Cloud computing may be inevitable, a theme repeated frequently at the Structure 09 Conference in San Francisco Thursday, but some of its foremost proponents agreed it will be quite different from IT as we currently know it.
For one thing, the relational database, the king of data storage in the data center, doesn't work so well in the cloud. Neither do spinning disks or a wide assortment of heterogeneous servers, all prominent elements of the average data center. Other than that, the transition should go fine, proponents seemed to say.
Structure 09 is a new conference sponsored by the Gigaom Network. It drew a flock of cloud cognoscenti.
Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, the architect of the leading EC2 cloud service, was there, saying that cloud computing is a disruptive force, overturning the traditional way of doing things in the data center. "It's incredible. We haven't seen something (previously) that's so disruptive to how we think about the future."
Greg Papadopolous, Sun Microsystems CTO, said network computing and grid computing preceded the cloud, but with public clouds such as the Sun Open Cloud Platform becoming available, "the on ramp has become much, much simpler."
Vogels, however, stopped short of saying cloud computing would replace the data center. Moderator Om Malik asked him, "When will we get over the desire to own the infrastructure?" Vogels responded: "You make it sound like it will be the demise of the data center. Cloud computing doesn't mean you move 100% into the cloud. This is not a winner-take-all game."
"In general," added Papadopolous, "it will be really expensive and hard to move legacy pieces over. It's a much better strategy figuring out, what are the new pieces that I want to move to the cloud?"
Russ Daniels of HP said, "The real reason we talk about the cloud so much is because everybody can draw one. Drawings of the Internet represented it as a cloud," and white board practitioners now know what they mean when they refer to one, even if their listeners aren't sure what they're saying.
Daniels said he nudges conversations with HP customers about the cloud into a more specific context. But he left no doubt that HP takes cloud computing seriously, views it as an ideal service medium, and is prepared to help customers get to it. "We think cloud is the next phase of the Internet," he said.