This world of cloud computing sure can seem cloudy. Last night at CloudCamp Columbus, I led a session outlining the incredible differences between the diverse offerings all called cloud storage. How can companies like Amazon, Nirvanix, Rackspace, EMC, and the rest use the same name for such vastly different products?
Check out these detailed posts on cloud storage I wrote for my other blog, Enterprise Storage Strategies:
Eventually, it dawned on me: There’s a big difference between real cloudstuff and plain old stuff in the cloud!
Lots of cloud computing offerings are startlingly conventional. They’re plain-jane IT infrastructure just like we all have today: Virtual servers, storage, and databases. Strip away the management API and self-service model and Amazon EC2 and EBS looks an awful lot like the Xen-based virtual server infrastructure you might find at any old IT shop. The same goes for Rackspace’s Mosso Cloud Servers: They’re extremely similar to Rackspace’s Slicehost virtual private servers!
This isn’t all bad, of course. As I discussed with EMC’s Barry Burke last week, you can theoretically run your ERP application on EC2 without major gyrations. Try that with Microsoft Azure or Google App Engine! And the management layers, especially those from companies like RightScale, turn these run-of-the-mill parts into something really extraordinary! VMware’s vCloud concept really hammers home this evolution-not-revolution mindset.
Real cloudstuff is completely different. Comparing a Xen instance running Linux on some disk (a-la EC2) to a programmable platform like Azure is problematic. Just about the only thing they have in common (apart from the cloud name) is the fact that they’re hosted on multi-tenant servers and offered to the public on a pay-per-usage model. Cloudstuff is the IT revolution that application developers have dreamed of!
Of course, the problem with whole-cloth reinvention is that it’s slow to take hold. Although net-new apps can be built to take advantage of full-on cloud infrastructure today, it will literally be a decade before the corporate IT applications we all rely on will run there. The early adopters will be companies like Microsoft and Google, who have a vested interest in seeing the concept succeed and the development muscle to make it happen.
Then there are the bridges between today’s world and this cloudstuff future. Consider applications like Nirvanix CloudNAS and Jungle Disk: They hide the complexity of API-driven cloud storage behind the familiar face of file server or backup application. Once the data is loaded, cloud-aware applications can access it. This is where the magic happens!