Then Came the Internet Cloud Computing

Lots of data became available from outside the enterprise, and it needed to be integrated with enterprise data for best effect. Conflict mounted, as the concept that “information wants to be free” (a mantra attributed to Peter Samson, a legendary member of the Tech Model Railroad Club at MIT,4 conflicted with information’s value and the competitive advantages that could be conveyed to its owner.

The Whole Earth Catalog, 1968 edition.

The Whole Earth Catalog, 1968 edition

As Stewart Brand, (founder of the Whole Earth Catalog) wrote:

In fall 1984, at the first Hackers’ Conference, I said in one discussion session: “On the one hand, information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”

If you’re still with me, you’re probably asking yourself, “What in heaven’s name have plumbing, bespoke tailoring, and data silos got to do with cloud computing?”
The answer is that the debate within cloud computing over public versus private clouds is but a manifestation of the same old conflict between freedom and control. On the Internet, the debaters are sharpening their knives. Phil Wainewright has suggested that “Private clouds will be discredited by year end [2010],” a statement he later amended: “Year-end 2011 or mid-2012 would have been a lot safer but hey, I wanted to be provocative.”

Randy L. Blas, CEO of private-cloud strategic consulting firm Clouds caling has a lot of hands-on experience, and he disagrees. He defines a private clouds as an “unshared, single tenant, self-service compute, storage, and network infrastructure.“ He says that private clouds come in three flavors, “virtual, external, or internal.”

Cloud types.

Cloud types

A virtual cloud is a logical slice of a cloud infrastructure. Blas posits that a [real] private cloud operates within a public cloud but uses virtual private networking to give individual enterprises the ability to cordon off a portion of the public cloud under their own delegated control and management. He says has no problem with them.

“On the other hand,” he says, “you can make your [own] infrastructure as multitenant as you like; it’s not cloud if it’s confined within a closed, single- enterprise environment.”

Many disagree with this view and see private clouds operating behind an enterprise’s firewall as not only completely legitimate, but as the only “safe” alternative in today’s environment.

An external private cloud, in Blas’ view, refers to cloud infrastructure hosted by third-party providers. “But a lot of it is going to be as alluring as lipstick daubed on a pig, because behind the scenes the hosting providers will be doing a lot of covert physical partitioning to cut corners (actually, some of them will openly tout that partitioning as a selling point).”

For Blas, “A public cloud is one that’s concurrently shared by thousands of discrete customers, all of whom access precisely the same (though continuously enhanced) baseline functionality and have complete freedom of action (and control) over how they use that functionality within the constraints of the platform.”

He predicts that the strength of the cloud model (and why public cloud will leave any variety of physically partitioned private cloud trailing in the dust)is the collective scrutiny, feedback, and innovation that becomes possible when thousands of customers are using the same, constantly evolving, shared platform. These advantages are real. They are similar to the advantages conveyed by open source software—that is, they are readily and freely available, and many developers have a hand in maintaining them. Equally important is the scalability that comes from working with large numbers,

Sam Johnston, the founder and CTO of Australian Online Solutions, has been working in cloud computing since 2007. He wrote in his blog:

It’s no secret that I don’t very much like this whole private cloud or internal cloud concept8 on the basis that while advanced virtualization technologies are valuable to businesses they are a severe short sell of what cloud computing is ultimately capable of. The electricity grid took over from the on-site generators very quickly, and I expect cloud computing to do the same with respect to private servers, racks and datacenters. Provided, that is, that the concept is not co-opted by threatened vendors pushing solutions that they claim are “just like cloud computing, only better.” The potential for cheap, commoditized computing resources far outweighs the benefits of in-house installations, which carry few of the benefits that make cloud computing so interesting (e.g., no capital expenditures, minimal support requirements, accessible anywhere anytime, peak load engineering is handled by the cloud vendor, costs are shared, etc.).

Many data center managers have a vested interest in keeping their empires going, so we can expect them to put up a fight before ceding control over a considerable portion of their empires to outsiders. The change is inevitable nonetheless.


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