|By Lori MacVittie||
|September 15, 2009 05:45 AM EDT||
Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. One of the topics surrounding cloud computing that continues to rear its ugly head is the problem of portability across clouds. Avoiding vendor lock-in has been problematic since the day the first line of proprietary code was written and cloud computing does nothing to address this. If anything, cloud makes this worse because one of its premises is that users (that’s you, IT staff) need not concern themselves with the underlying infrastructure. It’s a service, right, so you just use it and don’t worry about it.
Let’s assume for a moment that you can easily move applications from data center to cloud to cloud. Plenty of folks are working on that, but very few of them address the “rest of the story”: the metastructure.
Metastructure contains the metadata that describes the network, application network, and security infrastructure providing all those “don’t worry about” services cloud providers offer. Load balancing, firewalls, IPS, IDS, application acceleration, secure remote access. If you’ve spent time with your cloud provider tweaking those services – or configuring them yourself – then moving to a new cloud provider is not only a huge investment in time, it’s actually going to be painful because you’re essentially going to have to recreate every metastructure configuration again.
Yes, you’ve done this inside your own data center for years. Every forklift replacement or upgrade of infrastructure has come with its own load of baggage in the configuration arena. Switching out vendor equipment – especially core components – can be extremely painful, especially when configurations need to essentially be “translated” between them. But cloud makes this worse because technically speaking you don’t even have access to the existing configurations. You can’t see them, you can’t have them, and you can’t run them through whatever “upgrade” or “migration” script your new vendor offers to ease the process.
Are you depressed yet?
There’s been some talk of including metastructure data with the virtual machine, but the problem with this is that it almost always requires that the meta data be wrapped up using a proprietary API, such as is provided by VMware. That’s okay if you restrict yourself to only cloud providers that use the same virtualization technology, but not okay if you want to be able to make a move from one technology to another. It also assumes that the metadata is specific to the infrastructure, which is even more unlikely when moving between cloud providers.
HOW ABOUT A CLOUD-BASED CMDB (Configuration Management Database)?
There are several ongoing efforts to address this very scenario because it is so painful. Most of them would, if adopted, require vendors to implement support for a specific standard so that configurations can be managed and exchanged in that standard format. That makes sense, that’s how we’ve always handled translation of data between disparate systems that don’t speak the same language. In the application world we call the process of mapping one format to another “integration” and you can easily evoke a look of terror on a co-worker’s face just by saying the word within their range of hearing. Go ahead, try it. Just make sure they aren’t carrying anything heavy that can be easily thrown at you when you do.
CMDB (Configuration Management Database) technology is another method of addressing the problem of, well, managing configurations. These solutions store configuration of a wide variety of infrastructure solutions – from routers and switches to web and application servers to application delivery controllers. They do a great job of managing configuration and can even “push” configuration out to devices if so desired. But the configurations stored and managed in a CMDB are product-specific, not generic, so they can’t adequately today address the problem of portability.
You can probably see where this is going: a cross between CMDB and a nice, industry-wide standard would probably do the trick, wouldn’t it? And if it was public (in the sense that any application or service is public on the network – that is, accessible via the Internet to any cloud provider or customer site) then cloud providers and organizations alike could take advantage of that configuration management mechanism and use it to their advantage. Portability becomes possible rather than fantasy.
Cloud providers and organizations alike are likely to stop right there. Sharing configuration of infrastructure and core components is just asking for trouble. If ever such a cloud-based CMDB were compromised, well…let’s just say it would be A Very Bad Thing.
But what if the actual metadata, the configuration information, were stored either in the enterprise or the cloud provider (or both), and merely pushed and pulled via a public mechanism on-demand? Configuration isn’t changed all that often and if an organization is moving between clouds they certainly know when they’re doing it. If there was some mechanism through which metastructure could be published and to which infrastructure could subscribe then when changes were made or providers changed that metastructure data could be easily grabbed from the public cloud-CMDB system (cloud catalog, anyone?) and interpreted into product-specific configuration by the products themselves.
Think of it like SOA clients pulling WSDL (Web Services Description Language) from a UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration) server. The SOA client pulls the WSDL, which describes the service(s), configures itself appropriately, and then is able to make use of those services. The intent of introducing UDDI was a service-catalog that could be polled on-demand to provide the latest information about the service and describe it in an abstract, vendor-neutral way such that any client could access any service, regardless of implementation language or environment. Sounds a lot like what we want for infrastructure portability, doesn’t it?
That’s where PubSubHubub comes in. While this draft standard for a publish-subscribe system is generally being leveraged by software developers to enable faster sharing of information across the Internet, it is also a fine example of a system that could be used by infrastructure 2.0 solutions to share metastructure. Consider the existence of a public PubSubhubub Hub, like Google’s public PubSubHubub Hub, and how it might be leveraged to share metastructure between clouds or the organization and the cloud.
Note that XMPP is used today by at least one cloud provider to enable distributed cloud management in a nature very similar to that of PubSubhubhub.
In any case, the specific implementation of the configuration “hub” is relatively unimportant; what’s important is that (a) customers can publish a vendor-neutral metastructure to an isolated channel that communicates their specific infrastructure needs and (b) providers can subscribe, at will, to customer topics and retrieve metastructure in a way that allows their infrastructure to in turn configuration itself (or be configured by the provider’s system, as is required by the provider’s implementation).
Early on it would be necessary for the cloud provider to provide the “translation” and configuration services simply because even if a metastructure standard existed today (and it doesn’t) it would take months and possibly years before all the possible infrastructure vendors were able to update their systems to interpret the standard. If the provider implements a configuration “gateway”, however, he can immediately take advantage of such a standard and use existing skills and knowledge gained from its automation and orchestration of its cloud to configure the infrastructure appropriately based on the metastructure. This has the added advantage of “hiding” the infrastructure implementation from the outside world, which for some providers is a very important thing to do.
SOME CONFIGURATIONS ARE INHERENTLY VENDOR SPECIFIC
That’s okay for two reasons: first, we ensure that the metadata description is XML-based, because it’s extensible. If we build into the standard a way to extend it naturally such as is provided with XML the interpreters (configuration “gateways”) can either (a) translate if it can or (b) ignore.
Consider the use of OVF (Open Virtualization Format) to further describe what is called a Virtual Machine Contract (VMC):
For each virtual system, the associated metadata is described in a set of specific sections. The VirtualHardwareSection describes the virtual hardware required including the amount of memory, number of CPUs, information about network interfaces, etc. The OperatingSystemSection describes the guest operating system that will run in the virtual system. The ProductSection provides basic information such as the name and vendor of the appliance and can also specify a set of properties that can be used to customize the appliance.
While VMC is very basic at this point, it’s a good start at providing the foundation for building out a more complete, standards-based description of the metastructure necessary to configure an infrastructure to deploy a specific application in a virtual machine format. Using this as the basis for metadata exchange – when fully described – via a public hub could alleviate most of the issues with sharing infrastructure metadata (metastructure) across clouds in a generally vendor non-specific manner. In other words, portability of both the virtual machine and the specific infrastructure configurations necessary to optimally execute and deliver the application to the end user in the most fast and secure manner possible.
We’re nowhere near this point, by the way. VMC needs to be fleshed out as far as standard metadata goes for infrastructure (perhaps a good chore for the SRI Infrastructure 2.0 Working Group) and vendors would need to adopt and extend out the ProductSection of VMC for product specific configuration that isn’t included in the base format. And PubSubHubub would need to be proven to be a secure method of exchanging the metastructure across clouds. What is likely is that as we move forward trying to extend the plateau of collaboration down the stack toward the core infrastructure is that a new set of tools, products, solutions, and services will emerge to fill the unavoidable gaps in the standards, e.g. a service-based cloud configuration hub offering translation of proprietary metastructure data to some other proprietary metastructure data.
Perhaps there’s a better way overall, and OVF/VMC and PubSubHubub will simply remain in our memories as the catalyst and template for a different set of standards providing portability across clouds. But there is a way to provide this level of portability and collaboration across clouds, across the infrastructure and the application. The need – and perhaps more importantly the belief that it’s necessary to address the need – is growing.
UPDATE: Christofer Hoff pointed out that vCloud has been submitted to the DMTF for standardization, technically making it "open" rather than "proprietary." It is still only implemented by VMware technologies, so for the time being it might as well be proprietary, but this may change in the future.
Related blogs & articles:
- Virtual Machine Contracts for Data Center and Cloud Computing Environments [PDF]
- Draft: PubSubHubub Core 0.2
- DMTF Virtual Management Initiative (OVF Specification)
- Who owns application delivery meta-data in the cloud?
- More on the Meta-data Menagerie
- Governance: Service Catalogs and the Cloud
- OVF: A few layers short of a full stack
- Interoperability between clouds requires more than just VM portability
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
Dec. 19, 2014 11:30 AM EST Reads: 2,266
The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
Dec. 19, 2014 11:30 AM EST Reads: 261
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 19, 2014 11:00 AM EST Reads: 1,805
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 19, 2014 10:00 AM EST Reads: 1,009
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
Dec. 19, 2014 07:00 AM EST Reads: 2,139
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
Dec. 19, 2014 06:30 AM EST Reads: 2,121
ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...
Dec. 19, 2014 05:00 AM EST Reads: 1,941
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
Dec. 19, 2014 04:00 AM EST Reads: 1,945
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Dec. 18, 2014 09:45 PM EST Reads: 953
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 18, 2014 09:00 AM EST Reads: 1,255
Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, at more than US$500 billion, and ranks 23rd in the world. A recent re-evaluation of Nigeria's true economic size doubled the previous estimate, and brought it well ahead of South Africa, which is a member (unlike Nigeria) of the G20 club for political as well as economic reasons. Nigeria's economy can be said to be quite diverse from one point of view, but heavily dependent on oil and gas at the same time. Oil and natural gas account for about 15% of Nigera's overall economy, but traditionally represent more than 90% of the country's exports and as...
Dec. 18, 2014 06:00 AM EST Reads: 794
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
Dec. 17, 2014 11:15 PM EST Reads: 1,301
"At our booth we are showing how to provide trust in the Internet of Things. Trust is where everything starts to become secure and trustworthy. Now with the scaling of the Internet of Things it becomes an interesting question – I've heard numbers from 200 billion devices next year up to a trillion in the next 10 to 15 years," explained Johannes Lintzen, Vice President of Sales at Utimaco, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 17, 2014 11:00 PM EST Reads: 1,361
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 17, 2014 08:00 PM EST Reads: 1,335
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
Dec. 17, 2014 06:30 PM EST Reads: 1,240
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
Dec. 17, 2014 11:45 AM EST Reads: 1,462
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Dec. 16, 2014 11:45 PM EST Reads: 1,303
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
Dec. 15, 2014 11:45 PM EST Reads: 1,665
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Dec. 15, 2014 10:30 AM EST Reads: 6,874
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...
Dec. 15, 2014 10:00 AM EST Reads: 1,955