Comments
An Inconvenient Truth About Cloud Analogies
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
AndrewT515
50%
50%
AndrewT515,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/5/2014 | 3:33:09 PM
Re: In Support of Cloud Analogies
@jemison288

You're absolutely right - the traditional style of server management that assumes each individual machine is highly available really does not reap the potential benefits of clouds like AWS, GCE, Rackspace and others (both on and off premises).  The key difference is often named "design for failure - in fact it's well known for an open source project whos name implies yet another analogy - Chaos Monkey (and the rest of Netflix's simian army). The interesting thing is that everyone seems to know these terms - who in our industry hasn't heard of Chaos Monkey?  Who hasn't seen how good netflix is as an always on service?

Some more academic folks like the term "recovery oriented computing" originating at Stanford.  Wether you like the cute analogies or not - this new approach to application availablility is definitely entering that first phase of the hype cycle often called hyper-growth.  Like all hypes before we should expect it to peak, hit the trough of disolusionment (when people realize it's not trivial to write applications this way) and eventually plateau.

As someone who has developed applications this way for the past five years, I'm a believer.  It works and as the folks from Netflix point out, it's a lot easier/faster than trying to reach perfection with our software.  It's cheaper/faster to assume our software is buggy as is the infrastructure. 

Frankly, what astonishes me the most is how fast this hyper-growth stage is unfolding - faster than any of the tech trends I can remember over the past 25 years.  I think it's accelerating so rapidly because it's a (analogy) bit like a rogue wave combining three hype curves together.  Whenever I come across yet another enterprise customer starting to develop livestock style applications they will almost always be developing on an open source stack ranging from open source scripting languages, frameworks, operating systems, hypervisors, cloud managers, source repositories, build tools, continuous integration tools etc.  Sure open source tools and tech like these have been around a long time, but we're seeing rapid growth particularly in enterprise development teams.  Third, these teams are almost always applying DevOps style processes usually beginning with "Continuous Delivery".  Each of these buzz terms is going through a hype cycle - but they're not entirely independent - they're very often combined together - and often to support big data, mobile, and social applications  - also going through rapid growth.  

Even if you don't like the way we're describing what's going on in our industry, you can't ignore it.  It looks like the tsunami of tech growth at least for my career.  Fortunately, I love to surf, kite surf, wind surf, etc.  Better to be on the wave than on the beach ;-)

These are my personal views/opinions and not of IBM

Andrew Trossman
Li Tan
50%
50%
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
12/9/2013 | 12:16:38 AM
Re: In Support of Cloud Analogies
None of the analogy is perfect and each of them only covers part of the truth of cloud computing. But I don't think we can get rid of it - the analogy provides very good starting point/initial view of a new technology for both IT professionals and non-technical people. We don't need analogy to be perfect since it's just a rough modelling of the real stuff. What we need is just an initial picture of new stuff in brevity. From this angle I do consider analogy not only interesting but also important.
jemison288
100%
0%
jemison288,
User Rank: Moderator
12/8/2013 | 4:53:14 PM
In Support of Cloud Analogies
Personally, I find both the cattle/puppy and electricity analogies to be profoundly helpful in understanding (a) how many organizations and individuals fail to take advantage of the cloud (while still arguing they are "on the cloud" or [as a vendor] "the cloud", and (b) how much further we have to go before we are where we want.

The cattle/puppy analogy is most helpful when demonstrating to people that their "private cloud" (read: VMware in an on-premises data center) is not taking full advantage of the cloud.  I don't think it's a particularly helpful way of distinguishing vendors (since, with enough scaffolding and the right application architectures, any virtualized environment can be a "cattle" architecture). But it absolutely helps identify, in short hand, that certain cloud deployments aren't built for failure, and they require too much individualized interaction with servers.

The electricity analogy is very helpful in identifying the compatibility and feature issues we have between clouds. The reason why the cloud isn't like electricity is because so many cloud services aren't fungible (e.g., IaaS, PaaS, SaaS--diferent APIs, different features, etc).  That said, cloud storage (S3, Google Cloud Storage, etc) actually can be like electricity, and, in fact, quite a few organizations and vendors do use it this way. We may actually be able to get to electricity for compute, but we're not there yet.
Stratustician
100%
0%
Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
12/8/2013 | 4:34:21 PM
Blame it on the marketing folks
As a marketer, especially one working in the cloud space, I agree...some of these analogies make me want to drive a sharp object through my brain.  The truth is that like a lot of tech marketing, especially complicated IT concepts, marketing folks write for an audience they think isn't quite intelligent to get the concept.  Or should I say, they write for the sales folks, so they can explain it to customers.  It's a vicious cycle, which is why we have so many lovely hyped words like BYOD, Cloud, Connected Enterprise.  These have been used in every context, so the minute they come up in conversations with clients, you can see the blank stare coming on and the eyes start to roll into the back of their heads. The reality is that due tot he complexity of cloud, especially from a business transformation perspective, we (as marketers) struggle to find the balance between promoting the real benefits, with making them understandable to all the audiences.  I suppose this is what it was like when IT security started to become more mainstream!
virsingh211
50%
50%
virsingh211,
User Rank: Strategist
12/8/2013 | 1:15:42 AM
Re: Cloud analogy fun
I agree you Chris, even Gartner predicted in their report that neither electricity analogy nor water analogy works here and one top reason for same is service requirements vary widely for computing.
ChrisMurphy
50%
50%
ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 6:55:24 PM
Re: Cloud analogy fun
The electricity analogy was dreadful because it applied to one slice of IT -- datacenter infrastructure -- but was used by Nicholas Carr to suggest that all of the IT was doomed. As if the use of data and the use of electricity in companies were comparable, which they aren't at all.
D. Henschen
50%
50%
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 4:10:47 PM
You forgot the ADP analogy.
From a SaaS perspective, one analogy I've often heard used is ADP, the payroll services provider (and now an HR app services provider as well). Sometimes the ADP analogy has been used by SaaS vendors that companies have been trusting third-party providers with sensitive financial data (namely payroll) for decades. I've also heard it used by late-to-the-party SaaS vendors to show that so-called SaaS pioneers really late to the party as well (because ADP started doing this sort of thing long ago). That makes their tardiness appear less significant.

The need for this analogy is kind of fading because cloud acceptance has grown dramatically and because every vendor that counts has long since jumped on the cloud bandwagon.

 
Lorna Garey
50%
50%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 3:21:17 PM
You laugh, but ...
Much time, thought and discussion used to go into naming servers. Do you go with Star Trek or Star Wars characters? Maybe LoTR? Which one gets to be the Precious? It'll be a lost art. No one is going to spend time naming VMs.

However, one should be able to put a VM out of its misery without angst, so maybe the cattle analogy isn't so bad.

 
cbabcock
50%
50%
cbabcock,
User Rank: Strategist
12/6/2013 | 2:44:05 PM
Blame vendor copy writers, not Reuven!
Nicely said, but I think vendor product announcements with bad analogies are the real culprit, not Reuven's commentaries. I've waited years to hear a confession of wrong doing there without satisfaction. Many of the major software makers could be held accountable. They're announcements are inflated with suspect anolgies, hyperbole and multi-faceted but seamless erroneous zones. 
Laurianne
50%
50%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 1:53:12 PM
Cloud analogy fun
Good fun, Reuven. That electricity/power grid analogy has dogged the cloud community for years. Wait, I'm mixing my metaphors.


The Business of Going Digital
The Business of Going Digital
Digital business isn't about changing code; it's about changing what legacy sales, distribution, customer service, and product groups do in the new digital age. It's about bringing big data analytics, mobile, social, marketing automation, cloud computing, and the app economy together to launch new products and services. We're seeing new titles in this digital revolution, new responsibilities, new business models, and major shifts in technology spending.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest September 18, 2014
Enterprise social network success starts and ends with integration. Here's how to finally make collaboration click.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.