Friday, January 23, 2009

Cloud Connect Conference - Tuesday

I just got back from the Cloud Connect Conference at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. The conference was partly an unconference that was sponsored by Google, Amazon, Salesforce and others. David Berlind ran an energetic show that was product and technology focused and very hands-on.

The first session on Tuesday evening brought three short customer "elevator pitch" presentations from Peter Coffee of, Adam Selipsky of Amazon Web Services and Rajen Sheth of Google to a group of four IT executives: Tim Crawford from Stanford University, Carolyn Lawson of California PUC, Ronald Smith of Cadence Design Systems and Robert Loolley of Utah Technical Services.

The three vendors pitched different cloud computing products but there was a fair amount of overlap in many of their messages: "The benefits of cloud computing are clear, so why delay?"
  • Adam presented the AWS platform-as-service offerings that he equated to the development of the electric power grid in the US. "We make electricity so you don't have to." I have a little experience with EC2 and S3 and would recommend. I've been running a web server on it for some months and a 5-node Hadoop cloud more recently.
  • Rajen presented their which consist of a collection of client-side JavaScript libraries that work in concert with server-side Python services. I don't do either language very well but got some hands-on experience later in the program. This would appeal to developers building calendar, map, search and earth related web applications.
  • Peter talked about desktops burdened with too much state and IT departments benefitting from improved productivity, scalability and governance provided by the platform. It consists of a set of developer tools and web services that open up the innards of the CRM to facilitate integration of custom business applications. It is written in a Java dialect with SQL integration that really makes it easy to construct new applications.
The four potential customers asked a number of questions on the following that were fielded by the presenters:
  • Interactive Applications - Lag is a big impediment to hosting truly interactive applications remotely in the cloud
  • Migration into the Cloud - Custom applications often must be rewritten to move into cloud deployment. Email and public website hosting were offered as no-brainer cloud services already in full production. Customers can leverage the innovation scale of cloud providers to gain business advantage.
  • Migration between Cloud vendors - Vendor lock-in is an issue since some of the platforms rely upon proprietary languages and all proprietary software frameworks discourage migration. Open source and standards were offered as mitigating lock-in but premature standards only help the established early providers.
  • Security - A general uneasiness with allowing private data to be hosted in the cloud was expressed. Vendors responded that their large investments in state of the art security lended economies of scale in the quest for data security.
  • Privacy - Once private data is cloud hosted it needs strict access controls to ensure its integrity. Vendors pointed out that lots of corporate data is lost every year to laptop theft and loss of USB keys and that the cloud offers better governance.
  • Legal Uncertainties - The cloud is so new that many legal issues about data ownership and rights to disclosure are untested in the courts.


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