Monday, November 9, 2009

Virtualization is not Cloud

After spending the early part of last week at the Cloud Computing Expo, which is now co-located with the Virtualization Conference and Expo, I feel compelled to proclaim that virtualization is not cloud. Nor does virtualization qualify for the moniker of IaaS. If virtualization was cloud/IaaS, there would not be so much industry hubbub surrounding Amazon's EC2 offering. Nor would Amazon be able to grow the EC2 service so quickly because the market would be full of competitors offering the same thing. Cloud/IaaS goes beyond virtualization by providing extra services for dynamically allocating infrastructure resources to match the peaks and valleys of application demand.

Virtualization is certainly a valuable first step in the move to cloud/IaaS, but it only provides a static re-configuration of workloads to consume fewer host resources. After going P2V, you have basically re-mapped your static physical configuration onto a virtualization layer – isolating applications inside VMs for stability while stacking multiple VMs on a single machine for higher utilization. Instead of physical machines idling away on the network, you now have virtual machines idling away, but on fewer hosts.

To transform virtual infrastructure to IaaS, you need, at a minimum, the following:

Self Service API – if an application owner needs to call a system owner to gain access to infrastructure resources, you do not have a cloud. Upon presentation of qualified, valid credentials, the infrastructure should give up the resources to the user.

Resource Metering and Accountability – if the infrastructure cannot measure the resources consumed by a set of application services belonging to a particular user, and if it cannot hold that user accountable for some form of payment (whether currency exchange or internal charge-back), you do not have a cloud. When users are charged based upon the value consumed, they will behave in a manner that more closely aligns consumption with actual demand. They will only be wasteful when wasting system resources is the only way to avoid wasting time, which leads us to our next cloud attribute:

Application Image Management – if there is no mechanism for developing and configuring the application offline and then uploading a ready-to-run image onto the infrastructure at the moment demand arises, you do not have a IaaS cloud. Loading a standard OS template that does not reflect the configuration of the application and the OS combination used for testing and development prevents rapid application scaling because configuration can cost the owner hours/weeks/days/months of runtime cycles. Too much latency associated with setup results in over-allocation of resources in order to be responsive to demand (i.e. no one takes down running images even with slack demand because getting the capacity back is too slow). See my post on Single Minute Exchange of Applications.

Network Policy Enforcement – if an application owner cannot allow or deny network access to their virtual machine images without involving a network administrator or being constrained to a particular subset of infrastructure systems, you do not have a cloud. This requirement is related to the Self Service API and it also speaks to the requirement for low latency in application setup in order to be dynamic in meeting application demand fluctuations. True clouds provide unrestricted multi-tenancy (and therefore higher utilization) without compromising compliance policies that mandate network isolation for certain types of workloads

There maybe other requirements that I have missed, but in my mind, this is the minimum set. Any lesser implementation leads to the poor outcomes that are currently the bane of IT existence – VM Sprawl and Rogue Cloud Deployments.

VM sprawl results from lack of accountability for resource consumption (or over-consumption), and it also results from inefficient setup and configuration capabilities. If I don't have to pay for over-consumption, or if I cannot respond quickly to demand, I am not going to bother with giving back resources for others to use.

Rogue cloud deployments, unsanctioned by IT, to Amazon or other service providers result from lack of self service or high latency in requests for network or system resource configuration. Getting infrastructure administrators involved in every resource transaction discourages the type of dynamic changes that should occur based upon the fluctuations in application demand. People give up on the internal process because Amazon has figured it out.

True clouds go beyond virtualization by providing the necessary services to transform static virtual infrastructure to dynamic cloud capacity. These extra services eliminate the friction and latency between the demand signal and the supply response. The result is a much more efficient market for matching application demand with infrastructure supply.

13 comments:

  1. Excellent post Billy. I have stressed this exact point many times to many different audiences. As the platform matures, I am sure that more individuals will truly understand what cloud is. When they grasp the possibilities behind orchestration within the cloud, then I think we will really see some innovative things.

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  2. See Virtualization And Cloud Computing are two different things. Virtualization is software that separates physical infrastructures to create various dedicated resources. It is the fundamental technology that powers cloud computing. It makes it possible to run multiple operating systems and multiple applications on the same server at the same time. It enables businesses to reduce IT costs while increasing the efficiency, utilization and flexibility of their existing computer hardware. Get the RHCVA certification for system administrators whose responsibilities require them to have the skill and knowledge to deploy & manage virtual hosts in production environments using Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization.

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