Cloud: Dark Side, Good Side

I found some good food for thoughts in Dave Durkee’s article “Why Cloud Computing will never be free” in the May issue of Communications of the ACM (did I ever say how much I enjoy reading CACM, lately?)

Competitive price pressures threaten to down spiral Cloud service quality. Those consumers who nickel and dime the commodity goods served by the Cloud (e.g., computing cores or gigabytes of storage) will get a taste of their own medicine, as Cloud providers nickel and dime them back just the same or more.  The supply-side “shop of horrors” that Durkee documents for Cloud is a scary one:

  • Murky pricing models or time commitments
  • Grossly oversubscribed resources
  • Silent traffic engineering downgrades (e.g., from 10Mbit/s down to 1Mbit/s)
  • Recycling of failed disk drives
  • Unattainable service uptimes (say  4 or 5 nines) with clement penalty clauses (say 10% discount) whose only purpose is to give the provider the bragging rights on those many nines
  • Undefined performance auditing benchmarks
  • SLA miss refunds that stretch out a customer’s time commitment (e.g., annualized refunds only)

These syndromes down-spiral the Cloud and set it further away from an enterprise’s needs.

Service level management (SLM) is the key to revert the direction and pull up the Cloud to enterprise-class service. Enterprises will want translate their business imperatives into service level objectives (SLOs), use them in the SLA negotiation with the Cloud provider, then monitor hits and misses. But SLM is no small feat. At either end of the service demarc line, there has to be complex logic to manage those SLOs and apply proper compensating actions upon exception. It’s no surprise that the crown jewels of companies like FedEx or Santa Fe Railway are the SLM logic that maximizes shareholder value out of the least amount of commodity resources (Fred Smith didn’t invent new airports nor airplanes).

These aspects didn’t go unnoticed to the Utility Computing camp (UC being the fad just before Cloud). They standardized a protocol, WS-Agreement, to manage a SLA throughout its lifecycle. May some of that experience be leveraged in the new world.

Sent from my iPad

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