Sunday, June 12, 2011

A View of the Challenges, Opportunities and Innovation Potential of Cloud Computing for the European Cloud Strategy

Unleashing the Potential for Innovation of Cloud Computing is the title of the presentation that I will give in the workshop Towards a Cloud Computing Strategy for Europe: Matching Supply and Demand at the 1st Digital Agenda Assembly next Friday, June 17th. The aim of the workshop is to help identify the main elements of a European Cloud Strategy. As pointed out by Rainer Zimmermann, DG INFSO, Head of unit: Software & Service Architectures and Infrastructures, The impact of cloud technologies goes beyond reducing IT costs and improving business efficiency. Companies of all sizes and government institutions will achieve new levels of productivity and innovation.

In the presentation, which is available online at the workshop site, I introduce the key challenges and gaps to be addressed in order to accelerate the adoption of cloud computing and so to unleash its full potential for innovation, contributing to increase the competitiveness and productivity of the European economy. For each gap I briefly describe the issues that, in my view, European Commission funding should address to help bridge such gap. The presentation mostly focuses on the technology challenges by elaborating on the open research issues on cloud computing that should be addressed to create better clouds, the importance on innovation-focused research to be cloud-active, and the opportunities for the ICT industry in this new service industry. OpenNebula is also described as European success story in cloud computing research and innovation. Finally open-source is presented as a model for innovation and as a vehicle to bring open interoperable cloud computing to the European industry.

Europe should play a leading role not only in using cloud computing and leveraging its full potential to foster innovation, but also in proving the enabling components to build better cloud solutions. I am firmly convinced that both represent the main opportunities for the European ICT industry.

Hope to see you there!.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Strategic Framework for Cloud Migration

I am often asked about the steps to be taken and the issues to be considered for a successful migration to cloud computing. There is no magic formula to it, the specific steps will depend on your internal structure, industry and differentiation in the market. As general framework, I usually recommend the Decision Framework for Cloud Migration described in the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy together with a thorough study and comparison of cloud providers tailored to your needs and requirements. The three main guidelines would be:
  • Shifting from Infrastructure to Service Management. This is a shift in mindset of the IT staff. We should be able to define our needs in terms of services (applications) and their expected quality of service. IT staff usually express their needs and requirements using infrastructure terms, I need 4 physical boxes to run the web server for a new site. However needs should be described in terms of service elasticity rules, this is in terms of service level objectives using key performance indicators, In order to ensure an optimal quality of service, I need to automatically scale the number of servers when the average CPU utilization of the running web servers exceeds a given threshold.
  • Prioritizing Services that Are Best Suited for Migration. This prioritization should be performed according to its readiness to be executed on cloud; its affinity to the cloud model in terms of security, performance, relevance and duration; and the expected gain in terms of costs, performance, quality, agility, and innovation.
  • Selecting the Best Cloud Provider. This selection is critical if we consider that given the current lack of interoperability and portability, the change to other provider in the future may be time-consuming and expensive. Besides the Price-Performance-Reliability metric, the following aspects should be considered: data protection, privacy and regulatory issues; support for business continuity; and level of control exposed to users. You could also conclude that best solution is to use different providers for different workloads.
These three guidelines constitute a very simple model to support organizations in adopting cloud computing. I will elaborate on each one shortly.