The Cloud is a Mindset, Not a Destination
People talk about the cloud as if it were a specific destination or set of destinations (“My music is in the cloud.”). In fact, the answer to the question “Where is the cloud?” is “everywhere”. The cloud is no longer limited to virtualized storage and services in a datacenter. It is now a metaphor and model for distributed applications built on low cost hardware using Virtual Machines (VMs).
It is useful to recall that the NIST summary “Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations” (http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-146/sp800-146.pdf) enumerates these essential cloud characteristics:
- On-demand self-service
- Broad network access
- Resource pooling
- Rapid elasticity
- Measured service
These properties are what made the cloud the big deal that it is. However, their applicability is much broader because:
- They are not new in and of themselves and
- Their applicability extends to other aspects of the modern world
If the cloud principles are not new, then what changed to trigger the explosion of cloud services? I suggest that the key technology enablers are in the following categories:
- Connect: TCP/IP and HTTP(s) for communication over high-bandwidth Ethernet links – both LAN and WAN
- Compute: Ubiquitous, powerful and low cost, Intel-based server platforms abstracted by VMs
- Store: Massive, reliable and low cost disk arrays
- Programmability: Powerful software development tools, abstraction models, application libraries and APIs
The technologies are not specific to the world of cloud services, but they combined to create a rich set of opportunities in that space. I asserted above that the Cloud is a mindset, not a destination. If that is true, where else can these principles be applied?
Let’s Cloudify the World!
The network is ripe for application of these principles and technologies, especially in the metro edge. And when that happens, network services will benefit from the agility, scalability and improved resource utilization and service providers will realize gains in operational efficiency and new revenue opportunities. Now, at the metro edge there a number of issues to address before this part of the network can be virtualized: these include heterogeneous and multi-vendor equipment, primitive interfaces, limited onboard capabilities, etc.
In future articles, I will take a closer look at some of these considerations.