Last week I attended one of the most popular cloud technology conferences in the world – CloudConnect. The CloudConnect conference started about four years ago. Attending the event gave me a clear understanding of the market maturity and evolution rhythm. Check out the following sections for the main points on what I heard and learned:
The underlying infrastructure performance, round trip time, bandwidth, caching and rendering are to be counted as the major features of an online service performance. In an interesting presentation by @joeweinman (known by his famous “Cloudonomics” theory), it was claimed that latency holds the greatest weight among these faetures. I encourage you to check out his new research – As Time Goes By: The Law of Cloud Response Time presents some good formulas, methods and considerations with regards to online services’ performance and latency (including simple facts, for example, that people tend to prefer selecting from fewer options on an online page – so you can have less content on a page and achieve a better browsing performance).
“Multi-tenancy leads to noisy neighbor syndrome” noted @jungledave, Founder and CEO at SolidFire. It is known that the lack of SSD storage components in cloud offerings (mostly due to its high cost) results in uncertainty in cloud storage performance expectations. I invite you to listen to @neovise’s recent podcast with Dave, which discusses solid state disks (SSD) and cloud computing. FYI, Amazon AWS already caught on to the need for fast and robust storage capabilities and deployed DynamoDB on SSDs, which have the benefit of offering predictable performance and greatly reducing latency across the board.
The best presentations are like movies; they should be based on real cases (keep that message in mind, I talk about it more later). One such case is Netflix. Netflix CTO, @adrianco presented methods and principles of scaling data in the cloud including Big Data management, availability, performance security, and more. I suggest checking out his presentation (a cool prezi one), to get the list of vendors and AWS components Netflix uses to optimize its data delivery over the cloud.
It was funny that only the last session’s presentation made by @lmacvittie pointed out the “obvious” first – start from understanding what cause the performance issues and only then try to solve them. I say “obvious” because it is a fact that the appealing ease of provisioning cloud apps and resources leads to the “unknown cloud” symptom (due to the uncontrolled sprawl) that contributes to the uncertainty performance. The “unknown cloud” as an issue found great support in the next day’s morning keynote presentation by @gevaperry, who noted that “a lot has already said about CIOs who don’t know about their own cloud use”. Geva presented a survey that clearly shows that the cloud computing adoption decision in an enterprise is made by the development or business units and not by the IT team – Are you surprised? Read more.
From my deep familiarity with the market, I can confidently add that despite cloud consumers’ recognition of the need to “cut through the fog” of the cloud, proven ways to actually do so are not really available in today’s young market.
DevOps don’t exist
I attended the panel “In Search of Mad Cloud Skills” led by the cloud-famous @DavidLinthicum and composed of four IT leaders. David presented some great but simple questions that the participants seemed to struggle to answer. One trivial question – “What do you need to find in the candidate for a DevOp?” brought discussion around to the obvious need to have someone with development skills who also understands the business needs. The title of the session was aligned with the actual comments of the panel members, saying it is difficult (“Mad”) to find the right skills for their DevOp team.
For me, this session brought an end to the debate of NoOps vs. DevOps. The “DevOps team” is in fact a development team that plays with virtual blocks in the cloud kindergarten. Integrating the product with the cloud is actually a task for R&D under the auspices of the CTO. That leads to the understanding that the enterprise CIO is actually the new enterprise CTO; if we talk about an ISV, then the CIO holds another position as a senior R&D team leader. NoOps rules and the CIO should look for architects and developers. Learning the building blocks of the cloud and the APIs is one task for the R&D (I remind you: “Research and Development”) team same as learning the overall software offering and the supported business workflows.
The Openness of Cloud
Wednesday’s keynote included a panel with Redhat, Citrix and Rackspace, which was moderated by @acroll (a great moderator and presenter) discussing the “Open” perception in the cloud.
The great discussion about the Openness of the cloud actually led to some online #ccevent tweets including the phrase “Open washing”, strengthening the fact that some of the traditional mega vendors are actually “cloud washers” that present the “enterprise cloud” which is in fact an hosted environment supported by a traditional professional service. (You can check out my opinion of HP cloud offerings on a past post.)
These vendors not only struggle with the fact that Amazon is taking big chunks of their main market but also with the fact that it is hard for them to prove the profitability of real cloud delivery offering based on a real pay-per-use model.
“Citrix: we hate VMware. Red Hat: we hate Microsoft. Rackspace: we hate Amazon”, tweeted @acroll once he got off the stage
Cloud put the need for “Open” on the table. It makes the IT (including the traditional enterprise one) consumers to look for open systems including open source ones. The cloud force IT vendors to prove their low level of lock-in and robust API to enable their customers update and custom the application at a low cost with no touch – check MS Azure marketing messages in regards to their efforts to support open source frameworks (though I am not sure that they really “open”).
“Open” is definitely one of the important criteria to decide to go with a solution vendor. The “open” cloud vendor shares its code with the community in order to help others come with better solutions including its own customers. The “open ISV” doesn’t afraid to “lose” its code propriety to competitors and find that being “open” actually increase awareness and positive view of its brand as well as the maturity of its offering.
“Amazon is Snow White” / by @adrianco
At first I was not sure why Amazon didn’t exhibit at the famous CloudConnect conference but after asking several important people this question, the simple conclusion is that as the strongest market leader Amazon can afford to leave the marketing efforts to the crowd. As the beautiful princess in town you attend only to your own parties and you definitely don’t want to position yourself among the dwarfs.
CloudConnect was really about the major IT market disruption Amazon has been leading for the past few years. In almost every session, the discussion about cloud was actually a discussion about Amazon AWS offering and its design partner – Netflix. Every other offering such as OpenStack, Rackspace cloud and IBM cloud offerings are always being compared with the AWS cloud. The final thought of suggesting they change the name CloudConnect to AWSConnect never entirely left my head (although this might make some of the@Clouderati guys really uncomfortable).
Q: What did the CloudConnect miss? A: Real Case Studies
I noted above that great movies are based on real stories, same here. I wasn’t in all the sessions but being a dedicated follower of #ccevent and listening carefully to some of the leading thinkers in the industry, I think that most of the sessions were still on more theoretic levels rather than practical ones. You are welcome to check these conference presentations.
It is not surprising that the best sessions were those presented by organizations that already found their way to the cloud, whether fully public (Netflix), or mostly private (Zynga zCloud). I suggest you to find Zynga’s CTO Infrastructure lecture in the conference recorded videos list.
Personally, I think it would have been great if they had a greater number of sessions and stories based on actual cloud architectures, shifting legacy applications to the cloud, and actual stories of ROI optimization. The market is still totally immature and on shaky ground. Vendors don’t really know how to present their offerings and even the simple phrase “cloud cost” have several interpretations. ISVs and enterprises are misled by the mega vendors – this is one of the major factors that slow down cloud adoption pace. If six months ago I would have said 2-3 years to reach market saturation, CloudConnect made be more realistic and think more about 3-5 years.
CloudConnect was a great opportunity for me to meet all the cloud rockstars I had been twittering with over the last year – great cloud evangelists. Someone said that he felt like walking through the twitter home feed. I found the cloud in twitter – great performance, mobile, open and available. It proves cloud serves my actual needs for networking, communications and knowledge.