Recently Judy Collins appeared at our local bookshop in Rhinebeck, NY that we frequently visit to promote a children's book. Gosh, how time flies! It was just yesterday that we were wearing out her LPs in the college dorms. One of my favorite Judy Colllins song was 'Both sides Now' which contains the line ' I've looked at clouds from both sides now, from win and lose , and still somehow, it's clouds illusions I recall...' So what are the real benefits of cloud? And what is just an illusion? Here are some cloud musings based on my experience in industry solutions for a smarter planet:
How can cloud be used in development for industry oriented applications?
Cloud computing can be used in development for intense simulations of assembly operations. These are the complex simulations of whole systems, as opposed to a single pump for example. Simulations generally require HPC (high performance computing) that can be cost prohibitive for anyone except the largest enterprises. One example is System Verification Management for the Electronic Design Automation Industry. Systems verification is the testing of integrated circuit hardware and embedded software to identify defects. Coverage verification is a type of systems verification using random testing of a chip design simulated in software. Because software simulations run extremely slowcompared to actual hardware, enough tests can never be run to completely verify a chip design. Therefore critical functions are chosen to be “covered” by simulation testing. Modern chip complexity is driving manufacturers to coverage verification to vet design before it hits the expensive silicon and to speed time to market. In fact, Coverage verification simulations approaching 1 million per day on an High Performance Computing (HPC) environment are now becoming the norm. The HPC environment must be utilized and maintained to the maximum extent possible to achieve quickest time to market and that can be achieved efficiently using cloud computing.
Another example is smart grid. One focus for smart grid is demand management or the ability, during brown outs for example, to dynamically deallocate power to nonessential devices like pool pumps and allocate power to schools, hospitals, or certain appliances in your home. This requires visibility up and down the chain of delivery to determine where and how the power is being used and whether its delivery is as efficient as possible. Dealing with a range of variable and unpredictable outages requires the ability to dynamically allocate the compute resources for the task and we have found cloud to be an efficient way to manage a smart grid.
And what about smarter cities? The city of Wuxi in southeastern China, developed a "cloud services factory" to provide computing resources to local companies. Software developers can access new resources in minutes, and new businesses can hit the ground running. Wuxi now has the potential to provide services to hundreds of small and medpium-sized companies, which represent the future of a city that sees itself as an engine for growth.
Are there economic, cultural or other trends that are driving the adoption of cloud computing?
Today, more than ever, the need to drive down the cost of computing while being fully prepared for variable and peak workloads. In addition, if a cloud can handle a mulit-tenent environment with 15, 50, 500 customers all with dynamic processing on the same infrastructure, and same support (monitoring, backup/restore) cost has to decrease due to economy of scale.
I think that the tough economy has definitely spurred interest in cost cutting measures and efficiency; but, I think the real drivers are the emergence and acceptance of virtualization and Service Oriented Architecture in companies. Companies are becoming more technically astute and see the advantages of subscribing to Web Services, applications, storage and services like SPAM filtering in a cloud. In addition, because many people's workstations are now on their phones, pda's and netbooks, it makes more sense to host the operating systems, applications and data on virtual servers in a cloud.
Another factor driving adoption is the need to stay competitive in today's markets. For most business the ability to deliver more applications and services without adding fixed costs helps improve focus on core business competencies. ie: Improve time to market, Increase Business Flexibility and shift from Fixed to Variable Costs. Also, the ability to monitor costs.
What are some of the perceptions or barriers that need to be overcome for cloud computing to gain the widest possible acceptance?
Perception of the lack of bulletproof Reliability,Performance and Security & Privacy. Performance concerns exist about throughput because computing is off-site. Concern exists that data will be secure from competitors eyes in a public cloud.
It’s clear that a variety of security technologies, processes, procedures, laws, and trust models are required to secure the cloud. There is no silver bullet for securing the cloud but who better than IBM with a full breadth and depth of solutions and services enable organizations to take a business-driven, holistic approach to securing the cloud. IBM capabilities empower organizations to dynamically monitor and quantify security risks, to better understand threats and vulnerabilities in terms of business impact, to better respond to security events with security controls that optimize business results, and to better prioritize and balance their security investments.
How will IT change over the next five years or so, because of the influence of cloud computing?
I think IT technologies will more and more be applied to real world (non-IT) assets as we transform utilities, transport, healthcare, buidlings, and cities to a smarter version. This will be made possible in many instances by the power of cloud computing.
An example of a specific opportunity is in the area of storage. As the world becomes smarter and, we are collecting more and more data, and storage requirements are skyrocketing. Today we are approaching a trillion connected sensors that are enabling smarter planet plays such as smarter transportation and smarter healthcare. Being able to farm out the management of the storage devices to experts and pay for what is actually used is already becoming very compelling.
I think 5 years from now we will see much of smarter planet plays being realized and powered by clouds. It will not be clouds illusions we recall but real leverage and value for our industry solutions.