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A Cloudy Day

Not so much a comment on the weather as on some prognostication around the evolution of cloud computing… 1) Today the term ‘cloud‘ doesn’t mean a whole lot. It’s a nice catchy phrase for what many companies have been doing for a long time. Build a data center, outsource processing cycle and storage capacity to a variety of consumers, charge for it. Make sure it is connected to a network so the service they have outsourced can be ubiquitously accessed from a variety of locations, and allow the compute and storage capacity to be re-purposed. 2) What seems to be changing is the rate of change. The pace or velocity so to speak. i.e. To add a consumer to a hosted data center model in the mid to late 90′s involved buying a ‘cage’ and putting into that cage lots of physical stuff like routers, servers, storage arrays, load balancers, switches, firewalls, tape drives, terminal servers, etc. This meant that the deployment time was measured in months, weeks at best, to turn a new service up. Even a simple capacity add required procurement, cabling, electricians, rack mounting stuff, etc. The fastest single activity in the workflow could be measured in days.3) Time compressed. Server Virtualization compressed the time frame in which a ‘server’ (err, VM) could be turned up, cloned, copied, uniquely provisioned, et cetera. This created strain on the other areas of traditionally physical infrastructure such as storage, load balancers, and security. They have responded and replied to this with their own unique forms of virtualization and there are emergent provisioning platforms for enterprises and service providers that automate some of the monotonous workload tasks to speed up the delivery and thus efficacy of the entire service.Leaving us where we are today, but what about moving forward?4) Enterprises will build mini-clouds. As time compresses and workload can be rapidly re-provisioned/re-purposed in an increasingly automated fashion the aggregate number of CPU Cores/Sockets and Memory that will be necessary to support the peak aggregate workload will decrease within the cloud.5) Service Providers will move into higher revenue cloud models as they continue to try to extract a higher revenue per square foot or per kilowatt/hour out of a hosting facility. This will be driven by shareholders and market consolidation as well as the number of facilities that will come available to the SPs as they consolidate their own DC infrastructures.6) Hypervisors will become THE way of defining the abstraction between physical and virtual within a server and there will be a standardization of the hypervisor ‘interface’ between the VM and the hypervisor. This will allow a VM created on Xen to move to VMWare or Hyper-V and so on. Management capability and system-wide integration will become the key differentiators for this piece of technology.7) Service Providers will scale their cloud managed application/hosting/hypervisor offerings out initially by taking ‘low hanging fruit’ applications like email, web, call managers but will then want to continue the expansion into larger enterprise customers and more custom applications. The standardized hypervisor will enable workload portability and the SPs will try to acquire more customers.8) IP Addressing will move to IPv6 or have IPv4 RFCs standardized that allow for a global address device/VM ID within the addressing space and a location/provider sensitive ID that will allow for workload to be moved from one provider to another without changing the client’s host stack or known IP address ‘in flight’. Here’s an example from my friend Dino.9) This will allow workload portability between Enterprise Clouds and Service Provider Clouds.10) The SP community will embrace this and start aggressively trying to capture as much footprint as possible so they can fill their data centers to near capacity allowing for them to have the maximum efficiency within their operation. This holds to my rule that ‘The Value of Virtualization is compounded by the number of devices virtualized’.11) Someone will write a DNS or a DNS Coupled Workload exchange. This will allow the enterprise to effectively automate the bidding of workload allocation against some number or pool of Service Providers who are offering them the compute, storage, and network capacity at a given price. The faster and more seamless the above technologies make the shift of workload from one provider to another the simpler it is in the end for an exchange or market-based system to be the controlling authority for the distribution of workload and thus $$$’s to the provider who is most capable of processing the workload.12) Skynet becomes self aware.

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17 Comments.


  1. Not only can I not edit my typo in the previous comment (darn!) James Urquhart wrote a very profound piece on the role of the network in creating/defining/managing ‘Cloud Computing’. http://blog.jamesurquhart.com/2008/07/watch-out-for-cisco-kids.htmlThanks James, great write-up. I learned a lot.

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  2. Doug,Relative to your statement regarding IPv6′s role in merging providers and enterprise services by creating ubiquity through address portability, what can enterprise architects do today to prepare their networks for this new global cloud that could potentially have many providers involved?

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  3. Excellent summary on cloud computing, Doug!Rgds, Naren

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  4. Doug’s right. I do have a different view. We’re about to publish a client report entitled Why Microsoft Has a Different View of Virtualization (and maybe a better one).”” If the goal is IT life-cycle cost of ownership reduction (right?) then the question is whether you can accomplish as much at the VM level as you can if you consider the VM more as a container and “”virtualize”” O/S and application images as well independently. Send me email if this interests you.”

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  5. Hi Douglas, I’ve been trying to get a ‘consensus’ definition of Cloud Computing together and this is what I’ve come up with:Cloud Computing is the realisation of Internet (‘Cloud’) based development and use of computer technology (‘Computing’) delivered by an ecosystem of providers.””See my blog post for a (2,000 word) explanation… I tend to agree with Larry’s comment: I’ve always thought that “cloud” in technology speak was code for “somebody else’s problem.” http://samj.net/2008/07/cloud-and-cloud-computing-consensus.html

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  6. Douglas, do you leave out the discussion of multi-tenancy on purpose or is it just implied. Every time I consider the definition of cloud, I come up with a different answer. But your post made me think this about multi-tenancy: The utility should either be multi-tenant or appear to be multi-tenant from the user’s point of view and scaling to the next user really shouldn’t never require any provisioning in the traditional sense (eg: a VM). Someone else’s data center does not feel like cloud to me. db

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  7. David- multi-tenancy is implied if the cloud compute infrastructure is being offered as a service by a provider. Good catch and clarification though.I think that multi-tenancy is another way of increasing the amount of workload/applications on the infrastructure and thus should drive increased efficiency gains for the SP and the Enterprise who are using this model.

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  8. Sam,I don’t disagree- but does it oversimplify the reality? I guess I have a concern that echoes your sentiment about ‘it being someone elses problem’ or paraphrasing:’Cloud’ is often synonymous with Gosh thats too hard to conceptualize/explain, put a squiggly line around it””Networks were hard to understand for those who didn’t want/need to understand them. The utilitarian model of “”I ping you, you ack me, life is good, the network is ‘up’”” suffices for most of the world. Thus rather than explaining the intricacies of everything happening between me and the web page I want to read we depict it as a cloud.I would draw everything I deem relevant to me and my care-abouts outside the cloud, and mask the complexity I really don’t care to know about inside the cloud.So if ‘Cloud’ is the instantiation of true ‘Utility’ computing (like turn lights on/off type of utility) I can see the reason we choose to call it a cloud. I don’t really want to know about the transformers, circuit breakers, substations, generators, that go into enabling this CFL light bulb to glow when electrons are blasted into it, I just trust that I flip the switch and it glows.So what differentiates Cloud and Utility? Or is it an evolved name? Or is it the nature of the service being offered, in total, by a provider, masking all of the underlying complexity except that which is relevant to the consumer of this utility?If so, which applications will move to clouds first?”

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  9. Thanks Narendra- anything missing? I know my good friend Peter Christy from Netsedge Reserch had a differing perspective on the evolution of VM standardization or alignment.

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  10. Dave, I have a few ideas on this but want to see if we can get a few other people offering their ideas here first….

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  11. Oh, the link to enterprise cloud article… http://fountnhead.blogspot.com/dg

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  12. A great artlice recommended to me via James Urquhart via Twitter on Enterprise Clouds- http://fountnhead.blogspot.com/2008/07/is-internal-cloud-oxymoron.htmldg

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  13. Another interesting article appeared on ‘Internal Clouds. Maybe we should have pseudo-accurate names for these tying to real clouds. Like the all-encompassing darken the sky type of cloud is the Altocumulus. A big government show off how much compute I can shove into a space and then figure out what the heck I want to do with it because ‘Hey, it’s all taxpayer money anyhow, right?’ type of cloud is the Cumulonimbus. These Enterprise Clouds that reside on some scale inside a data center may have to be a Lenticular (sits on top of a mountainous peak if I remember right).

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  14. Re #12 – we Brits are way ahead:http://www.eadsdsuk.com/index.php?id=153:-)

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  15. So will this help to forecast the weather in a more accurate way? There are a lot of computing but the result is unclear to me.

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  16. I’ve always thought that cloud”” in technology speak was code for “”somebody else’s problem.”” :-)”

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