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6/26/2009
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Cloud Computing Advocates Detail Its Future

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, Sun Microsystems CTO Greg Papadopolous, and Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com speculate on cloud computing's future.

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, nursing a cold, said the current recession caught many companies "with their pants down, building out for companies about to become 25% biggers and instead they were running companies that were 25% smaller. Enterprise software didn't let them adjust fast enough."

One way to avoid that in the fate in the future is to figure out how to use cloud computing for part of your infrastructure, he continued. "We're trying to move as many of our (in-house) applications as possible into the cloud," he said. Salesforce.com employees use Google Mail instead on on-premises e-mail, Google Apps and Workday human resources as a service.

Lew Moorman, president and chief strategy officer of Rackspace, noted: "We manage 50,000 servers for customer-dedicated hosting. Multi-tenancy is what cloud computing is all about."

Another speaker, David Lipscomb, senior VP of engineering at online applications provider NetSuite, drove the point home: "With multi-tenancy, the customer looks on the application as uniquely his own. The support staff looks on it as one application, not 6,000." NetSuite said s it now has 6,000 customers. Matt Mullenweg, founding developer of WordPress, one of the most popular blogging sites, says he should have relied on cloud resources in the first place: "The biggest mistake we ever made was buying servers. We spent $100,000 of the $700,000 we had available on servers. We now lease them at a monthly rate. That's the kind of flexibility we cherish. We are not going to sign any long term contracts (or buy more servers). There's no need to."

Jonathan Heiliger, VP of technical operations at Facebook, said his firm conceived, developed, and launched a new application, User Names, in less than two months, thanks to cloud computing. When it came time to launch the new service at 9 p.m. June 12, the firm pulled a cross-disciplinary team together in a conference room equipped with Chinese food to see what happened, he said.

Heiliger said the development team tried to foresee problems, but testing in the cloud found dependencies among the production systems that it hadn't foreseen. They were ironed out by launch, but still, Facebook executives were nervous about the short incubation period for User Names, the service where a Facebook users signs up to use their own names as their URL on Facebook.

As they watched traffic build June 12, extra servers were standing by in an East Coast data center "just in case of hardware failure," and auxiliary functions on Facebook pages, such as chat, had been temporarily shut down. "We created a memcache pool for user name traffic," a technique of pulling an application's software objects out of the database in advance and keeping them available for quick access in shared random access memory.

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