Saturday, October 15, 2011

Free the cloud...from its data centers - Five types of services

Last week, I was driving to a meeting in Tel-Aviv. To get directions and inform about possible delays, I entered the address to my GPS service (Waze), by copying it from the appointment. Waze determined a 10 minutes late arrival, so I text message the expected delay using my blackberry.

How many times have you done it? Can’t we have a service that will handle it for us, so that we will not have to drive and text.

Cloud computing opens the opportunity to have a 'virtual representative' dedicated to serve a person or a company in a specific area, coordinating multiple apps located all over. Like in this very simple case that involves three different environments, smart-phone, enterprise environment and the public web. 

Let’s use an Octopus as a metaphor to illustrate the concept of 'head in the cloud...arms down to earth'.

The Octopus head represents the person or company that is served by the cloud, and the arms are the enabling fabric that embraces apps and data inside data centers and outside.

End-to-end consumer representation - Head in the cloud

Most of the pre-cloud solutions are constrained by location, device or environment. Cloud computing is free of physical limitations and thus can oversee computing and information assets everywhere, on behalf of individual people and companies. 

As an example, before Apple's iPod, mobile music solutions were just a device that played music.

Apple took a different approach and shifted the focus from the device to the consumer. They addressed the consumer needs by building an iTunes store and an ecosystem around it, and then bundled it together with an iPod device. It fundamentally changed consumer experience and created a new way for the music industry to participate and monetize.

Apple provided an end-to-end consumer experience that practically transformed the music industry, and with the same principles also the mobile industry.

...but Apple like Apple they only support their own devices and environments, which inherently limits their reach.

Cloud as a Fabric - Arms down to earth

Cloud computing essentially takes the Internet revolution to its next level. So similar to the Internet it should embrace them all, whether physically, in the cloud, at people’s home or outside, and on company’s premises. Cloud should be a fabric that seamlessly streamlines information and apps, in the right context, to the right device, in the right place, and at the right time.

As a fabric it should be aware of the metadata managed and not necessarily the data itself.

Dropbox succeeded to break out of the pure Vs. hybrid cloud debate. They manage files storage, on behalf of individuals and groups, at virtually any device and environment. While the cloud serves more as the head that enables the synchronization.
Generalizing this concept can address most of the currently forbidden cloud apps including: 
Data warehouses with large volume and sensitive information, Apps with highly confidential content like banking and mission critical apps. Their metadata and orchestration logic can be kept in the cloud data centers, and the physical content in one or multiple on-premise instances.

Five potential cloud-based services that can 'free' the cloud, in the enterprise space

Here are five types of services that can use the same concept.
  1. Computing resource optimization and utilization – Overall management is in the cloud, and the arms can be on either company's or person's premises, or in different selected site and/or a selected cloud data center. Services can include: (a) Backup services; (b) Balance peak load time; (c) Fail over services; (d) Share and trade excess computing resources. 
  2. Improved usability – Synchronize content across multiple environments and devices – The 'head' is predicting user's or company's needs in terms of time, place and device type, and the 'arms' are the actual presence at the device side. Foursquare's Radar, as an example, is starting to push relevant information at the right place and time.
  3. Complete end-to-end solutions – Source content and apps that reside on-premise and in the cloud, across the value chain and deliver them effectively to target audience, while opening new collaboration opportunities. Companies like GT Nexus and E2Open are focusing on this space in the Supply Chain area.
  4. Data quality, benchmarking and trends – Share and exchange selected anonymized content located on-premise, to improve data quality, determine trends and benchmarking in the cloud.
  5. Operation resources – This one goes beyond computing resources - Access resources that operate everywhere for outsourcing tasks, while orchestrating them from the cloud similar to the Amazon Mechanical Turk.
Secure content packaging is required to enable smooth mobility.


Some of the cloud leaders are starting to offer services that go beyond the cloud data center like, Microsoft Windows Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN), Apple iCloud, Data Residency Option (DRO), and VMware vFabric and vCloud

Cloud computing is THE enabler and power behind the 'tectonic technology shift' (The Big Five - Mobile, Social media, Big Data, Consumerization of IT, by Dion Hinchcliffe). As a fabric it can expand and embrace all consumers’ needs without forcing them to physically keep content in the cloud.

Cloud can modernize Archimedes statement "Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the Earth", and be this place that we stand on to transform the IT world.

Also this blog is based on many discussions Oren Ryngler and I had. Yes we talk quite a lot…;-)

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