Wingspan

My Head’s in the Clouds - Thinking about Whether

by MaxRiggsbee on ‎03-03-2010 12:50 AM (535 Views)

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday night and the regular crowd is standing in line at the coffee shop ordering lattes, Frappuccinos and mochas. I’m here, but I’m not supposed to be here. Normally, I’d be on the other side of the country, but my flight was canceled due to inclement weather. Between the heavy rain in the West and the heavy snow in the East, my scheduled flight, well, couldn’t fly.

 

All this precipitation started me thinking about how we look to the formation of clouds for answers to questions about the weather—and how companies looking to deliver services from the Clouds also ask about Whether.

 

I started fielding “Whether” questions in the late 1990s. I guess you can say I became something of a Whetherman. Several months before the century gave way to the Y2K issue, I left behind years of technology management on Wall Street and joined a start-up company based in Waltham, Massachusetts. The premise behind StorageNetworks was simple: deliver storage as a service over a “wire.” Our customers would subscribe to capacity that would be delivered (provisioned) within the constraints of an SLA. The model worked and many companies (large and small) leveraged the service to meet the growing data demands of the dot-com era.

 

StorageNetworks essentially provided a cloud service. We didn’t call it cloud at the time, but that’s what it was. We owned the assets and provisioned parcels of storage to customers who in many cases shared common infrastructure. We provided storage services from public and private data centers. We met with companies ranging in size from dot-com start-ups to established enterprises. There was little doubt we could deliver cloud storage. Actually, the responses mostly ranged from excitement to curiosity. But, in the same way a low cloud ceiling keeps planes on the tarmac, Whether kept many customers from taking off into early cloud storage.

 

The customers always wondered Whether they should do it. Whether services would be responsive to their business needs. Whether the right levels of data security would be applied. Whether the infrastructure would be available 24×7×365. Whether subscribing to resources would keep them competitive. Whether the subscription model would truly reduce costs compared to an ownership model. Whether they were headed toward vendor lock-in. Whether they could trust it.

 

In the late 1990s the Internet was less than a decade old, cell phones called home instead of calling up home pages, a sales force was something you had (not something you used) and Twitter wasn’t tweeting. A lot has changed since then. The pervasiveness of cloud services today for consumers and professionals has reduced the resistance to placing digital assets beyond arm’s length. But the ubiquity of the cloud for end users has only raised more questions about Whether for those providing cloud services.

 

The bottom line is that end users expect applications to be available, period. No excuses. So providers have a wide range of Whether-related issues to contend with, such as:
• Whether they can handle an unanticipated deluge of requests
• Whether they can mitigate morphing security threats
• Whether they should expand infrastructure to support customer growth

• Whether the infrastructure is reliable enough to meet availability SLAs

 

For service providers this means building physical cloud infrastructures with the most reliable, efficient and high-performance technology.

 

When I was responsible for early public and private storage clouds, we leveraged Brocade technology to meet many of these Whether challenges. Today, the next generation of Brocade data center technologies is simplifying the boundaries between SAN, LAN and application delivery. These products are designed to meet the growing demands on physical infrastructure, virtualized infrastructure and applications. Our goal at Brocade is to help our customers think less about the Whether by providing them with the networking reliability and scalability to meet their business demands.

 

Well, it’s cloudy weather today in the Bay Area but, as I sit here in Starbucks with Wi-Fi and 3G, I have no doubt Whether it’s cloudy everywhere. Ah, you gotta love a hot latte and the Netflix instant play queue to make being stranded feel almost like home.