Click here to close now.


Agile Computing Authors: Victoria Livschitz, Liz McMillan, Ian Khan, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: @CloudExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Creating a Common Cloud Computing Reference API - Part One

A lot of what I'm outlining here may be better suited to a reference implementation than a standard

Reuven Cohen's "ElasticVapor" Blog

Over the last few weeks I've been engaged in several conversations about the need for a common, interoperable and open set of cloud computing standards. During these conversations a recurring theme has started to emerge. A need for cloud interoperability or the ability for diverse cloud systems and organizations to work together in a common way.

In my discussion yesterday with Rich Wolski of the Eucalyptus project he described the need for a "CloudVirt" API similar to that of the Libvirt project for virtualization. For those of you that don't know about libvirt, it's an open source toolkit which enables a common API interaction with the virtualization capabilities of recent versions of Linux (and other OSes).

I would like to take this opportunity to share my ideas as well as get some feedback on some of the key points I see for the creation of common cloud computing reference API or standard.

* Cloud Resource Description
The ability to describe resources is (in my opinion) the most important aspect of any standardization effort. One potential avenue might be to use the Resource Description Framework proposed by the W3C. The Resource Description Framework (RDF) is a family of specifications, originally designed as a metadata data model, which has come to be used as a general method of modeling information through a variety of syntax formats. The RDF metadata model is based upon the idea of making statements about Web resources (or Cloud Resources) in the form of subject-predicate-object expressions, called triples in RDF lingo. This standardized approach could be modified as a primary mechanism for describing cloud resources both locally and remotely.

* Cloud Federation (Cloud 2 Cloud)
The holy grail of cloud computing may very well be the ability to seamlessly bridge both private clouds (datacenters) and remote cloud resources such as EC2 in a secure and efficient manor. To accomplish this a federation standard must be enabled. One of the biggest hurdles to over come in federation is the lack of clear definition to what federation is.

So let me take a stab at defining it.

Cloud federation manages consistency and access controls when two or more independent geographically distinct clouds share either authentication, files, computing resources, command and control or access to storage resources. Cloud federations can be classified into three categories: peer-to-peer, replication, and hierarchical. Peer 2 peer seems to be the most logical first step in creating a federation spec. Protocols like XMPP, P4P and Virtual Distributed Ethernet may make for good starting points.

* Distributed Network Management
The need for a distributed and optimized virtual network is an important aspect in any multi-cloud deployment. One potential direction could be to explore the use of VPN or VDE technologies. My preference would be to use VDE, (Virtual Distributed Ethernet). A quick refresher, a VPN is a way to connect one or more remote computers to a protected network, generally tunnelling the traffic through another network. VDE implements a virtual ethernet in all its aspects, virtual switches, virtual cables. A VDE can also be used to create a VPN.

VDE interconnects real computers running (through a tap interface), virtual machines as well as the other networking interfaces through a common open framework. VDE supports heterogeneous virtual machines running on different hosting computers and could be the ideal starting point. Network shaping and optimization may also play an important role in the ability to bridge two or cloud resources.

Some network optimization aspects may include;

  • Compression - Relies on data patterns that can be represented more efficiently.
  • Caching/Proxy - Relies on human behavior , accessing the same data over and over.
  • Protocol Spoofing - Bundles multiple requests from chatty applications into one.
  • Application Shaping - Controls data usage based on spotting specific patterns in the data and allowing or disallowing specific traffic.
  • Equalizing - Makes assumptions on what needs immediate priority based on the data usage.
  • Connection Limits - Prevents access gridlock in routers and access points due to denial of service or peer to peer.
  • Simple Rate Limits - Prevents one user from getting more than a fixed amount of data.

* Memory Management
When looking at the creation of compute cloud memory tends to be a major factor in the performance of a given virtual environment, whether a virtual machine or some other application component. Cloud memory management will need to involve ways to allocate portions of virtual memory to programs at their request, and freeing it for reuse when no longer needed. This is particularly important in "platform as a service" cloud deployments.

Several key memory management aspects may include;

  • Provide memory space to enable several processes to be executed at the same time
  • Provide a satisfactory level of performance for the system users
  • Protect each program's resources
  • Share (if desired) memory space between processes
  • Make the addressing of memory space as transparent as possible for the programmer.

* Distributed Storage
I've been working on creating a cloud abstraction layer called "cloud raid" as part of our ElasticDrive platform and have been looking at different approaches for our implementation. My initial idea is to connect multiple remote cloud storage services (S3, Nirvanix, CloudFS) for a variety of purposes. During my research the XAM specification began to look like the most suitable candidate. XAM addresses storage interoperability, information assurance (security), storage transparency, long-term records retention and automation for Information Lifecycle Management (ILM)-based practices.

XAM looks to solve key cloud storage problem spots including;

  • Interoperability: Applications can work with any XAM conformant storage system; information can be migrated and shared
  • Compliance: Integrated record retention and disposition metadata
  • ILM Practices: Framework for classification, policy, and implementation
  • Migration: Ability to automate migration process to maintain long-term readability
  • Discovery: Application-independent structured discovery avoids application obsolescence

Potential Future Additions to the API

* I/o
The virtualization of I/O resources is a critical part of enabling a set of emerging cloud deployment models. In large scale cloud deployments a recurring issue has the ability to effectively management I/o resources whether on a machine level or network. One of the problems a lot of users are encountering is that of the "nasty neighbor" or a user who has taken all available system I/o resources.

A common I/o API for sharing, security, performance, and scalability will need to be addressed to help resolve these issues. I've been speaking with several hardware vendors on how we might be able to address this problem. This will most like have to be done at a later point after a first draft has been released.

* Monitoring and System Metrics
One of the best aspects of using cloud technology is the ability to scale applications in tandem to the underlying infrastructure and the demands placed on it. Rather then just scaling on system load, users should have the ability to selectively scale on other metrics such as response time, network throughput or other metrics made available. Having a uniform way to interact with system metrics will enable cloud providers and consumers a common way to scale applications.

Security & Auditability.
In my conversations with several wall street CIO's the questions of both security and cloud transparency with regards to external audits has come up frequently.

My list of requirements is by no means a complete list. Cloud computing encompasses a wide variety of technologies, architectures and deployment models. What I am attempting to do is address the initial pain points whether you are deploying a cloud or just using it. A lot of what I've outlined may be better suited to a reference implementation than a standard, but none the less I thought I'd put these out ideas out for discussion.

-- Update --

Looks like I've forgotten an obvious yet important aspect to my cloud standards. Authentication. Maybe something like OAuth or OpenID could form the basis for this as well. I'll need to do some more thinking on this one.

More Stories By Reuven Cohen

An instigator, part time provocateur, bootstrapper, amateur cloud lexicographer, and purveyor of random thoughts, 140 characters at a time.

Reuven is an early innovator in the cloud computing space as the founder of Enomaly in 2004 (Acquired by Virtustream in February 2012). Enomaly was among the first to develop a self service infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platform (ECP) circa 2005. As well as SpotCloud (2011) the first commodity style cloud computing Spot Market.

Reuven is also the co-creator of CloudCamp (100+ Cities around the Globe) CloudCamp is an unconference where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies exchange ideas and is the largest of the ‘barcamp’ style of events.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

Most Recent Comments
MiamiWebDesigner 08/25/08 06:25:14 AM EDT

Kudos to the Cloud Crowd for Re-Inventing the Wheel!

One thing 30 years in the IT industry has taught me is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Another is that the only memory we seem to access is short-term. Yet another is that techno-marketeers rely on that, so they can put labels like "revolutionary" and "innovative" on platforms, products and services that are mere re-inventions of the wheel ... and often poor copies at that.

A good example is all the buzz about "Cloud Computing" in general and "SaaS" (software as a service) in particular:

Both terms are bogus. The only true cloud computing takes place in aircraft. What they're actually referring to by "the cloud" is a large-scale and often remotely located and managed computing platform. We have had those since the dawn of electronic IT. IBM calls them "mainframes":

The only innovation offered by today's cloud crowd is actually more of a speculation, i.e. that server farms can deliver the same solid performance as Big Iron. And even that's not original. Anyone remember Datapoint's ARCnet, or DEC's VAXclusters? Whatever happened to those guys, anyway...?

And as for SaaS, selling the sizzle while keeping the steak is a marketing ploy most rightfully accredited to society's oldest profession. Its first application in IT was (and for many still is) known as the "service bureau". And I don't mean the contemporary service bureau (mis)conception labelled "Service 2.0" by a Wikipedia contributor whose historical perspective is apparently constrained to four years:

Instead, I mean the computer service bureau industry that spawned ADAPSO (the Association of Data Processing Service Organizations) in 1960, and whose chronology comprises a notable portion of the IEEE's "Annals of the History of Computing":

So ... for any of you slide rule-toting, pocket-protected keypunch-card cowboys who may be just coming out of a 40-year coma, let me give you a quick IT update:

1. "Mainframe" is now "Cloud" (with concomitant ethereal substance).

2. "Terminal" is now "Web Browser" (with much cooler games, and infinitely more distractions).

3. "Service Bureau" is now "SaaS" (but app upgrades are just as painful, and custom mods equally elusive).

4. Most IT buzzwords boil down to techno-hyped BS (just as they always have).

Bruce Arnold, Web Design Miami Florida

@ThingsExpo Stories
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated and cloud solutions through hybrid hosting – a sustainable solution for the data required to manage I...
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud without worrying about any lock-in fears. In fact by having standard APIs for IaaS would help PaaS expl...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk will be on IBM Cloudant, Apa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Raxak has been named “Media & Session Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Raxak Protect automates security compliance across private and public clouds. Using the SaaS tool or managed service, developers can deploy cloud apps quickly, cost-effectively, and without error.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
Learn how IoT, cloud, social networks and last but not least, humans, can be integrated into a seamless integration of cooperative organisms both cybernetic and biological. This has been enabled by recent advances in IoT device capabilities, messaging frameworks, presence and collaboration services, where devices can share information and make independent and human assisted decisions based upon social status from other entities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Heydt, founder of Seamless Thingies, will discuss and demonstrate how devices and humans can be integrated from a simple clust...
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, will discuss the impact of technology on identity. Should we federate, or not? How should identity be secured? Who owns the identity? How is identity ...
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
The broad selection of hardware, the rapid evolution of operating systems and the time-to-market for mobile apps has been so rapid that new challenges for developers and engineers arise every day. Security, testing, hosting, and other metrics have to be considered through the process. In his session at Big Data Expo, Walter Maguire, Chief Field Technologist, HP Big Data Group, at Hewlett-Packard, will discuss the challenges faced by developers and a composite Big Data applications builder, focusing on how to help solve the problems that developers are continuously battling.
As enterprises capture more and more data of all types – structured, semi-structured, and unstructured – data discovery requirements for business intelligence (BI), Big Data, and predictive analytics initiatives grow more complex. A company’s ability to become data-driven and compete on analytics depends on the speed with which it can provision their analytics applications with all relevant information. The task of finding data has traditionally resided with IT, but now organizations increasingly turn towards data source discovery tools to find the right data, in context, for business users, d...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a software development company, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software development company with representative offices in Atlanta (US), Sheffield (UK) and Würzburg (Germany); and development centers in Ukraine. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 150 developers, designers, quality assurance engineers, project manage...
“The Internet of Things transforms the way organizations leverage machine data and gain insights from it,” noted Splunk’s CTO Snehal Antani, as Splunk announced accelerated momentum in Industrial Data and the IoT. The trend is driven by Splunk’s continued investment in its products and partner ecosystem as well as the creativity of customers and the flexibility to deploy Splunk IoT solutions as software, cloud services or in a hybrid environment. Customers are using Splunk® solutions to collect and correlate data from control systems, sensors, mobile devices and IT systems for a variety of Ind...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Solgeniakhela will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Solgeniakhela is the global market leader in Cloud Collaboration and Cloud Infrastructure software solutions. Designed to “Bridge the Gap” between Personal and Professional Social, Mobile and Cloud user experiences, our solutions help large and medium-sized organizations dramatically improve productivity, reduce collaboration costs, and increase the overall enterprise value by bringing ...
Sensors and effectors of IoT are solving problems in new ways, but small businesses have been slow to join the quantified world. They’ll need information from IoT using applications as varied as the businesses themselves. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Meike, Distinguished Engineer, Director of Technology Innovation at Intuit, will show how IoT manufacturers can use open standards, public APIs and custom apps to enable the Quantified Small Business. He will use a Raspberry Pi to connect sensors to web services, and cloud integration to connect accounting and data, providing a Bluetooth...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Nowadays, a large number of sensors and devices are connected to the network. Leading-edge IoT technologies integrate various types of sensor data to create a new value for several business decision scenarios. The transparent cloud is a model of a new IoT emergence service platform. Many service providers store and access various types of sensor data in order to create and find out new business values by integrating such data.
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.