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Top Industry Vendors give their views on Clouds

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I kept an eye on a recent cloud event about cloud computing in New York in early August hoping that some signs of maturity might be appearing across the industry in terms of the approach to defining and implementing clouds. Sadly I didn’t see that, instead it seemed to be the place to see a lot of enthusiasts still working on permutations that fit their start-ups or products. That’s not to say there wasn’t good stuff, but I think most people are at the stage when they need to make some factual decisions on where and how ‘clouds’ in the broadest and loosest sense of the term (i.e. everything from virtualisation, to web based hosting) will contribute to their 2010 business technology plans. However, in separate activities during August, three big industry players: IBM, Microsoft and Google, did set out their views very clearly. A fourth - Oracle - said it will be setting out its views at the net major cloud event later in the year. In addition, the Open Group - famed for its efforts to build genuine business process interoperability - announced its own moves into standards for clouds. So one way or another it’s been a very busy August for those interested in the topic! I have read through a lot of this and picked the clearest commentaries on each so for once this is going to be less my opinion and more a pointer for where to find a good source the information on each. I’ll begin with Google, which represents the most useful starting point. Even though this is a Google document, it is the least ‘proprietary’ of the views and the most generically helpful. Google has been running for some time now a interesting group working openly and collaboratively on the development of use cases for cloud computing with some very clear objectives, namely:

  • Cloud computing will provide a practical, customer experience based context for discussions on interoperability and standards
  • ...will make it clear where existing standards should be used
  • ...will focus the industry's attention on the importance of Open Cloud Computing
  • ...will make it clear where there is standards work to be done. If a particular use case can't be built today, or if it can only be built with proprietary APIs and products, the industry needs to define standards to make that use case possible
From this work they have now produced a downloadable white paper which I recommend. This is aligned to the US Government NIST draft definitions and linked to the Open Cloud Manifesto. As a result of this, it provides some genuine value in creating a reference document for the industry at large. While on the topic of moves towards standardisation in clouds, I should also mention that the Open Group has also thrown its hat into the ring with an announcement that it too will be working on this, as part of their mission and commitment to the development of business process interoperability. The most interesting part of this move is that unlike the Google and NIST moves the Open Group will be looking to focus less on the technology and more on the process interoperability level. Next up is IBM whose ‘Enterprise Initiatives’ division, which apparently means cloud computing, recently spoke on the topic. Its general manager, Erich Clementi, gave an interview for Gigaom.com in which he stated that IBM saw clouds as the 15-20 year shift point that the computer industry has famously gone through in the past, mainframe to mini, mini to pc, and now to clouds. He detailed the various aspects of clouds that IBM would be competing in, but the other point he had to make takes on one of the biggest confusions on the topic. Eric describes very clearly why virtualisation doesn’t equate to clouds and vice versa, a point that HP’s leader for cloud computing - Russ Daniels - is equally passionate about. By the way, Russ has one of the clearest explanations on clouds and virtualisation in the industry. Here is a good video clip to watch, and for balance here is his interview by Gigacom back in April. Microsoft’s Zane Adam, their senior director for Virtualisation, also made an important point at Hosting Con 2009 when talking about how Microsoft would have a complete model for ‘hosting’ in 2010. His message was that we don’t have to hold off until clouds ‘seem easier’ and there is a complete proven implementation to learn from. Instead we can start an incremental improvement process: starting right now. I couldn’t find a direct report on his comments but there is a good blog piece which covers some of the points. That just leaves HP and Oracle. HP has set out its views pretty clearly over the last year and has a range of products already up and running, so I guess they didn’t need any new announcements. But Oracle - now with the added capabilities of Sun - might have been quiet up till now on the topic, did put out a press release that they will be keynoting at the next Cloud Expo under the title ‘Cloud Computing; Separating the Hype from Reality’. So maybe it wasn’t all neatly covered in one show, but it does all add up to the increasingly complete picture I was looking for. Maybe it just shows the future, in terms of less focus on a slew of announcements at industry events and more use of various media to interact around plans?

About the author

Andy Mulholland
Andy Mulholland
Capgemini Global Chief Technology Officer until his retirement in 2012, Andy was a member of the Capgemini Group management board and advised on all aspects of technology-driven market changes, together with being a member of the Policy Board for the British Computer Society. Andy is the author of many white papers, and the co-author three books that have charted the current changes in technology and its use by business starting in 2006 with ‘Mashup Corporations’ detailing how enterprises could make use of Web 2.0 to develop new go to market propositions. This was followed in May 2008 by Mesh Collaboration focussing on the impact of Web 2.0 on the enterprise front office and its working techniques, then in 2010 “Enterprise Cloud Computing: A Strategy Guide for Business and Technology leaders” co-authored with well-known academic Peter Fingar and one of the leading authorities on business process, John Pyke. The book describes the wider business implications of Cloud Computing with the promise of on-demand business innovation. It looks at how businesses trade differently on the web using mash-ups but also the challenges in managing more frequent change through social tools, and what happens when cloud comes into play in fully fledged operations. Andy was voted one of the top 25 most influential CTOs in the world in 2009 by InfoWorld and is grateful to readers of Computing Weekly who voted the Capgemini CTOblog the best Blog for Business Managers and CIOs each year for the last three years.

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