have now turned these precursors into
the commercial practice of cloud computing.
TucKeR: A handful of companies,
such as Amazon, Google, and Yahoo,
demonstrated the advantage of very,
very large scale by building specialized
architectures just to support a single
application. We have started to see the
rest of the world react and say, “Why
can’t we do that?”
BADRos: While I agree that the emergence of the massive scale of these companies plays a critical part, I also think
that the development of client-side
technology such as HTML, CSS, AJAX,
and broadband connectivity is very important.
cReeGeR: What about virtualization?
It provides an encapsulation of application and operating system in a nice,
neat, clean ABI (application binary
interface). You could take this object
and put it on your own premises-based
hardware or execute it on whatever platform you choose. Virtualization makes
execution platforms generic by not
requiring the integration of all those
horrible loose ends between the application and the operating system every
time you want to move to a new machine. All that is required for a virtualized application/operating-system pair
to execute on a new platform is for that
platform to support the VM (virtual machine) runtime.
TucKeR: An important shift has been
to use basic HTTP, in the form of REST
(representational state transfer) APIs
( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repre-sentational_State_Transfer), as an eas-ier-to-use SOA framework. Everything
that made services hard before, such as
CORBA ( http://www.omg.org/getting-started/ corbafaq.htm) or IDL (http://
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interface_de-scription_language), went away when
we said, “Let’s do it all over HTTP.”
BouRne: Let’s be practical. What are
the economics of clouds? What’s the
CapEx (capital expenditure) and what
is the OpEx (operational expenditure)?
At the end of the year, did I spend more
VoGeLs: CapEx forces you to make
massive investments. In the past, you
had some measure of control over your
customers; these days your customers
have control over you. They know what
to choose and have perfect informa-
tion. So if you build products today as
an enterprise, but also as a young business, you have no idea whether you’re
going to be successful or not. The less
investment you have to make upfront,
oLsen: What inspired me about
the cloud was that I could start a company and not buy any servers, phones,
or software licenses. We were dedicated to using cloud services from day
one. We started our company relying
solely on services for email and the
Internet and went from there to putting our source control on as a service.
I wrote an article titled “Going Bedouin” where I expressed these views
in more detail (http://webworkerdaily.
BADRos: Clouds are clearly a huge win
to get started with a business or product
offering. At Google, we see internal people using the GAE (Google App Engine;
a means of deploying something very
quickly before they worry about scaling
it on our base infrastructure. People do
this because it is so much faster to get
going, even inside Google where you
have lots of infrastructure available.
Today’s developer has a decision to
make: after I am a success, am I going
to switch off of this initial platform?
That’s the trade-off. Once it’s obvious
that something like an Amazon S3 is
able to outperform the best that the vast
majority of companies can ever deploy,
then it’s obvious you should just work
entirely within the cloud. In this way you
never have to suffer the replacement
CapEx for the initial infrastructure.
VoGeLs: For many customers, using
our cloud products requires new expertise. You are no longer looking for
a typical system administrator. If you
have a large company, you’re looking
for someone with the specific expertise
to support 50,000 internal customers.
Using the cloud, you no longer have to
deal with things at the physical level.
You no longer need to have people running around the data center replacing
disks all day.
RAmLeTh: You can get your smart-est guys to work on what matters most
rather than having them work on mundane stuff. That’s a huge benefit.
cReeGeR: What about the people who
need to run a flat-load, basic accounts
receivable package? Once they get their
software and hardware in place and
get their operational process down,
it’s pretty straightforward and they can
amortize the capital expenditure over a
very long time period.
TucKeR: Every three years they’ve got
to upgrade the software and the hardware.
RAmLeTh: We spent $5 million last
year on an upgrade that did nothing for
our business processes or end users.
The software vendors told us that if we
did not upgrade, they would stop supporting us.
oLsen: I always wondered why we
think software is so different from anything else. If a restaurant was growing
its own food, slaughtering its own animals, generating its own power, collecting rainwater, and processing its own
sewage, we would all think they were idiots for not using ready-made services.
For a long time people built their own
stack from the ground up, or ran their
own servers because they could. Viewing the state of our industry, any student of economics will tell you that you
have to start layering.
VoGeLs: There are restaurants that
do not buy their own herbs; they grow
them on-site. They would argue that
it contributes to the quality of the end
product. They will never generate their
own electricity, however, because that
will not produce better food.
oLsen: Realistically, however, software is really extreme in terms of how
many people are doing undifferentiated tasks, on their own, at all kinds of
levels. Look at the auto industry: there
are many tiers of subcontractors, each
providing specialized services and
products. We just haven’t evolved to
that same level of efficiency.
RAmLeTh: We have dramatically reduced our data-center capital expenditures as a direct result of virtualization,
allowing us to reuse our capital many
more times than we ever could before.
Before we started our effort, the average
server utilization in our global server
park was 2.3%. Going to virtualization
has increased it to between 60% and
When we started, the core side of our
central data centers, not including peripheral things, ran 35,000 square feet.
Today, the equivalent of those 35,000
square feet is now operating in less
than 1,000 square feet. We are utilizing