After nearly a year I’ve decided to leave Zaizi and move onto other things. I’ve had a really interesting time working there and heading up the Alfresco practice. There have been some fun projects and also some great technical challenges. I’m going to be moving away from Alfresco and focusing on some other technologies.
I’d like to thank Ainga and the team for all the fun times we’ve had and also wish Zaizi all the best going forward.
From the beginning of June I’ll be doing a multitude of things. I’m currently involved in a couple of early stage startups that I’ll no doubt talk about in more detail over the coming months. My other plan is to do consulting and contracting — I need something to pay the bills. Drop me a line if you would like to discuss any opportunities.
At the recent London Cloud Camp I started thinking about the less obvious downsides to Cloud Computing and a move to a more centralised computing platform. The benefits to this approach are obvious: economies of scale, reduced capital outlay and lower barrier to entry.
What about the downsides? One of the arguments from IT departments is the explicit risk measurement that can be achieved through the outsourcing of infrastructure to the cloud. Instead of the systems team having to write risk management plans and defining how likely downtime is and how much it would cost the cloud provider offers an explicit guarantee in the form of an SLA. The management of that risk is now in the hands of the cloud provider and the company just needs to pay them their fee. Surely this is a good thing? Well, yes, to a certain extent: relying on someone else to manage your risk isn’t always the best approach. Consider the current economic crisis caused by badly managed risk. Banks were caught out because they thought there was less risk involved in lending than the reality.
The other thing that exacerbated the credit crunch was the network effect. Banks in different countries had become so intertwined, everyone had lent and borrowed money from everyone else. When banks asked for their money back it caused a chain reaction of more banks asking for their money back from each other. A cloud computing world is more interconnected and reliant on one or two providers (theoretically, these providers should be more resilient because of multiple data centres) so if something goes wrong then the damage caused is more likely to be greater than a single company’s infrastructure being compromised.
These two effects (the network effect and the bundling up of risk) are important for the future of cloud computing. Cloud providers must offer transparency and detailed SLAs that mitigate the effect of unforseen events. Companies must also realise that going on the Cloud is by no means a Silver Bullet and must take into account all the risks involved (and realise that extreme and unforseen events are more likely to cause problems than when using their own infrastructure).
I attended the third London Cloud Camp last night at the QE II conference centre. I had a really good time and met some interesting people. One of the conversation topics was around Cloud Computing definitions: you can probably imagine the discussions over what is just the internet and what is the “cloud”. Someone mentioned Amazon Mechanical Turk the service which lets one outsource menial jobs via a Web Service API.
The history of Wolfgang von Kempelenâ€™s Mechanical Turk
This got me thinking, if you look at someone like George Reese’s definition of a Cloud Service Mechanical Turk meets all the criteria. I’d add scalable as another criteria that a service has to meet do be defined as in/on the cloud and Mechanical Turk does this.
Why does this matter? What people seem to miss when tryingÂ to define Cloud Computing is that it doesn’t matter how the service is implemented! And that is the whole point of the paradigm. For all we know Amazon EC2 could be run by a team of monkeys typing on keyboards or using abacuses. The beauty of Cloud Services is we don’t need to know how they are implemented, just how we interact with them.
When you’re trying to explain Cloud Computing just remember Amazon Mechanical Turk!