Computing Forecast: Into the Clouds
A more flexible model that aligns better with business objectives
Long foreshadowed under names like “grid computing” and “network computing,” cloud computing is finally gaining momentum. Rather than simply replacing one computing paradigm with another, the era of the cloud looks to create a somewhat chaotic proliferation of options, with many paradigms coexisting. Any layer of the technology stack—from computing power to storage to services—can be sourced from the “cloud” and, because IT needs are diverse, every cloud layer should be able to find a market. Organizations will be free to evolve individual IT models, based strictly on business needs rather than on technology constraints; hybrid, “partly cloudy” models will be the norm. This new, adaptable IT framework may make it much easier to manage issues of cost, scale, and agility. But decision makers must also be prepared to navigate a new set of tradeoffs: the price of agility may be the loss of some visibility—or some control. Most enterprises will want to take their bearings carefully before heading off into the cloud.
The cloud will be one of the topics we blog about this year in more depth – watch this space!
In the year 2015, you can buy a cloud Operating System (OS) from SkySoft (a fictitious business), install it on your cluster of PCs and have a private cloud up and running in minutes. Are you wondering what is included in that software box pictured above? To imagine what it would include, it is helpful if we could draw analogy from a server OS.
A traditional OS serves two purposes. First, it hides the hardware details from the applications to simplify application design. For example, an application programmer sees a file system, rather than a hard disk interface and its control registers. Second, it provides a set of high level services to applications, again to simplify an application programmer's job. For example, an application programmer makes socket calls to connect to remote machines.
A cloud OS is similar to a server OS. First, it hides the hardware details. You do not have to know that a cloud is running on many clusters of hundreds of thousands of machines. Second, it provides a set of high level services to application programmers. For example, Amazon provides a queue service called SQS, which is used for communication between applications. Since I wrote about the definition of a cloud OS
before, I would not bother you with more details here.
Today, if you want to buy something similar to the box above, you can buy VMWare VCloud
(essentially vSphere and vCenter products). Alternative, you can also use open source software, such as Eucalyptus
. Keep in mind that these packages are still in their early stage of development, so many features are missing. Even if you can live with the feature set today, they are still limited to only the compute service, i.e., they only provide Virtual Machines (VM) on demand. So if you are looking for a scalable storage in the cloud or looking for services to help your VMs to communicate, you are out of luck.
Although the choices are limited today, I believe you will see a full featured cloud OS in the near future, which will consist of at least the following services:
- Compute service: A VM on demand service that is scalable beyond a small cluster of tens of machines. The service should also come with a full metering and charge-back mechanism to enable pay-per-use.
- Storage service: A scalable fully distributed data storage service. I believe it is most likely a blob storage service because it is much easier to scale than a block device abstraction. There are already various open source projects working on a highly scalable key-value pair storage system. I will cover them in details in a later post.
- Queue service: A queue interface is a simple message passing abstraction critical for machine-to-machine communication. Unlike MPI, it decouples the sender and receiver, which is important for cloud VMs due to their ephermal nature.
- Structured data storage service: If you need to query or index your data, a blob storage is not a good fit. Instead, we need some form of semi-structured data storage which can enable a more efficient querying.
Other scalable cloud services are likely to emerge as well, although it is unclear what they are. This is where the server OS analogy is most helpful. We can look into services that are most needed in a server OS and project whether it should be implemented in a cloud OS.
Given the rapid evolving ecosystem, a full-featured cloud OS may come sooner than 2015. Who knows, maybe SkySoft does exist and it may even be a spin-off from Accenture. One can only dream.
Each year, the Accenture Technology Labs creates and distributes a Technology Vision: our analysis of emerging trends and major technological changes that could have a significant business impact on Accenture and its clients in the next three to five years. High-performance businesses use the Vision to help understand potential opportunities—and challenges—that lie ahead.
The 2010 Vision builds on last year’s conceptions of an elastic world in which business capabilities—infrastructure, people and thoughts—can be expanded or contracted on demand. For this year, we explore seven technology trends that will help define how this new, elastic world begins to take shape over the next decade.
Since its inception 3 years ago, the Technology Vision has provided Accenture with a platform for conversations with clients. And it’s also been part of our innovation message for the larger technology and business press. This year, with the start of the Technology Labs blog, we’ll have a platform for taking the Vision to a much larger potential audience. That’s right – this IS an external-facing blog! So . . .
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Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a tour through all seven of this year’s Vision topics:
The Vision is created by the Accenture Technology Labs and Accenture’s Chief Scientist, Kishore Swaminathan. Other members of the Vision team are Brandon Harvey, Renee Byrnes, and Julie Stibich.
The Accenture Technology Labs blog will feature the opinions and perspectives from the very people that are driving innovation today for Accentu...