Free-flying data and federation motherships - talking federated cloud at Structure Europe
16 October 2012 by
The mothership landed at this week's Structure Europe conference, when OnApp CEO Ditlev Bredahl joined a panel led by GigaOM's Barb Darrow to talk about federated cloud, and whether it really can deliver.
With Ditlev were Tier 3's Mark Cravotta, Akamai's David Drai and CEO of Lyatiss, Pascale Vicat-Blanc. Barb started by asking the panel what factors they thought might be hindering faster take-up of cloud services.
What's holding you back?
Ditlev said that there were two main things service providers need to get right.
"One is, service providers need to accept that the people that are buying infrastructure from them might be people they don't know... because there is a mediator in the middle, they might actually hand over a server to someone who they have never met," he said.
"And you may think, if you have thousands of servers in your datacenter, that's already the situation. But I've been running hosting companies for many years, and we always had a pretty good idea what's going on in the datacenters."
"The other thing is even worse. Where the people buying the infrastructure have to buy it from someone they don't know. They haven't shaken hands with them, they haven't been to the datacenter tours."
How federated cloud works
In the federated cloud, cloud providers can buy capacity through a central marketplace in order to build global services for their customers. The marketplace is populated by other cloud providers looking to sell their capacity, and by subscribing to the locations they have datacenters in, you can make their remote infrastructure available to your local users.
It's good for providers: they can start to offer truly global cloud services that compete with the big guys, like AWS. It's good news for end users, too. They can do business with their local federation member, and pick the provider with whatever pricing/resource package/SLA or expertise suits them, and still get access to as much global cloud capacity as they need.
Of course, this begged an obvious question: who manages the thing? Enter the federation mothership.
"If you build a proper federation, and you have one platform above it - internally we call it the mothership - " said Ditlev - "the mothership is the point of contact for the services that are being deployed."
"The mothership should be someone outside of the infrastructure," he explained. "The infrastructure should sit below. All the datacenters, the service providers, the telcos that are part of the federation, should have a single point of contact above them - a pane of glass that the end users, the consumers, which could be enterprises or whoever is consuming this infrastructure, should use as the point of contact. And then the mothership should deal with the failover, the SLAs."
"If built properly the federation actually helps you that way, because you're not that reliant on a single datacenter's performance any more. Because you have this abstraction layer, the mothership - you have this abstraction layer between the infrastructure and the services deployed on it."
The discussion moved on to the old issue of data protection in the cloud. The panel discussed whether there is an inherent problem in the cloud for data that needs to remain within borders, to comply with local legislation.
"There is this misconception that data is flying around because it's in a cloud," said Ditlev. "I've had so many cases where you've had to sit down with a client and explain..."
Ditlev talked at this year's cPanel conference about how data hates to move at all, much less flit from cloud to cloud. Migrating production data means downtime. It's complicated, it's time-consuming and expensive. If you're a service provider looking after that data there is no incentive to move it.
Ditlev gave that service provider's perspective. "I'm not going to move it out of that place unless you pay me a lot of money," he said. "We don't have clients that are going to start moving data around, just because it's sitting in this virtualized infrastructure that we now choose to call cloud."
The panel discussed plenty more, including the differences between cloud in the U.S. and Europe, and a surprising story about just what percentage of data the CIA considered sensitive enough to keep hidden in the basement.
The GigaOM guys have a stream of the federated cloud session up on their site, along with the rest of their Structure Europe coverage. Check it out!