Cloud // Software as a Service
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10/7/2010
03:19 PM
Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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Ellison Threatens Cloud More As Friend Than Foe

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, long a vocal critic, now supports cloud computing, sort of, unless what you're doing falls outside his "definition."

I did learn from this portion of the keynote that Salesforce is old and EC2 is new. EC2 was launched in beta form in 2006, to be precise. But Amazon Web Services' EC2 is based on the infrastructure that its parent company, Amazon.com, the bookstore and retail business, built. In effect, Amazon.com turned its pockets inside out and offered as a service the infrastructure on which its retail services were based. In that sense, the public cloud was 11 years in the making, becoming available in 2006 only after years of acquired infrastructure experience. When Time Magazine named Amazon's Jeff Bezos man of the year in 1999, an unknown Marc Benioff was just launching Salesforce.com in his apartment on Nob Hill in San Francisco. Unfortunately, this makes Salesforce and EC2 at best roughly the same age.

It seems that Ellison's discussion so far is not a definition of cloud computing so much as a positioning of Oracle versus Salesforce in the applications market, and not a very accurate one. Let's continue with his definition, but reader beware. The more he talks about the cloud, the murkier the picture becomes. "We believe it's a platform. We believe on that platform you run standards-based software, a wide variety of software: databases, application development tools, a variety of guest operating systems running on the virtual machines. It's a comprehensive development and execution environment that can run virtually all of your applications. It must be virtualized. It must be elastic. It clearly includes both hardware and software."

I'm not sure what Ellison is saying here. It's the scatter gun approach. So many missiles have been launched that you just want to duck. There is a concrete form of cloud computing known as platform as a service, but that probably isn't what he means, since Amazon's EC2 is definitely not that. For that matter, none of these players, EC2, Salesforce.com applications or Oracle Exalogic appliances are platform as a service. What does he mean? Let's just give him a pass.

Instead, there are two concrete references that are noteworthy. The cloud is elastic, meaning it can automatically expand to meet demand and supply more memory, CPU and I/O. EC2, Salesforce.com and Oracle appliances may all be fairly described as possessing elasticity.

"It must be virtualized" is a more troubling statement. EC2, in order to automate the import of workloads, has them sent as a set of files representing a virtual machine stored on a hard disk. This makes them portable as one file. It combines the many separate components of a virtual machine, the application, its operating system, the headers indicating what type of virtual machine it is, and this combination allows the file to run under a hypervisor, once it arrives.

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