Monday, March 29, 2010

It's Time We All Understood About The Resource Cloud

In my last post we looked at how Cloudomania was widening its global footprint in 2010, widening its lead on Virtualization as the technology du jour.

My brief post ended:

As you can see, the rise and rise of Cloud Computing, for all that it stumbled at the end of last year, has in 2010 resumed its giddy trajectory. The next question, naturally, is: why?

Anyone who looks at the technology landscape for a living as I am privileged to do knows that the following is true: Every new technology wave is
  • Like all other technology waves
  • Like some other technology waves
  • Like no other technology wave

Let me show just how true this is of Cloud Computing.

Cloud Computing is Like All Other Technology Waves
The genesis of the actual term "cloud computing" is slightly fuzzy, just like the genesis of "Java" OR "SOA" OR "blogging" - somehow one difference between Internet technologies and, say, pharmaceuticals is that there's always a collectiveness about Internet innovation, even down to the naming process.

Cloud Computing is Like Some Other Technology Waves

Cloud Computing has achieved massive press attention just like "Web 2.0" and it has experienced rapid and mushrooming adoption just like Java.

Cloud Computing is Like No Other Technology Wave

This is where is starts to get really interesting. Since the inception of the Internet in 1973 (or ARPANET as it was then still called), there has never been a technology approach that had everything going for it all at once: the right name, the right technology, and the right timing.

The right timing part is easy to see: what better time, in the past 37 years, for an Internet-based technology capable of driving down CapEx, than in the immediate aftermath of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression? What better time for an approach requiring storage at commodity rates, what better time for an approach requiring widespread broadband connections, what better time for a technology approach that disrupts the enterprise IT 'priesthood' and puts IT squarely back in the possession of the business? It is truly the Perfect Storm.

Cloud Computing is demonstrably the right technology because everyone who has pioneered it has become astonishingly successful:
  • Think, which since 1999 has attracted 55,400 customers and over 1,500,000 subscribers, acting as the pathfinder for the business success of highly scalable applications delivered over the Internet.
  • Think Amazon, which in 2006 kick-started the popularization of the whole idea when it introduced first its Simple Storage Service (S3), offering storage for the Internet, and then its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) - a companion product to S3 designed to provide "resizable compute capacity in the cloud."
  • Think Google, which introduced Google Apps For Your Domain - also in '06 - and which hasn't stopped innovating in the cloud since.

As for the right name, what more need be said than that Cloud Computing has caught on in a way that "Grid Computing" or "Utility Computing" or "Elastic Computing" never did?

As a metaphor is sums up perfectly the spirit of compute capacity that can be set up and torn down programatically, leaving someone else to take care of the networking and hardware.

However there's no doubt that "Cloud fatigue" is in danger of setting in as almost every existing suite of software becomes not re-engineered but merely re-branded, and give the magic C-word. Which is why my own preference is now to move to a slightly more nuanced metaphor, that of the "Resource Cloud."

Pioneered by Abiquo, whose CEO Pete Malcolm is an undisputed technology thought leader, the concept of Resource Cloud nicely encapsulates the complete separation of the physical infrastructure that provides the computing resources from the enterprises which consume them in the form of compute power, storage, or whatever other service they might choose.

This notion of a "Resource Cloud" in which providers of resources and consumers who use compute power are matched up is very powerful precisely because it is very simple. And because it injects a crucial missing ingredient into the "Cloud" metaphor: meaning.

Not everyone will immediately grasp that the providers and the enterprises who are being matched up in the Resource Cloud will need some kind of policy-driven workload management to interconnect the two; but that doesn't matter, because for me what the term "Resource Cloud" does is to immediately explain itself in a way that "The Cloud" or "Cloud Computing" doesn't.

It's time we all understood about the Resource Cloud. In my opinion, 2010 is the year in which we will.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cloudomania Widens Its Worldwide Footprint in 2010

Someone once asked Ernest Hemingway if it was difficult to write. He replied "Not at all, you just sit at the typewriter and bleed!"

Hemingway must be turning these days in his grave, because if Cloud Computing has done anything it has shown once and for all that technology commentators, far from wrestling - as Hemingway did daily - with writer's block, are suffering from just the opposite: too much is being written, and too often, by too many for anyone to be able to make use of it. The world has gotten Cloudomania!

Lest you think I am exaggerating, consider the following: back in 2006 a search on "Cloud Computing" would have yielded, in Google, not a whole lot. Back then the talk of the technology world was Virtualization, not Cloud. But just look what has happened since then:

[Click here for larger version]

As you can see, the rise and rise of Cloud Computing, for all that it stumbled at the end of last year, has in 2010 resumed its giddy trajectory.

The next question, naturally, is: why?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tim Bray Now Works for Google

Tim Bray declined Oracle's offer, in the wake of the Oracle-Sun acquisition, to remain an employee in the newly merged Sunacle/Orasun. And has joined instead what he calls the "No-Evil Zone," a.k.a. Google.

As he succinctly expresses it, on his blog dated Monday March 15th, published on his first day at work for Google: "The title is 'Developer Advocate'. The focus is Android. Fun is expected."

But there's also quite a detailed account of the prior background to this move...

The main showstopper to Bray's having moved to Google any sooner, apparently, was his reluctance to leave his native Canada for the Bay Area. Once it emerged that remaining in Vancouver was an option, that was the tipping point.

Another tipping point was apparently the nature of his interaction with his former new masters, Oracle, once Oracle had officially become the owners and operators of Sun:
"I’d had an offer to stay with Oracle which I decided to decline; I’ll maybe tell the story when I can think about it without getting that weird spiking-blood-pressure sensation in my eyeballs."

"The reason I’m here is mostly Android," he explains, adding that so far as he is concerned Android is "about as unambiguously a good thing as the tangled wrinkly human texture of the Net can sustain just now."

Google are getting one of the finest developer-thinkers anywhere in the World Wide Web - and incidentally one of the best writers anywhere on the Web too: not too many others would or could ever have coined a phrase like "the tangled wrinkly human texture of the Net" - marvelous stuff.

Google, cherish and enjoy Tim Bray, and give him leave to do his utmost. Tim, help make Google even Googlier!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Who Anticipated New Media's Coming Importance First? (Only Trail-Blazers Need Apply)

It is often said that becoming an entrepreneur is the modern-day equivalent of choosing to be a pioneer on the old frontier. Only people with certain strength of fiber decide to found companies. They tend to be forward thinkers by nature, natural born pathfinders.

But in age that loves metrics, how do you measure the extent to which the true trail-blazer is ahead of the pack? How prescient does a go-getter's prescience need to be to qualify for the label of business 'visionary'?

Well let us take the current new-media movement as one example. The precursor to that, undeniably, was the rapid popularization of Internet itself - without which New Media would not ever have been possible.

So who in the international marketplace of ideas were the true first movers, the ones who grasped, even in its early days, what the Internet was destined one day to become from a media perspective?

One candidate comes immediately to mind, and it is Alan Meckler*.

Why Meckler? Well, talking of metrics and empirical evidence of prescience, how about merely the fact that Alan Meckler obtained the domain name already on May 7, 1997? Is there any clearer evidence of industry prescience than that?

Of course nowadays there are some 192 million domain names registered around the world. Or at least that was the figure at the end of 2009. By now we might be able to add a further few hundred thousand to that figure, and before too long the number of domain names is clearly going to surpass the 200 million mark. So it is easy maybe to think just "Big deal. So what?"

But the early history of domain names shows us that snagging was the work of a master.

Things were already, after all, moving pretty rapidly in those years. By May 4, 1998, Network Solutions - at that time the sole domain name registry - had already registered its 2 millionth domain.

By August 2009, Meckler was able to sell for an aggregate purchase price of $18 million in cash to QuinStreet, Inc. (QuinStreet also bought that year for $16 million - with the purchase involving the transfer not just of the name but also of the established Web-based business associated with it.)

The important thing to note here is that Meckler actually took the $18M to the bank. Those would-be millionaires who are hanging on greedily to domains like, or have not been so lucky. Their mistake? They should, like Meckler, have used the domain name they seek to dispose of, and thereby demonstrated its worth to whoever might seek to own it.

For example, which was purchased for $7.5 million in 1999 by Jake Winebaum, a previous chairman of the Walt Disney Internet Group, and Sky Dayton, founder of Earthlink, and used as the domain name of the business search engine and web directory they built up, was sold to Yellow Pages publisher RH Donnelly for a cool $345 million in July 2007. For that Donnelly got the company as well as the domain name, of course. But even so, there's a moral there somewhere.

[*Anyone interested in reading an interview I did with Alen Meckler in 2006 can read it here.]

If you think you can do better, in terms of pinpointing the early sages of New Media, do please let me know. In particular if there are folks who you feel anticipated things way earlier than Meckler, again just please holler. "None of us is smarter than all of us," right?