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Monthly Archives: February 2010

Impact of Virtualization on Cloud Computing Standardization (part 3 of 3)

You could argue that EDS and
IBM have been offering “cloud” computing for many years.  They have outsourced the data
operations of some of the world’s largest companies.  They have purchased and built very large data centers, often
with many customers in the same facility. 
They often own and manage the hardware and systems software.  So, how is the new model of
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) different from what EDS and IBM have been
doing in the past?

The difference is “standardization.”

The maturation of
virtualization creates a standard way to host an operating system in an
environment that can be moved. Virtualization enables existing applications to
be moved more easily without changes. 
This makes IaaS more suitable to meet the needs of peak load and
disaster recovery requirements.

The rapid growth of low-cost
and highly reliable bandwidth is also fueling the move to IaaS, enabling
servers to move from locations physically close to central operations to areas
that have better access to cheaper or more reliable resources, inexpensive
technical expertise, or simply lower cost facilities.  With the IaaS vendor managing the complete infrastructure,
there is no need for the purchaser to be physically close to the IaaS location.

There is an enormous market
for servers, people to manage IT, software, telecommunications and
facilities.  IaaS will create a
disruption that will create flood of competition and innovation, lowering the
cost of computing and driving even more innovation.

Of course, there will be
initial resistance to move to IaaS. 
We’ve seen this resistance before in the software industry when people
moved to SaaS.  Initially, the concern
will be control.  This concern is
valid.  There are big stakes
involved for a business when a server is down.  Business workers lose productivity when servers go
down.  Concerns over data loss or
security breaches are understandable. 
The security of systems and data are critical to most businesses.  However, as we’ve seen with the SaaS
industry, these concerns will be addressed as providers prove they can manage
these extremely valuable resources securely and reliably.

At Bluelock, we use VMware’s
virtualization technology to provide our customers with the ability to easily
move their departmental or even enterprise-class applications from centralized
in-house computing to IaaS.  Our
customers benefit from lower capital costs, lower labor costs, and increased flexibility.

I can clearly see that there
are IaaS clouds on the horizon that represent another significant evolution of
enterprise technology and an exciting opportunity. At Bluelock, we think this
will be good for our customers and that’s why we’re partnering with VMware on
vCloud Express.


Mark E. Hill is Chairman of
BlueLock’s Board and Managing Partner of Collina Ventures. Mark co-founded
Baker Hill® in 1983. Focusing on the banking industry, the company built
software solutions focused on small business lending. In 2005, the company was
acquired by Experian® (EXPN.L), a global information company. In addition to
his roles with BlueLock and Collina Ventures, Mark serves on the board of
numerous companies, including Interactive Intelligence, (Nasdaq:ININ), 
Cantaloupe TV (www.cantaloupe.tv), and
T2 Systems (www.T2Systems.com).

Movement of Co-location Facilities to the IaaS Cloud Services Business (part 2 of 3)

By Mark Hill, Chairman,

As server technology becomes
more and more important to the health of a company, we are seeing a shift to
moving a company’s servers to outside buildings designed specifically to house
servers.  These are known as
co-location facilities.  These
facilities have security, power, cooling and Internet access to keep them safe,
secure, and running at high availability.

Co-location facilities are
evolving and many businesses are offering additional services such as changing
backup tapes, shared firewalls and routers, and operating system patching.  By providing these managed services,
co-location facilities offer more value to customers.

It is natural for the
successful co-location businesses to continue to improve their service
offerings and offer more value to their customers.  Co-location companies are moving to owning their servers and
renting out access to compute power and data storage.  The key to the change in the co-location business is that
they manage these compute and data storage resources for a large number of
customers.   As the number of
customers increases, the management of servers becomes dramatically more
efficient due to the scale and centralization of expertise.

The service of renting out
compute power and data storage is known as Infrastructure-as-a-Service, or
IaaS.   It is part of the “Cloud”
phenomenon that we hear about today. 
Even the traditional computing players such as HP, IBM, Microsoft, and
VMware have initiatives around cloud computing, evidence that the market is at
the front of a major shift.

IaaS also offers the promise
of proper allocation of resources to manage peak loads and disaster
recovery.  Many companies need to
over-allocate resources to ensure peak load performance and then replicate the
expense off-site for disaster recovery. 
This can make the cost of the compute and data resources four times more
expensive than what would be typically needed under normal operating
conditions.  IaaS can also lower
the total cost of infrastructure by centralizing the expertise of managing
increasingly complex systems.

Where IaaS shifts to what we
now call “cloud” is where standardization and virtualization converge. I’ll
talk about that convergence in my final blog post (part 3) coming shortly. Stay


Mark E. Hill is Chairman of BlueLock’s Board and
Managing Partner of Collina Ventures. Mark co-founded Baker Hill® in 1983.
Focusing on the banking industry, the company built software solutions focused
on small business lending. In 2005, the company was acquired by Experian®
(EXPN.L), a global information company. In addition to his roles with BlueLock
and Collina Ventures, Mark serves on the board of numerous companies, including
Interactive Intelligence, (Nasdaq:ININ),  Cantaloupe TV (www.cantaloupe.tv), and T2 Systems (www.T2Systems.com).

Cloud Computing, A Decade of Natural Evolution (part 1 of 3)

By Mark E. Hill, Chairman, BlueLock,
a VMware vCloud Express Service Provider Partner

In 1999, the Internet hype
was nearing its peak and I was running a successful software company serving
the banking industry.  We had
plenty of happy customers and we were making money.  But, I felt like the press and market analysts were ignoring
us because our software ran on Windows using a client-server model.  We were not part of the Internet “revolution.”   

I saw that the software
industry was at the beginning of a big movement from a client-server model to
the Internet and I began to develop a strategy to leverage this new Internet
infrastructure, essentially a low-cost public network, available to everyone.

We first looked at a
workflow tool we were already developing to process small business loans.  We decided to build the application
centrally to run on our servers and let our customers access it via the
Internet.  The idea was not
revolutionary, just a natural evolution. 
Our banking customers were already used to outsourcing all their
software and accessing it via private communication lines.

Over the next couple of
years, many companies executed along similar lines and a new name appeared,
Application Service Provider (ASP). 
Salesforce.com proved the validity of the model on a grand scale.  Today, thousands of companies deliver
what has become known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).  Many companies that have adapted to SaaS
enjoy a strong competitive and financial advantage over their competitors.

At the time, it became very
clear to me that the software business as we knew it was going to change.  Ultimately, software would be delivered
via the Web.  We had a thousand customers
using our Windows software with tens of thousands of users.  The databases were very large and
entrenched.  The process of
delivering new versions included sending physical media to customers who had to
install, test, run conversions, and retrain users.  It was very inefficient.

By running software on our
servers, we could manage the updates and conversions and keep our customers
up-to-date, at a fraction of the overall cost.  The lowered total cost of ownership, along with improved
user satisfaction and productivity, changed the nature of how we delivered

Just as the SaaS model
became clear in 2001, today, in 2010, it is clear that the way companies deploy
IT infrastructure will change dramatically over the next 10 years.  Hardware is following the same route as
software.  There are “clouds” on
the horizon. And that’s what I want to talk about in my next two blogs. In my
second blog post coming shortly, I’ll look at Infrastructure-as-a-Service
(IaaS). Stay tuned.


Mark E.
Hill is Chairman of BlueLock’s Board and Managing Partner of Collina Ventures.
Mark co-founded Baker Hill® in 1983. Focusing on the banking industry, the
company built software solutions focused on small business lending. In 2005,
the company was acquired by Experian® (EXPN.L), a global information company. In
addition to his roles with BlueLock and Collina Ventures, Mark serves on the
board of numerous companies, including Interactive Intelligence, (Nasdaq:ININ), 
Cantaloupe TV (www.cantaloupe.tv), and
T2 Systems (www.T2Systems.com).



Operating System Independence in the Cloud

Datacenters today are hodgepodges of architectural,
technology, vendor, and management decisions made incrementally over time. At
the bottom of these series of decisions is the operating system. There are
quite possibly scores of versions of operating systems in any large computing
environment. As organizations look to public clouds for pilot projects in test
and development and other popular use cases, it’s important to avoid becoming a
hostage to limited choices in operating system support.


At VMware, it’s no accident that we paired
virtualization with vCloud Express. We believe that virtualization is a crucial
enabler for cloud computing. With our vCloud Express service provider partners,
such as Terremark, we’re able to offer public cloud users a much broader choice
of operating system support than other public cloud providers.


If your business application is certified on a
specific version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) running behind your
organization’s firewall, you’ll want the flexibility to run it “as is” in a
public cloud testing environment. And if you’re a developer, you’re probably
writing code for applications running on specific versions of an operating
system that may include BSD, Solaris, Netware, OS2 and others not supported in
most public clouds. Linux developers in particular want the flexibility to
build to their specific flavor of Linux. The Linux kernel is compiled into
their applications. To do specific things, the applications need to run on a
specific version of RHEL, for example. They can’t rewrite a portion of the
application and suddenly find their operating system no longer supports the
correct version of glibc.


vCloud Express was designed to maximize developer
flexibility. For example, through our service provider partner Terremark you can
build out your environment with a number of leading operating system deployment
options. vCloud Express lets you leverage one of many preconfigured deployment
templates for Windows, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS and Ubuntu — or use the
blank server deployment system and install one of Terremark’s 450-plus
operating systems/versions that are compatible with the VMware hypervisor. The goal
is to provide you with easy-to-use templates that are current with the latest
releases of the most popular operating systems.


The other popular cloud choice, of course, is Amazon
EC2. It provides you with some preconfigured operating system templates, but
you have to leverage their partners and customers to build and customize Amazon
Machine Images (AMIs) to expand your choices. In addition, there are only a few
pre-built templates for the most current versions of many popular operating


So why wait for your public cloud provider to offer
support for your operating systems? With vCloud Express, you can bring your own
operating system, build an application, and just run it.


To keep up with all of the latest vCloud Express news,
follow us on Twitter at @vCloud or become a fan of our 


A Quick Comparison of VMware vCloud and Amazon EC2 APIs

Amazon EC2 pioneered the cloud computing IaaS layer today. VMware vCloud Express recently entered the market. Many developers naturally are interested in how the two offerings compare – and differ – at the API level.

In this blog, I’ll compare the two APIs to help developers make better decisions about which API best meets your needs. This is not intended to be a full comparison but a high level summary. For details, you should check out their API specifications(VMware vCloud API, Amazon EC2 API).

What’s Common?

These two APIs are both designed to help developers manage IaaS cloud infrastructure. To many users, the two APIs are very similar. Viewed from the highest level, each can be used to:

  • Program with REST interfaces
  • Create new virtual machines
  • Manage the lifecycles of the virtual machines
  •  Manage networking, etc.
  • Manage virtual machine templates (a.k.a AMI in EC2)
  • List the inventories and template catalog

What’s Different?

When we come down to the ground level, there are many differences. Let’s go over the major differences here:

  1. Target Audiences. EC2 is designed for single accounts and vCloud Express is designed for enterprises, SMBs and single user accounts. This is important because it affects the API design decisions.
  2. Concept Model. With #1 in mind, you will find vCloud APIs include a set of APIs to manage the inventory structures and users, which you don’t need in EC2. vCloud APIs consist of two set of APIs: user level APIs, similar to EC2; and an administration API.
  3. VM Group. EC2 can manage only one VM; vCloud can manage a group of VMs called vApp as a solution. When you have one VM in the vApp, they are the same.
  4. Flexibility. EC2 predefines seven types (changing over the time) of configurations with memory, storage, IO capabilities combined; vCloud relies on the OVF open standard and you can have as many configurations as you want.
  5. Persistence. EC2 instances don’t persist after powering off. You have to use either S3 or EBS to persist your data. vCloud vApps persist despite the power state change.
  6. Openness. EC2 is a proprietary API while vCloud has been submitted to DMTF with other industry leaders.

There are some implicit differences. For example, Amazon EC2 manages XEN-based infrastructures and vCloud manages vSphere based ones. Because this detail is more about implementation than interfaces, we don’t list it above. Things can change as well. Amazon may choose to implement the open vCloud API on XEN someday. Who knows?

If you want to get more information on the progress of the vCloud API, check out the VMware vCloud Community, and follow us on Twitter @vCloud or become a fan of our Facebook Page.

Why Put Software Testing and Development in the Cloud?

When we’re on the customer
trail discussing vCloud solutions and architectures, the cloud computing
phenomena often presents itself as a series of executive briefing anecdotes.
 One of our favorites is a senior IT leader at a major bank who through an
audit discovered more than 5,000 virtual machines being consumed through public
cloud services – despite hosting more than 50,000 servers behind the corporate


How can an organization
with such large-scale capacity not be fulfilling the needs of its internal
customers and developers? Why is cloud computing now accounting for 10 percent
of the company's server consumption? Simple differences in consumption and costing
models, spread across a large organization, can add up.


Software development and
testing is a great example. Servers and infrastructure resources are often
allocated like raises – once you get them they are rarely taken away – and so
like raises they tend to have an approval process with a tension between need
and cost.


Application development,
however, can be iterative, experimental and demanding. Often developing a
complex Java application can require far more resources than operating it. The
development environment requires a full instantiation of the application, but
adds additional resources to put the application under a demand load. Cloud-based
test leader Soasta has already begun to capitalize on this need – but not every
application is suitable to its web application focused solution.


But taking a step back the
familiar refrain of "It spends 75% of its budget just keeping the past
running" is important. If the way to get ahead in corporate IT is keeping
the lights on (availability) that means the application development can fall
slightly lower on the resource provisioning priority list – despite having a
greater demand on server resources compared to full running production applications.
The cloud consumption model – pay as you go, immediate provisioning, able to
create a large performance-testing farm – is powerfully aligned with the
workflow of application development.

But cloud is going even further than being just a consumption model. As server request and configuration makes its way even closer to the developer's toolkit with projects such as jCloud and libloud, developers can now automate even more of their testing environments. This combination of new methods of code level automation, mixed with a flexible consumption model, is part of what makes the cloud the most compelling early home for new software projects.


If you want to get more information on the progress
of the vCloud API, check out http://communities.vmware.com/community/developer/forums/vcloudapi,
follow us on Twitter at @vCloud or become a fan of our Facebook Page at http://www.facebook.com/#/pages/VMware-vCloud/203532122896?ref=ts