Category Archives: IASA

Do You Need to Develop for the Cloud?

And other notes from last week’s IASA NE cloud computing roundtable (more about the meeting format later – also note the Web site currently does not have up to date information – we are volunteers after all ;-).

We had good attendance – I counted 26 during the session, including folks from Pegasystems, Microsoft, Lattix, Kronos, SAP, The Hartford, Juniper, Tufts, Citizens Bank, Reliable Software, Waters, and Progress Software,  among others (I am sure I missed some), providing an interesting cross-section of views.

The major points were that no one is really thinking about the cloud as a place for accessing hosted functionality, and everyone is wondering whether or not they should be thinking about developing applications specifically for the cloud.

We touched on the landscape of various cloud computing offerings, highlighting the differences among Google, SalesForce.com, Microsoft, and Amazon.com.  Cloud vendors often seem to have started with trying to sell what they already had – Google has developed an extensive (and proprietary) infrastructure for highly available and scalable computing that they offer as Google App Engine (the idea is that someone developing their own Web app can plug into the Google infrastructure and achieve immediate “web scale”).

And Salesforce.com had developed a complex database and functionality infrastructure for supporting multiple tenants for their hosted application, including their own Java-like language, which they offer to potential cloud customers as Force.com.

Microsoft’s Azure offering seems to be aiming for a sort of middle ground – MSDN for years has operated a Web site of comparable size and complexity to any of the others, but Microsoft also supplies one of the industry’s leading application development environments (the .NET Framework). The goal of Azure is to supply the services you need to develop applications that run in the cloud.

However, the people in the room seemed most interested in the idea of being able to set up internal and external clouds of generic compute capacity (like Amazon EC2) that could be related, perhaps using virtual machines, and having the “elasticity” to add and remove capacity as needed. This seemed to be the most attractive aspect of the various approaches to cloud computing out there. VMware was mentioned a few times since some of the attendees were already using VMware for internal provisioning and could easily imagine an “elastic” scenario if VMware were also available in the cloud in a way that would allow application provisioning to be seamless across internal and external hosts.

This brought the discussion back to the programming model, as in what would you have to do (if anything) to your applications to enable this kind of elasticity in depoyment?

Cloud sites offering various bits of  “functionality” typically also offer a specific programming model for that functionality (again Google App Engine and Force.com are examples, as is Microsoft’s Azure). The Microsoft folks in the room said that a future version of Azure would include the entire SQL Server, to help support the goal of reusing existing applications (which a lot of customers apparently have been asking about).

The fact that cloud computing services may constrain what an application can do, raises the question of whether we should be thinking about developing applications specifically for the cloud.

The controversy about cloud computing standards was noted, but we did not spend much time on it. The common wisdom comments were made about being too early for standards, and about the various proposals lacking major vendor backing, and we moved on.

We did spend some time talking about security, and service level agreements, and it was suggested that certain types of applications might be better suited to deployment in the cloud than others, especially as these issues get sorted out. For example, company phonebook applications don’t typically have the same availability and security requirements that a stock trading or medical records processing application might have.

Certification would be another significant sign of cloud computing maturity, meaning certification for certain of the service level agreements companies look for in  transactional applications.

And who does the data in the cloud belong to? What if the cloud is physically hosted in a different country?  Legal issues may dictate data belonging to citizens of a given country be physically stored within the geographical boundary of that country.

And what about proximity of data to its processing? Jim Gray‘s research was cited to say that it’s always cheaper to compute where the data is than to move the data around in order to process it.

Speaking of sending data around, however, what’s the real difference between moving data between the cloud and a local data center, and moving data between a company’s remote data center?

And finally, this meeting was my first experience with a fishbowl style session. We used four chairs, and it seemed to work well. This is also sometimes called the “anti-meeting” style of meeting, and seems a little like a “user-generated content” style of meeting.  No formal PPT.  At the end everyone said they had learned a lot and enjoyed the discussion. So apparently it worked!

Stay tuned for news of our next IASA NE meeting.

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IASA NE Roundtable June 23 on Cloud Computing

I just wanted to pass along the notice for the June 23 meeting of the IASA NE Chapter, which will be a roundtable on “cloud computing” hosted by Microsoft but chaired by Michael Stiefel of Reliable Software.

Details and registration

(No, you do not need to be a member of IASA although of course we encourage that. Basic membership is free, and full membership is only $35. )

What should be interesting this time is that everyone seems to be doing something slightly different around cloud computing, whether it’s Amazon, Microsoft, Google, VMware, SalesForce, etc. Cloud computing is definitely an exciting new area, but like many other new and exciting areas it is subject to considerable hype and exaggeration. Good questions include:

  • What exactly can you do in the cloud?
  • What are the restrictions, if any, on the kind of programs and data you can put “in the cloud”?
  • Can you set up a private cloud if you want to?

I think the trend toward cloud computing is closely related to the trend toward commodity data centers, since you kind of need one of those to offer a cloud service in the first place. Like the ones James Hamilton describes in this powerpoint presentation, which I heard him present at HPTS 2007.  (Looks like James has left Microsoft and joined Amazon BTW.)

I would expect a lot of heated discussion from the folks who usually attend the IASA meetings. Attendance has been steadily increasing since we founded the local chapter about a year ago, so I would hope for and expect a very lively discussion.

As usual, the event includes networking time and food & drinks (not usually beer though – have to work on that I guess 😉

Please be sure to register in advance so Microsoft knows how much food to buy.

Thanks & hope to see you there!

Eric

IASA NE gaining momentum – April meeting set for 23rd

After nearly a year, it is starting to look like IASA New England is starting to gain some momentum. For those of you in the area, please register here for the next meeting (April 23), at which we’ll be hearing about  Intuit’s Saas/cloud initiative from their QuickBase architect, Jim Salem.

Personally, I’m looking forward to hearing the details of their active-active load balancing…

I was sorry to have to miss the March meeting due to attending EclipseCon / OSGi DevCon, but I heard it went very well and that Hub did a great job.

At the meeting we also announced that Intuit and IBM were joining in and sponsoring the April and May meetings, respectively.  This is excellent news for the NE architect community since it means we’ll have more support and access to additional excellent speakers for the meetings.

We also announced a panel discussion on cloud computing for June, a social event for July, and a regional event for this fall.  Things are really starting to fall into place!

I’m happy about this since it will be great to have an active community of software architects in the NE area. I personally always learn something new at the meetings and have a great time discussing topics with the other members.  Hope to see you on the 23rd!

IASA Meeting this week in Boston

It’s a bit late notice, but Wednesday, January 21 is the next IASA New England meeting in Boston, and the speaker is Roger Sessions. Registration is free.

This is a great free event. I’m Secretary of this new chapter, and our goal is to build up a community of architects in the Boston area. We will continue to have monthly meetings in the Boston area, and hopefully continue to invite good speakers and continue to sponsor discussions on topics of interest. If you’d like to join the Facebook group, please do!

Hope to see you Wednesday evening!