The cloud is all very well—buy resources as you need them, and don’t care about the infrastructure required to deliver those resources. But there is no cloud: it’s just someone else’s computer. So you should still think about what is required and what happens when things go wrong. In particular, what happens when a cloud service shuts down? If cloud services are known to fail or be withdrawn, then a good cloud strategy should consider alternatives to each service. This is one item of the service level that should get some attention before you rely on a cloud service.
The big question I keep asking myself is, “Is cloud a utility yet?” In other words, can I choose an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud based on utility pricing and expect the same thing I expect from a utility—as in, “it just works”—or is there more to it than that? In order to decide if the cloud is a utility yet, we need first to define the traits of a utility. There is a difference between electricity and gas, as well as between water and trash services. If cloud is a utility today, which type is it?
The world of cloud is changing yet again. IBM announced recently that it is acquiring Austin, Texas–based Gravitant. Financial details of the deal were not released.
A few years ago, I told HP’s product manager for public cloud that I thought all public cloud providers would run out of money and get out of the business. I was mostly being controversial to spark conversation. But HP has recently ceased selling its Helion public cloud. While this did prove me right in that case, I’m not sure every public cloud provider will remain unprofitable until it dies. I do think it is very hard to compete with AWS for a commodity public cloud. On the other hand, there are ways to build a public cloud that address clients who will not use AWS.
There are three pillars to the software-defined data centre (SDDC): software-defined compute, software-defined storage, and software-defined networking. Without any one of these three, the whole edifice of the data centre falls down. We build all three to be resilient, “designed for failure,” and robust. Each can be built and rebuilt from scripts that are stored in distributed version control systems. But at the bottom of every application stack in our SDDC, there is a database or file store that cannot—by definition—be re-created from scripts. This is the core data that we mine and make profit from. What happens if (or when) the edifice collapses? How is that core data protected, and is traditional backup up to the task?
On the twenty-first of October, HP announced that it is shutting down its Helion Public Cloud, which it built to compete head-to-head with AWS, GCS, and Azure. According to HP Cloud executive Bill Hilf, it is doing so to concentrate on helping its “customers to build and run the best cloud environment suited to their needs.”