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Posts Tagged ‘Cloud Computing

Don’t put all eggs in one basket! June 14, 2012 outage at Amazon Web Services affected many customers and other clouds that rely on AWS (e.g. Heroku). Instead of going back to the “is cloud reliable” debate, we need to acknowledge that no single service will ever be 100% reliable, and only real solution is using more that one service provider.

Remember when Apple launched their iCloud service last year? Remember what made them architecturally so different from 99.9% of other “cloud” services out there? They used both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Windows Azure as the underlying platforms. Does anyone care to guess why? Perhaps the answer in the latest news. Just read these articles about Amazon’s or Azure’s outages. Can you find iCloud mentioned anywhere as one of the affected services? No. You will see Heroku, Quora, Parse, and Pinterest – but not Apple. If one cloud fails – they still have the other one to use.

I work for a cloud platform myself (Jelastic PaaS) – and let me make it clear: no matter how much work we put into making it as reliable as we can – any services can (and will eventually) have an outage. Even a service with multiple availability zones (like AWS or Azure) will fail from time to time (happened already). Don’t cheat yourself – if you need real redundancy – use more than one provider, and do yourself a favor – check their backend platform. If you think that using AWS and Heroku is redundant – you are wrong – they are both running on AWS.

And yes, this means that you need to try to pick the services that accept the same application code. If one of the services requires your application re-written your development cost will double (e.g services like Google App Engine require pretty much complete application re-write to use it – a bad choice as a second platform.)

This is one of the reasons why in Jelastic we made a couple of important design decisions early on: make it available from multiple completely independent hosters (not Amazon, but actual real credible hosting companies) and make it 100% code compatible for any Java applications (no APIs to code to, no code changes required).

Don’t want to be in the next outage news? Pick 2 hosters and get yourself some piece of mind (obviously do check your failover to make sure you can safely stop your service at one and switch to the other one! – the only redundancy that works is the one that you test as often as you can.)

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Everyone suspected that Windows Azure was not a blazing success. Now the official stats seem to suggest that it is pretty much a failure.

Microsoft does not tell the exact number of users it has on their cloud platform – Windows Azure, however a couple of day ago we got the latest vague estimate from the company. Quoting Mary Jo:

“On May 8, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Azure Marketing Bob Kelly provided Merrill Lynch Technology Conference attendees with another tally tidbit. Kelly said Microsoft now has “high tens of thousands of customers” for Windows Azure.”

That was it, so now let me try to interpret what we have heard:

  • I assume that “high tens of thousands” means 50,000 to 100,000 customers,
  • Is that for paying customers or does that include free ones? I assume that if they were paying – Bob would have told us so,
  • Does that include Microsoft’s own teams? Probably, yes. Microsoft teams traditionally view other teams within the company as “customers”,
  • If I have a team of developers working on a project – do these get counted as 1 customer or multiple customers? If everyone is counted the number would have to be divided further. I would assume that the answer is 1 – otherwise, considering that SaaS development and operations are team efforts, the resulting number would get too small.

Now, let me be straight on that, if these assumptions are right, this is a very small number for a platform that was publicly launched in October 2008.

Just to put that in perspective, the company for which I work now – Jelastic (Java PaaS) – launched public beta in October 2011 and last month announced 15,000 signed-up users (including free, trial and beta).

As much as I love our marketing team, the marketing resources that we have are minuscule compared to that of Microsoft, so considering all the efforts that Microsoft made touting Azure everywhere and all the .NET developers their marketing can reach – Bob Kelly’s number is incredibly low.

The previous datapoints that Mary Jo quotes are in line with the current number:

“In 2010, the Redmondians said they had 10,000 Azure customers. In 2011, it was 31,000. (Microsoft officials declined to say if any of these were Microsoft users and how many were paying customers.)”

I have a lot of friends at Microsoft and a lot of sympathy toward the company, so I really hope that some of the assumptions that I made are wrong. If so, I think Microsoft should be more transparent about the way they count “customers”. Giving the number and then letting everyone make their best guesses on how it was counted – is a very bad tactics. People just assume the worst case scenario and this damages, rather than improves the company image.

 

As the world is moving to online in general and cloud in particular, what is going to happen to the $40 bln hosting industry?

Parallels (which is probably the largest software vendor for hosters) published video recordings from their Parallels Summit 2012, including this keynote fro their founder Serguei Beloussov. At 31:51 mark he talks about the area near and dear to my heart – Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and specifically Jelastic in which I work. Check it out and see if you share Serguei’s views on where the industry is going:

Click to watch the recording on YouTube

 

With the recent changes in the leadership of one of Microsoft’s key business units – Server and Tools – from Bob Muglia to Satya Nadella one can’t help speculating what this means for the business unit and how it will affect Microsoft’s cloud strategy, specifically Windows Azure – Microsoft’s platform as a service.

Here’s my uneducated guess based on the assumption that given a new task humans tend to use the same approaches which worked well for them last time, and that Satya definitely got this post as a recognition for successfully rolling out Bing and transforming Microsoft’s search business from nothing to a competitor really frustrating Google.

Here’s what I think Satya will bring to Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business:

  • More focus on online (Azure) than on Windows Server: Bob Muglia made Windows Server business a success, this was his kid, while Windows Azure (one could argue) was kind of a step-child, imposed on him and added to his business during a re-org. Satya will likely feel much different: for last few years he has been “living in the cloud” leading Bing, and Steve Ballmer very explicitly made lack of cloud focus the reason for changing the business unit leadership.
  • Compete against the market leader: Bing clearly was developed to compete against Google. I guess this means that now Azure development will become aggressively anti-Amazon.
  • Acquisitions and partnerships: so far Azure has really been a ground-up effort by Microsoft engineers, Bing team tried to buy Yahoo, and when this did not work hired a lot of top talent from Yahoo and finally essentially acquired its search and ad business. Satya was directly involved in these efforts. So who is a runner up in IaaS business who Microsoft could acquire to get more visible in that space? Rackspace? Savvis? Although, one could argue that search share was more relevant in search advertising business in which the big get bigger (why even bother advertising with small players?) and this advantage of scale is not as relevant in hosting, so acquisitions might not be as effective. We will see…
  • Not sure if Azure appliance emphasis will persist: Azure appliance made a lot of sense under old leadership. Server and Tools Business knows how to sell to enterprises, so let’s turn Azure into an appliance which we can sell to our existing biggest partners and customers. Will Satya feel the same? I don’t think Bing folks were paying much attention to Microsoft’s search appliance strategy leaving this all to SharePoint/FAST and concentrating on pure cloud play…

There were speculations after Ray Ozzie left that Azure might get de-emphasized – after all Azure was one of Ray’s pet projects. With Satya’s appointment, I would say that we should expect Azure to only gain priority at Microsoft. We’ll see how applicable will Bing experience be for making Windows Azure a top player in the cloud platform space.

In this article in Enterprise Systems Journal I argue that this might very well be the case.

Here’s a quick excerpt:

IT professionals seem to be the most conservative crowd when it comes to the cloud. While we all have been uploading our pictures to Flickr and communicating via Facebook, and our sales reps have been utilizing Salesforce.com and doing Web demos, system administrators have stayed cautious, preferring to keep IT under their control.

Now that software as a service (SaaS) has become more widespread and commonly accepted — and C-level executives are falling under the charm of the cloud — something’s got to give. That’s definitely the expectation of the systems management vendors quickly ramping up their acquisition and development cycles to have SaaS for IT management products ready.

Read the full text here.

Marco Arment from Instapaper thinks that Chrome OS will have limited appeal for consumers, will target businesses and not be well-received there due to lack of proper enterprise support and commitment. Here are a few quotes from Marco:

Google’s targeting of Chrome OS is interesting. Rather than trying to attract consumers, who have demonstrated that they’re not interested in “Net PC”-like browser-only hardware, Google is positioning Chrome OS hardware as inexpensive, low-IT-overhead alternatives for businesses to deploy instead of desk computers.

In last week’s Talk Show, John Gruber and Dan Benjamin discussed why it may finally be a good time for this: a lot of computers today in businesses exist solely to run a web browser. John’s example is almost every computer in a typical bank branch, on which the agents usually just type your information into a series of web-browser forms in order to do their jobs.

Google’s just not in the business of providing long-term support for an unsuccessful product line. It’s part of what allows them to keep releasing new things all the time while geeks declare Microsoft a boring old dinosaur. But IT departments need their platform vendors to behave much more like Microsoft.

I doubt many corporate IT execs are going to take the risk that Chrome OS will be a stable enough long-term platform to deploy to their companies’ workforces. As the saying goes, nobody ever got fired

Interesting enough, I actually agree with the second part of the argument but not with the initial premise.

Yes, getting businesses to commission big desktop refreshes to Google is going to be a challenge and require good field execution to get the early adopters buy into the value proposition (and then serve as a case study to persuade the others). And I think existing Google Apps adoption and progress demonstrates that Google’s execution when pitching to the enterprise is underwhelming. Just think on how much earlier on the market they got compared to Microsoft’s BPOS/Office 365 and how they almost missed this advantage.

However, obviously, even if not that many enterprises adopt Google Apps and Chrome OS – the reality is that these will create a headache for Microsoft because they will be used as a threat buy Microsoft’s enterprise customers when negotiating a better deal on their Microsoft contracts…

The real success of the OS though is likely going to depend on the consumer adoption (iPad was never pitched as an enterprise tool – but companies are increasingly looking to using it as such). So let’s look at the possible consumer play of the technology.

And here, I do not agree that ‘consumers … have demonstrated that they’re not interested in “Net PC”-like browser-only hardware’. Consumers are not interested when you give them a crappy netbook with an impossible to use Linux. There is little doubt about that. However, this does not mean that consumers are attached to Windows fat apps either. Success of iPads is a clear demonstration that consumers can live with total breakage of compatibility with old apps as long as the device is great and the new apps ecosystem is good.

If the application marketplace which Google is launching for Chrome OS is good – it will be just fine with consumers. Especially with supported offline mode and printing. I am using TweetDeck Chrome app in my Chrome browser today and it is just a great application. Much better, faster and easier to maintain than the AIR version I used before. If apps, hardware and pricepoints are there – consumers will come.

And yes, Ray Ozzie is right: applications on any devices are these days becoming a local representation and cache of something server or cloud-side. This is already true for a lot of iPhone and Android applications – so web-based application framework with good access to local resources is fine. Which then makes it a question of whether Google can make the Chrome OS the device operating platform of choice for the range of devices and longer term replacement of Android. And this is a question of competing for the hearts and minds of consumers and developers – and not really a question of a “Net PC” being something that resonates with consumers.

And I have no idea whether or not Chrome OS devices require cheaper hardware than Android devices. I am not sure I see why they would – consumers would probably still want solid-state drives, nice-looking form-factor, touch screens, cameras and other things which make the devices more expensive – so what’s the difference?

The future is in the cloud. Whether this “cloud” means Chrome OS remains to be seen.

The Experts Conference 2011: Advanced Training on Cloud Technologies for Enterprise IT ArchitectsWhat do enterprise IT architects need to know about the Cloud? What is the difference between SAML and OAuth? Can you really host an AD domain controller in the cloud? How do you enable single sign-on (SSO) between Active Directory and Salesforce.com? Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google Apps? What is the state of art for security and compliance in the cloud?

These are just some of the questions which are probably going to be discussed at The Experts Conference 2011 in Las Vegas, April 17-20 2011.

If these questions are relevant to you – register today and get the early bird discounts.

If you are an industry expert willing to present at the event on one of the topics I listed above or a related cloud topic – you still have a few days to submit a session proposal here. You can also contact me for more information or assistance in submitting your session proposal.


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The posts on this blog are provided “as is” with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of my employer Jelastic or anyone else for that matter. All trademarks acknowledged.

© 2008-2012 Dmitry Sotnikov

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