Operations-as-a-Service (or IaaS + PaaS + SMEs)

I’d been holding out a bit on writing this as it really is a synthesis of ideas (aren’t they all) with special mention of dialogue with Jeffrey Papen of Peak Hosting (www.peakwebhosting.com)…

I’ve been collaborating and speaking extensively with Jeffrey on the next phase of “hosting” since we are now moving beyond the hype cycle of “Cloud Computing” (see previous post on “The end of the Cloud Era”).  The community at large (and people in general) love the idea of simple, bite sized “solutions” with pithy and “sexy” naming conventions (think <30sec sound bites) and that was the promise/expectation around “the cloud” as it was popularized – a magic all in one solution whereby you just add applications and the “cloud” will do the rest. Yet, the promise never quite met expectations as the “cloud” really ended up being an open standards evolution of “virtualization” – nothing wrong with that, just not the “all in one” solution that people really wanted the cloud to be (ps – all in one refers to the aforementioned of applications just being pushed thru APIs to the “cloud” and the “cloud” manages all underlying resources).

So, as the Cloud Hype dissipates (love the metaphor), we are sorta back to the same basic elements that make up Infrastructure – Datacetners, Compute (IT), Communications (switches/routers), Software that manages it all (virtualization, cloud, etc), all accessible thru the to be built APIs.  Put another way, we are coming full circle and back to centralized, on-demand computing that needs one more element to make it all work – Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).

I was inspired to write this today when I saw this post from Hitachi: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9226920/Hitachi_launches_all_in_one_data_center_service – “Japanese conglomerate Hitachi on Monday launched a new data center business that includes everything from planning to construction to IT support.  Hitachi said its new “GNEXT Facility & IT Management Service” will cover consulting on environmental and security issues, procurement and installation of power, cooling and security systems, and ongoing hardware maintenance. It will expand to include outsourcing services for software engineers and support for clearing regulatory hurdles and certifications.”  This is the comprehensive “build to suit” solutions the market has been seeking since the cloud – it includes everything to get your infrastructure building blocks right and is provided as a service – but what do we call this service????

How about “Operations-as-a-Service“!!

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OaaS pulls together the elements in IaaS + PaaS + SMEs.  It outsources the “plumbing” to those that can make it far more cost effective thru economies of scale.  Sure, there are a select few companies who will do this all in house: Google, eBay, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple (trying), and of course, Zynga.  Yet, these companies are at such massive scale that it makes sense – and yet, they even have excess (at least they should) capacity which is why AWS was born in the first place and we are now seeing Zynga open up to allow gamers to use their platform (see: http://www.pocketgamer.biz/r/PG.Biz/Zynga+news/news.asp?c=38455).  Yet these are the exceptions and not the rule.

The rest of the world should and is seeking comprehensive, end-to-end Operations as a Service provided by single vendors.  It doesn’t preclude the market place from buying discreet parts of OaaS individually, however, the dominant companies that will begin to emerge in this next decade will seek to add more and more of the OaaS solutions set to their product list thereby catalyzing a lot (I mean a lot) of consolidation.

I will be following up this blog with a more detailed look at how this concept is playing out, yet in the mean time would very much like to hear the feed back on this topic – is the world looking for OaaS?

rd

Switch Las Vegas – I’ve seen the light!!!

Simply put – WOW!! – Switch (http://switchlv.com/pages/home.php) Las Vegas is the datacenter that a lot of people have never heard of yet is the best designed datacenter I have had the pleasure of touring ever. (this is not a paid endorsement! :-))

Ok, ok, ok – I hear you – how can this be the greatest designed datacenter and I’ve never heard of it – well, simple, it is because it is so very successful, it hasn’t had a need to broadcast its name out there as it seems that nearly all of its business has come thru word of mouth – and the client list is a veritable “who’s who” of behemoth companies, both public and private, that have chosen to colocate here (it is really an impressive list).

What struck me right off the bat was simply how immaculate everything is (and huge – think a near 100MW facility) which led to the amazing attention to detail on everything (to the toliets in the rest rooms).   I was lucky to get a tour with my friend, Mark Thiele, who has been with Switch for the past year.

Let’s get to the good stuff – everything (and I mean everything) is the brain child of founder/CEO, Rob Roy, who has over 125 patents (http://switchlv.com/pages/rob-roy-originals.php) pertaining to his T-scif (heat containment cabinet PODS), living data center (Automatic building adjustment management system), TSC 600’s (Quad system large scale HVAC modules) as well as several dozen other data center system concepts.  What the industry as a whole is just realizing is a “best practice”, Rob has been doing since 2004.

Heat containment/expulsion, direct/indirect evaporative cooling, refrigerant DX, intuitive infrastrucutre (living datacenter) that spot adjusts temps by rack, security that compares to that of a nuclear power plant, redundancy that will make a Tier IV datacenter jealous, and even a theater on site to host groups (the seats were even designed by Rob) – when it comes to the best datacenter you can imagine or have thought of, you can see it live at Switch.  (PS – annualized avg PUE below 1.2 and days well below 1.1 – measured from utility meter counting everything!!!)

I was equally impressed with the lean organization that supports this second to none facility – from the security staff (which really is on par with a Nuke plant – no joke) to the senior staff, everyone was a really warm and genuine person and you could tell, really liked to go to work every day (and that is at a datacenter mind you!!!).  It all stems from the top – Rob is, from the get go, just a warm, friendly and, get this, humble person.  He puts you at ease the moment you walk into his office and his office belays the kid still inside.  Rob surrounds himself with like minded people and that is a recipe for success.

Switch’s client list is just the icing on the cake – it is really a veritable who’s who of major, major global entities including the US Federal Govt.  All this while spending a near pittance on marketing – why you ask, ’cause the facility and its staff truly sell itself – I can’t imagine anyone who has toured this facility not wanting to have their gear there, even if it is to access the theater room!! 🙂

So what is in store for Switch – quite simply, whatever they want.  Privately held, exceptionally profitable, and with a patent portfolio that might make Microsoft or Google jealous, the company can write its own ticket – not often you find that in the tech sector.  A very huge congratulations to Rob (thnx Mark) and team for building such a great company and designing the world’s best datacenter that I have ever seen!!

We are in a “post-cloud” era!!

Trying to be aware of technology trends over time as they can provide insights into future trends, I have always thought that since the dawn of computing (mid 1940’s) and the fragmentation that occurred as a result of personal computer(1980’s) , we have been taking steps to go back to what was once called “centralized computing” or “time sharing of computing”.  The latest installment of this iterative process has been dubbed “cloud” computing and we are on the back side of this marketing buzz word.

“Cloud computing” has had its 4ish year run as the latest and greatest buzz word in computing – it has spawned conferences and its own Open Source efforts such as Eucalyptus (2008) and/or Open Stack.  Prior to cloud, it was “grid computing” in the mid 2000’s, prior to that “client sever models” were prevelant with hints of “thin clients” running around, prior to that we were just being introduced to Windows ’98 (remember that!!) – amazing to take into consideration how much has changed over the last decade.

Now we sit, after 4years of development and market acceptance, with all sorts of off shoots of the term “cloud” – we have Private, Public, Hybrid, and even Community clouds. All of which beg the question, just what does the term mean any longer?

On top of there being now a fragmentation of the term, we also have a number of real world, high profile moves away from the original and most popular of the clouds, Amazon Web Services (AWS) such as Zynga’s move to their own “build to suit” infrastructure, signaling that “one size does not fit all”.

Taken into consideration the evolution of computing, we are still on the path to “computing as a utility” and cloud has represented a step in that universally sought direction, however, I think we are going to see some new terminology emerge to describe the next step – what is that next step you ask?

In a perfect world, application developers will simply design their apps to APIs which in turn  leverage the underlying infrastructure which includes the same things since computers were invented: Compute resources, Memory, Storage, and networking (keep an eye on OpenFlow as routing moves towards software).  In parlance that had a short lifespan, but still exits, this was broken out with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platfrom as a Service (Paas), Application as a Service (AaaS – don’t blame me for this last one!!), where by the APIs live in the PaaS portion of this consolidated “stack”.

Again, in the world we seek to develop, the IaaS portion will have become “self aware” as all things associated with providing those resources will be connected and this includes everything from “power to packet”: data center infrastructure: HVAC, Elec, temps, etc., computing resources, etc., such that IaaS can determine the optimal resource configurations for any application at any given point of time – where it is stored, how it is stored, how it interacts with end users and from where, as well as, optimal business drivers like $/kW/hr, Watts/Transaction, and transaction/gross margin $s.  Are we there yet, not quite.

As outlined, the “cloud” has had a great many benefits to the industry at large as it has provided an agreed upon terminology (although it isn’t perfect), it has centralized the goals of Infrastructure Engineers to move towards the paradigms described above of self-aware, programmable Infrastructure, and has, at this point, been tested enough to realize that not all applications are the same and, thus, how they leverage Infrastructure is slightly different  per App.

So while cloud has had its “15 minutes” the industry at large is moving on and forward towards the ultimate goal of “smart infrastructure” – I posit that this is now possible due to the move to IPv6, however, that is a post onto itself.

The “Cloud Era” is in our rear view mirrors and we are in the midst of  a “marketing speak transition” seeking the naming convention of this new Era.  I think IaaS, PaaS, and AaaS are pretty good proxies for what i is to come, however, I’ve been playing with derivatives of “build to suit” or “bespoke infrastructure” or “dynamic infrastructure” or just “mixed infrastructure” where the underlying building blocks are the same and simply fine tuned to the apps needs (ps – this is where the APIs will play an every increasingly important role in this new era).

Please let me know if you’ve thought of any other terms that speak to what we are living now.

Energy Generation & Innovation – IT shall lead the way

I wrote a few years ago, inspired by Nick Carr’s book: “The big Switch”, about the inevitable fusion of energy generation and internet infrastructure – in fact, I went to go so far as to say that some day designs will be for Power/Info Platforms simply combining the two. 

It wasn’t long after that, that we learned of Google’s plans to build datacenters at sea that used tidal/gravitatinal energy and be self-sustaining: http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2008/09/06/google-planning-offshore-data-barges/.  This was also about the time that PUE was coming on the scene and helping to focus the datacenter/infrastructure industry at large on energy efficiency gains.  

Fast forward to present and we are now witnessing some even more amazing innovation efforts all emanating from the internet infrastructure evolution.

I have seen some very radical, yet realistic designs for alternative energies used by datacenters not only in pursuit of becoming a Zero Energy Building (see: http://www.nrel.gov/buildings/pdfs/39833.pdf) but also to help manage COGS of internet infrastructure operations with $/kW/hr being the highest OpEx cost – so it only makes sense for large infrastructure companies to push the envelope as historic energy companies don’t have the same incentives and are locked into status quo mentalities.

And along come Google again.

Google announces Google Energy LLC: http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/print/article/2011/07/zeroing-in-on-zero-googles-foray-into-utility-land

Google announces carbon neutral since 2007: http://inhabitat.com/google-announces-that-its-been-carbon-neutral-since-2007/

So it makes perfect sense that as the world’s largest internet infrastructure company who’s very existence is predicated on power (lots of power) should begin to seek to innovate its entire ecosystem – and Google is not alone!!

There are some other very large infrastructure companies doing as much in this area as Google – and it is not a leap to say that some of the biggest strides forward in alternative energy shall come form the industry who is consuming the most of it – the IT industry!

Stay tuned…

WSJ Post – Reprint of comments on great article!!

A good article that sees the future for what it will be – we often forget that we have nascently entered the “Information Age” which has been preceded by the Industrial Age & the Agrarian Ages, all of which ushered in advancements for humanity. One section that I might add to this, being in the tech field and specifically an “Internet Plumber”, is the upgrade to the Internet itself that is underway – it is the upgrade from Internet Protocol v4 to Internet Protocol (IP) v6. This is by far and away the single biggest change to the ENTIRE internet since the actual invention of the Internet and its implications are no less.

In short, the internet has grown in ways not conceived by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn (co-founders of IP) – for the Internet to work, everything communicating upon it must be uniquely recognizable. When first launched, IPv4 had a pool of IP Addresses totaling 4.3 Billion – we’ve run out. With IPv6 we have 340 Undecillion addresses (that is a real number), enough addresses to hand out to every grain of sand on Planet Earth. Now we can connect everything to everyone, everywhere (Internet 2.0 = Evernet) and that will usher in the era of Big Data and so much more we have yet to discover – the fluidity of ideas upon this cohesive platform will only improve and further become enmeshed in our daily lives. While the idea of “internet plumbing” is not quite as sexy as a Facebook IPO – a Facebook IPO would not be possible without rock solid Internet Plumbing, and this plumbing is undergoing its own upgrade to a wholly new version – it is happening right now and provides as large of an investment opportunity as the Internet itself.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203471004577140413041646048.html?fbresult=add#articleTabs%3Dcomments%26commentId%3D3666831

2012 – Why this is the year of IPv6 adoption

Yeah, yeah, yeah – you have heard me talk all day long and post incessently about IPv6 lately – sure, my firm 6connect, is in that business and there are some selfish reasons I think that this is happening, however, there are some very quantifiable, verifiable, and qualitative reasons why we see 2012 as the year of IPv6 Adoption!

  1. IANA did run out of IPv4 addresses last Feb followed by APNIC – RIPE is due to exhaust their supply of v4 assets in first half of this year followed by ARIN early in ’13 – Geoff Huston of APNIC has maintained a very accurate depletion model found here: http://www.potaroo.net/tools/ipv4/index.html
  2. As an IPAM vendor with expertise in IPv6, we are seeing many companies from ISPs, Hosting, to Enterprise & Govt inquire with us about our IPAM in the context of moving to IPv6 – using that as a proxy, we’ve seen our customer inquiries quadruple over last 30 days and the inquires we’ve seen alone just this week have been some VERY LARGE, global ISPs
  3. Domestic roll out success of Comcast, led by John Brzozowski, will continue bringing more “home” users online, thus catalyzing more content/SaaS companies to make the swtich (chicken-egg)
  4. Increasing need for IPs by “non-traditional” IP copmanies such as “smart grid”, “wifi hot spot cars”, and just about everything else being online, the demand for IPs simply will necessitate the need to move to v6
  5. Guess here – we will see some innovations within IPv6 mgmt that will pull the “geek crowd” over to use it to improve application performance – not sure what exactly that might be, however, there are enough people playing with v6 now, that innovations will soon follow

There is a lot more that will yield a strong year for IPv6 adoption, however, these are some good nuggets to keep an eye on.

Evernet Enabled Clothing – this is just the beginning!

Evernet enabled clothing – seems pretty far fetched, right?  Check this out: http://www.bitrebels.com/technology/ping-clothing-share-your-life-on-twitter-without-a-keystroke/ – while the current example is only Tweeting your whereabouts, the groundwork is laid for fully interactive clothing – and if I can get the Evernet connected to your clothes, how much further can we go?

You don’t need to look too far to the world of medical devices that will communicate bi-directionally thereby yielding massive inflows of data about our human bodies – the innovation velocity is about to really turn upwards!