Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cloud Computing and our Borders

I don't know what it is about our society, but it seems that instilling fear and doubt into people about any advance in technology is in vogue. If you read the recent article published by the BBC, "Storm warning for cloud computing", written by Bill Thompson, you would get the idea that cloud computing is popular, but highly unreliable, insecure and makes all your actions visible to the US government. I have to disagree in several places with Bill. One of the sections of his article is subtitled "Constant Outages". I am not sure what types of IT infrastructure that Bill has worked with but I would venture to say that he must be used to a utopia that I have not been able to experience where there are no bad hard drives, old memory chips, power outages, the occasional bad router or network issue. Some of these reasons are why I would move my infrastructure to the cloud where keeping up with all of the intricacies of operating such large systems are the business of the vendors providing the service. I have been very impressed with Amazon's ability to respond to issues and I can say that we have only experienced about 1 hour of down time in the entire year and a half we have been sitting on the "cloud". That is a far cry from the "Constant Outages" that Bill mentions. He also brings up Twitter as an example here. I use Twitter, and I think it provides a fun service, but Twitter is NOT the cloud. Just because Twitter goes down constantly does not mean the cloud is unreliable, it means Twitter is unreliable. Blame Twitter's architecture, not cloud computing or the platform.
I would also disagree that the cloud is insecure. It is as secure as you want it to be. Choose wisely what you store in the cloud and what you run in the cloud. Encryption does work, contrary to what Bill would have you believe. You do not have to publish your private keys or even perform the encryption in the cloud. You can encrypt locally and store. Again, this comes down to design and architecture. Be smart about what you store and how you store it.
Finally on the issue of the Patriot Act and the US government knowing everything about your or your business... Are you a terrorist? The Patriot Act is designed to allow the US government to protect its citizens from terrorist activity. If there is not a reason for them to suspect terrorist activity or need the information for prosecution, then you should be ok. That being said, it still comes down to making informed decisions about who your cloud computing providers are. I am not going to be signing up with anyone having a data center in Iran, Syria or North Korea... Just seems like the smart move to me.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

EMC is a Slow Start to a Fast Race

With Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft (kind of) in the Cloud Computing space, EMC should step up the pace. We are already rounding out May with a recent keynote speech delivered at EMC World from CEO Joe Tucci with hardly a mention of their strategy for moving into this space. I am confused at that. It would seem that this would be of great importance and would carry alot of excitement for a company that has all of the tools in the toolbox. Here is a company with massive infrastructure, storage expertise, services capabilities, security, VM Ware and all that was said was that it is an area in which they will continue to invest. Tucci said "We are very much going to play in this cloud computing, infrastructure and services business...". And that was about it. EMC formed its Cloud Infrastructure and Services Division 3 months ago when they "aquired" former Microsoft VP Paul Maritz. I was hoping that at least a little bit of a vision would have been shared with the masses. Was bringing a veteran Microsoft guy on board to lead the charge a mistake for something so different from Microsoft's traditional market?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cloud Computing & HP with EDS?

Wow, I read it over and over again in the blogosphere that cloud computing is just the buzz phrase of the year and that it will quickly fade. I quickly dismiss comments like that, not because I don't think it is a buzz phrase, but because I know that it will not fade. It just makes sense. Today, was one of the times that I saw the "buzz" around cloud computing used to explain something that seems to be unrelated to me. HP is acquiring EDS for 13.9 billion, which is great for both and could prove to be a profitable move, but I disagree with Om Malik that it is about the "Cloud". HP could jump into the cloud game without EDS. EDS is a company that mainly deals in services and outsourcing. I see this more as a strategic move to boost profits and grow HP in the services arena. HP has the resources in hardware, data centers, and software development already to create a great offering for cloud computing without EDS. If I am completely out in left field on this one, then HP is certainly going to be very late to the game. It will take years to integrate these two organizations and get them on the same page. This is not just a couple hundred people, it is a couple hundred thousand people with completely different corporate cultures. I would gladly and warmly welcome more players in the cloud computing space, so HP, if you are joining the party... welcome, share your ideas, I am all ears. However, I really think this is about growing the business in the services arena. If so, congratulations all around as well. You have been able to do more than Microsoft and Yahoo! lately.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Reach Concert for David Gaines

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It is truly amazing what the youth are doing. Tonight was a wonderful night of music at BBC put on by two different bands. The purpose of the night was to raise money for three different causes. One of those causes really hits home with me and was very touching to be a part of. A wonderful man, father, and pastor, David Gaines, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis about a year ago. David is one of the greatest musicians that I have had the pleasure of knowing and has touched the lives of so many. That was evidenced by the benefit tonight completely organized by the youth in our community to help raise money for a lung transplant for him. He gives selflessly of his time and talents for the benefit of others and tonight, the youth wanted to show him and his family how much they cared. A love offering was taken and a portion of the money will be going to help in a small way for the expensive operation. There was a moment of the night that I could hardly hold back the tears as I watched his daughters at the concert. Amanda, the oldest sang for the audience a song that she sang on tour with the group which is special to her father. As I looked out into the crowd I saw Ashley, the youngest, holding the phone up so that her father and mother could hear. They are several hours away staying close to the hospital where the transplant will take place.

You can visit his Caring Bridge site and send him a note. I am also setting up a donation area here so that if you were unable to contribute tonight, you can donate by clicking the button below and I will make sure that 100% of the donations go to David Gaines and the family.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

IBM and DigitalChalk work to make training more accessible

Earlier this week, DigitalChalk, IBM and Hunter College announced that we are working together to make video based training more accessible for the hearing impaired. Looking ahead to our Fall Release is very exciting because of this ability. Instructors will have the ability to send the videos off for transcription and automatically include the result as Closed Captioning with the click of a button. Instead of having to mail off videos for a text transcript and then manually typing it into the system, this will be taken care of by DigitalChalk. We want to continually move forward with the goal of providing a product that is accessible to everyone.

OpenSolaris on EC2

It is going to be available, but only to a few right now. Amazon is hand picking the developers that will be able to participate in the beta service right now running OpenSolaris. If you just can't stand to wait, then you can go ahead and download a distribution that will run on x86 boxes from their download site. Sun is offering paid support for about $50 per call. I am not sure how this will work out with Amazon's own SLA. This is an area where Cloud Computing is really going to have some challenges for those who are desperate for support at all levels. You might have to buy support from Amazon and Sun to meet your needs just for the server. For companies who cannot provide the expertise that is needed to ensure the technical details of their application from top to bottom, it might start to get costly on a monthly basis. I think it is obvious that Sun is going to try to meet the needs of the enterprise customers in some ways in the cloud. When Amazon and Sun open it up to the community at large, I will certainly be interested in profiling OpenSolaris against some of the Linux flavors.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sun and Amazon... Could Be

I have always wanted to attend JavaOne having been a Java developer and architect now for more than 12 years and after seeing the hints that are flying around what might be announced tomorrow at the dinner before the conference makes me want to be there even more. Looks like Sun's CEO Jonathan Schwartz is going to make some interesting news for the blogosphere. David Berlind is attending Startup Camp for the conference and has talked about what might be happening in his blog David Berlind's Tech Radar. He says that Schwartz hinted at an Amazon with ZFS announcement for tomorrow night. This would be a great addition in many ways for the Amazon Cloud.
As it stand right now, Amazon is running an Intel based platform. I will be interested to see if the announcement involves offering some Solaris Operating System AMIs or even taking the open source codebase for ZFS and offering some of the same features on the Amazon EC2 infrastructure. This last option would be somewhat challenging without Sun's help but they have stated on their Solaris 10 Knowledge Base for ZFS site that they are looking at porting ZFS to linux. With ZFS on Amazon, we could really some amazing performance gains, virtually unlimited scalability on the file system, and much more reliable data integrity. We have had no problems with any of these so far (knock on wood) but having that extra assurance would always be welcome.
Om Malik interviewed Schwartz and asked about the availability of Amazon and Cloud Computing helping startups and what Jonathan's take was. He replied: “Do you think it would make sense for us to partner with Amazon to offer free info on the cloud? ... Then you’ll be paying attention to the announcement we make tomorrow with what we’ll be doing with Amazon.”
All of this build-up, let's see what happens! I will be very interested in seeing how this will impact Amazon EC2 and of course DigitalChalk!

Meeting a past President

Well, I guess I can't really say that I met him, but I did get a smile and a nod. Last year I met Fred Thompson at the airport in DC and said that he could be the next President.. He ran, but obviously didn't get the party nomination. Today, a true President was there with us this morning at Biltmore Baptist Church. It is always a humbling experience no matter which party you are with to meet a President. I just happened to have my camera today because of a need to take pictures of some of the volunteers. I am glad that I did! What fun.

Congressman Heath Shuler and President Bill Clinton

Standing for Worship

Carl Setterlind and Danny Edwards leading worship with President Clinton in attendance

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Snapshot of Cloud Computing, SaaS and PaaS

Peter Laird, managing architect for the WebLogic Portal, and Kent Dickson, Vice President of Strategy and Product Management at BEA, have just recently posted a good overview of the Cloud Computing, SaaS and Paas markets. Well done guys! While they do not attempt to cover everyone in the space, as that would be next to impossible, they do hit most of the major players and paint a clear picture of where these technologies sit. They have also provided a list of links that is a great reference and good fodder for research on each of the services. This is the graph they have published.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Big Blue and Google hanging out in the Clouds

Undoubtedly two of the most respected software companies in the world are teaming up. The granddaddy of software and the young whipper snapper discussed their relationship on Thursday at an IBM conference in Los Angeles, CA. I find it almost comical when I read so many blog comments on how the cloud is a fad and will fall by the wayside very quickly. With IBM throwing their hat in the ring with Google, I am not sure how many more will have to start swinging to make others believers. Schmitt is quoted as saying "It's the story of our lifetime." I am not sure if it is that big as I am hoping for the cure for cancer, but it is certainly fun! These two can provide the next wave of innovation in hardware and software that will enable the masses in cloud computing.