Friday, June 21, 2013

The GigaOm Structure 2013 zeitgeist

Go structure logo 2013

I like GigaOm Structure. I find it gives a good sense of the current zeitgeist in cloud computing and related areas. What's being talked about and what isn't? What new or reimagined techs are emerging as memes? 

GigaOm's own writers (among others) covered the event in considerable depth and I won't attempt to recreate their reporting here. Rather, I wanted to hit on some general themes I noticed and a few points that particularly struck me. So with no further and in no particular order, here we go.

OpenStack was omnipresent. Other on-premise IaaS? Not so much.

Mind you. There was still a bit of commentary about how OpenStack was still in relatively early days. Maybe. Ryan Granard of PayPal told the audience that his company runs 20 percent of its production infrastructure on OpenStack. As readers probably know, there was much ado about PayPal's adoption of OpenStack--they were and are heavy VMware users--a while back. One of Grandard's points though was that PayPal has a strategy of deliberately making several bets as a way of getting velocity while still having a robust infrastructure. 

Notably absent from this Structure was the once ubiquitous Marten Mickos of Eucalyptus. Nor did I hear much mention of CloudStack--though Citrix did have a sponsor workshop, which I didn't attend.

Speaking of PayPal. A nice endorsement for PaaS and OpenShift.

Granard also articulated, as well as I've heard it from anyone, why PaaS is such a big deal for organizations. As reported by GigaOm's Jordan Novet:

Companies big and little have been jumping aboard the concept of on-premise PaaS, to some degree because security, regulatory compliance and cloud vendor lock-in fears remain part of the conversation about running on public infrastructure.

How is PayPal going about this? It’s been running Red Hat’s OpenShift on-premise PaaS to build out products such as PayPal Here — the company’s answer to Square — as well as a developer sandbox.

With that tool, Granard said, a developer chooses a product to work on “and in minutes, we have you up and running in a fully connected container” with infrastructure resources immediately allocated.

The real money quote for me though was that PaaS lets PayPal "enable developers and get out of the way."

x86 vs. ARM. Come back next year.

By which I mean that there were a few threads on this topic. Especially in the vein of whether ARM will make a meaningful dent in the server world. But no clear resolution.

To the degree that there was something of a consensus among folks I spoke with, it largely parallels my opinion and goes something like the following: x86 is the clear incumbent on the server. ARM is the clear incumbent in new-style mobile (tablets, cell phones, etc.). There's considerable inertia to that default condition for reasons of ecosystem and other things. For either architecture to make a major dent (narrow use cases aside) outside of its home base will require it to develop a 10x advantage--which most people don't think is going to happen.

What's that SDN stuff anyway?

There was some skepticism. For example, Arne Josefsberg CTO of ServiceNow said that  “The conversations today sound almost exactly like the conversations we had three to four years ago." Indeed, the "hot or not" panel he sat on declared SDN a loser technology.

But that seemed to be a minority opinion. Session after session returned to the idea that the networking component of infrastructures need the same sort of rewiring in software that you can do with compute and storage if the whole dynamic IT process is going to be realized. While I think it's fair to observe that there were still a lot of open questions about how we're going to get there (and what exactly it will look like), the consensus was squarely behind SDN--at least as a concept.

Private, private, hybrid

This topic really deserves a separate post, especially given that I was on a panel about private clouds at the ODCA Forecast event preceding structure. Suffice it to say that it's a complicated topic for a variety of reasons:

  • Depending upon the specific requirements, there are strong economic reasons to choose private over public or vice versa.
  • Different organizations have strong pre-dispositions for in-sourcing vs. out-sourcing
  • Existing applications can't be ignored
  • Regulation is a factor that may or may not be "fixed" (from the perspective of public clouds.

The bottom line is that there are plenty of arguments and cherry-picked examples available to bolster "your" side. That said, there was widespread agreement that, for at least the next n years (where n is much less agreed upon), the cloud world will be hybrid.


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