able to treat “all” of your IT infrastructure as if it’s completely malleable. That there are no restrictions to how you can use and assign everything from border controls to VM size as long as you stay within the technical capabilities of the devices. The promise is great, but the reality is still a dream for the majority of enterprises. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, EVP, Data Center Tech, at SUPERNAP, will cover where and how a business might benefit from SDDC and also why they should or shouldn’t attempt to adopt today.
Today, developers and business units are leading the charge to cloud computing. The primary driver: faster access to computing resources by using the cloud's automated infrastructure provisioning. However, fast access to infrastructure exposes the next friction point: creating, delivering, and operating applications much faster. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Bernard Golden, VP of Strategy at ActiveState, will discuss why solving the next friction point is critical for true cloud computing success and how developers and business units can leverage service catalogs, frameworks, and DevOps to achieve the true goal of IT: delivering increased business value through applications.
APIs came about to help companies create and manage their digital ecosystem, enabling them not only to reach more customers through more devices, but also create a large supporting ecosystem of developers and partners. While Facebook, Twitter and Netflix were the early adopters of APIs, large enterprises have been quick to embrace the concept of APIs and have been leveraging APIs as a connective tissue that powers all interactions between their customers, partners and employees. As enterprises embrace APIs, some very specific Enterprise API Adoption patterns and best practices have started emerging. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Sachin Agarwal, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy at SOA Software, will talk about the most common enterprise API patterns and will discuss how enterprises can successfully launch an API program.
MapDB is an Apache-licensed open source database specifically designed for Java developers. The library uses the standard Java Collections API, making it totally natural for Java developers to use and adopt, while scaling database size from GBs to TBs. MapDB is very fast and supports an agile approach to data, allowing developers to construct flexible schemas to exactly match application needs and tune performance, durability and caching for specific requirements.
The social media expansion has shown just how people are eager to share their experiences with the rest of the world. Cloud technology is the perfect platform to satisfy this need given its great flexibility and readiness. At Cynny, we aim to revolutionize how people share and organize their digital life through a brand new cloud service, starting from infrastructure to the users’ interface. A revolution that began from inventing and designing our very own infrastructure: we have created the first server network powered solely by ARM CPU. The microservers have “organism-like” features, differentiating them from any of the current technologies. Benefits include low consumption of energy, making Cynny the ecologically friendly alternative for storage as well as cheaper infrastructure, lower running costs, etc.
Next-Gen Cloud. Whatever you call it, there’s a higher calling for cloud computing that requires providers to change their spots and move from a commodity mindset to a premium one. Businesses can no longer maintain the status quo that today’s service providers offer. Yes, the continuity, speed, mobility, data access and connectivity are staples of the cloud and always will be. But cloud providers that plan to not only exist tomorrow – but to lead – know that security must be the top priority for the cloud and are delivering it now. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Kurt Hagerman, Chief Information Security Officer at FireHost, will detail why and how you can have both infrastructure performance and enterprise-grade security – and what tomorrow's cloud provider will look like.
Web conferencing in a public cloud has the same risks as any other cloud service. If you have ever had concerns over the types of data being shared in your employees’ web conferences, such as IP, financials or customer data, then it’s time to look at web conferencing in a private cloud. In her session at 14th Cloud Expo, Courtney Behrens, Senior Marketing Manager at Brother International, will discuss how issues that had previously been out of your control, like performance, advanced administration and compliance, can now be put back behind your firewall.
More and more enterprises today are doing business by opening up their data and applications through APIs. Though forward-thinking and strategic, exposing APIs also increases the surface area for potential attack by hackers. To benefit from APIs while staying secure, enterprises and security architects need to continue to develop a deep understanding about API security and how it differs from traditional web application security or mobile application security. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Sachin Agarwal, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy at SOA Software, will walk you through the various aspects of how an API could be potentially exploited. He will discuss the necessary best practices to secure your data and enterprise applications while continue continuing to support your business’s digital initiatives.
The revolution that happened in the server universe over the past 15 years has resulted in an eco-system that is more open, more democratically innovative and produced better results in technically challenging dimensions like scale. The underpinnings of the revolution were common hardware, standards based APIs (ex. POSIX) and a strict adherence to layering and isolation between applications, daemons and kernel drivers/modules which allowed multiple types of development happen in parallel without hindering others. Put simply, today's server model is built on a consistent x86 platform with few surprises in its core components. A kernel abstracts away the platform, so that applications and daemons are decoupled from the hardware. In contrast, networking equipment is still stuck in the mainframe era. Today, networking equipment is a single appliance, including hardware, OS, applications and user interface come as a monolithic entity from a single vendor. Switching between different vendor'...
Cloud backup and recovery services are critical to safeguarding an organization’s data and ensuring business continuity when technical failures and outages occur. With so many choices, how do you find the right provider for your specific needs? In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Daniel Jacobson, Technology Manager at BUMI, will outline the key factors including backup configurations, proactive monitoring, data restoration, disaster recovery drills, security, compliance and data center resources. Aside from the technical considerations, the secret sauce in identifying the best vendor is the level of focus, expertise and specialization of their engineering team and support group, and how they monitor your day-to-day backups, provide recommendations, and guide you through restores when necessary.
Cloud scalability and performance should be at the heart of every successful Internet venture. The infrastructure needs to be resilient, flexible, and fast – it’s best not to get caught thinking about architecture until the middle of an emergency, when it's too late. In his interactive, no-holds-barred session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, will dive into how to design and build-out the right cloud infrastructure.
You use an agile process; your goal is to make your organization more agile. What about your data infrastructure? The truth is, today’s databases are anything but agile – they are effectively static repositories that are cumbersome to work with, difficult to change, and cannot keep pace with application demands. Performance suffers as a result, and it takes far longer than it should to deliver on new features and capabilities needed to make your organization competitive. As your application and business needs change, data repositories and structures get outmoded rapidly, resulting in increased work for application developers and slow performance for end users. Further, as data sizes grow into the Big Data realm, this problem is exacerbated and becomes even more difficult to address. A seemingly simple schema change can take hours (or more) to perform, and as requirements evolve the disconnect between existing data structures and actual needs diverge.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SherWeb, a long-time leading provider of cloud services and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 14th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. A worldwide hosted services leader ranking in the prestigious North American Deloitte Technology Fast 500TM, and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, SherWeb provides competitive cloud solutions to businesses and partners around the world. Founded in 1998, SherWeb is a privately owned company headquartered in Quebec, Canada. Its service portfolio includes Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Dynamics CRM and more.
The world of cloud and application development is not just for the hardened developer these days. In their session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, and Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, will pull back the curtain of the architecture of a fun demo application purpose-built for the cloud. They will focus on demonstrating how they leveraged compute, storage, messaging, and other cloud elements hosted at SoftLayer to lower the effort and difficulty of putting together a useful application. This will be an active demonstration and review of simple command-line tools and resources, so don’t be afraid if you are not a seasoned developer.