Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Linuxcon 2011 Part II

I went to a lot of cloud computing-related talks at Linuxcon 2011. One of the better ones was by Mark Hinkle of cloud.com.

One of his slides showed what he considers the five characteristics of cloud computing. Two important ones for him are self service, and a measured service. I think those are two useful criteria for distinguishing between a VMware cluster and a cloud that is distinct from a VMware cluster.

It was clear listening to all the talks, including Mark's, is the role of open source in the large clouds. Basically, anyone big is building their service on the open source cloud stacks. Of course, there are a number of open source cloud stacks. One of the challenges is to pick which one to use.

Fortunately, there are serious supporters behind the three main stacks. Eucalyptus has a company called Eucalyptus Systems backing it now, headed up by Marten Mikos of MySQL fame. Cloudstack has cloud.com which is part of Citrix. And the OpenStack project is backed by Rackspace and NASA.

One factor that seems to be important is the hypervisors supported by the cloud stack. OpenStack supports the most right now.

Something that struck me listening to the talks is that the cloud, like so much in IT, isn't a slam dunk solution by itself. You need to know what problem you want to solve, and then figure out how to use the cloud to solve it, if indeed the cloud is a solution to your problem.

Related to that insight, it's clear that unless you solve the problem of monitoring your infrastructure with Zenoss or Nagios, and of provisioning it with Puppet or the like, then you're not going to see much benefit from the cloud.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Linux 2011 Part I

Linux is 20 years old this year, and Linuxcon was in Vancouver, so I had to sign up. The conference ended yesterday. There were a lot of good speakers. As a bonus, we also got to hear some poor guy from HP give a keynote about HP's great WebOS play, at almost exactly the same time as his company was killing the product line.

What I was looking for, frankly, was a business opportunity for a small consultant/system integrator like Jade Systems to use Linux to help businesses with 1,000 servers, give or take a zero at the end. The most obvious opportunity I came away with is storage.

I've written before about the cost of enterprise storage. There are tremendous opportunities with hardware solutions like Backblaze's storage bricks, and the software that will make it all work is Gluster. Install Gluster on a couple of boxes with storage, and you have synchronous replication (locally) or asynchronous replication (over the WAN). It provides what you need to store your virtual machines and move them around your data centre as load or availability needs dictate. It can be your large, reliable, network attached storage device for all your spreadsheets and documents.

Gluster grew out of the needs of a supercomputing project at Lawrence Livermore Labs in 2004 and have an impressive list of users today. They're working to integrate with the OpenStack cloud computing stack to provide a complete cloud storage solution for OpenStack.

This is certainly a solution that could support a business case.