In the Cloud – All Roads Lead to Rome (Part I)

I find the first couple of months of the year the most energizing in the calendar year. It heralds the New Year, and for a lot of businesses a fiscal New Year bringing with it new plans and directions. For a lot of individuals, the New Year brings forth resolutions, trends and pent-up-energy from the holidays.

I typically also use this time to clean up my home and office, and this time in the attic, I came across an old stack of computing magazines, that made me smile and I just had to share the very striking parallels between the late 80’s-90’s and today!

Lets us take a walk down memory lane together- to a time when the top bands may arguably have been R.E.M, Madonna, MC Hammer, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chilli Peppers. This is when we used to lug around our so-cool Walkmans and exchanging music meant sharing a cassette with a friend, or having two tape players hooked up to share music.


Figure 1: Sony Walkman

This is also when USENET was the way to read up electronically on world events and reach communities, mostly by people with a fairly technical bent. (True Confession: It was my favorite place to find used music gear as a student, there was no Craigslist or EBay then).

Figure 2: USENET

In this heady time, when the computer revolution was exploding, (I am talking post Atari !) , on the server side of things there was a plethora  of commercial and non-commercial offerings of the Unix Operating system (UNIX OS), offered on different chip architectures (RISC, CISC and their variants, and eventually Intel led x-86 architecture).  These have now standardized now to a few common offerings.

I may even take you further down memory lane, by sharing that AT&T Labs was one of the original contributors to the Unix OS – (System V).  Most UNIX offerings were variants of System V or Berkeley Unix (BSD Unix).

During this generation, some of us were fortunate enough to work with powerful and elegant operating systems made by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)’s – VMS, OpenVMS and DEC UNIX. In fact, for the longest time, the 64 Bit computing space was dominated by DEC.  64 Bit Computing made its way into Windows and other operating systems in the late 90’s.  DEC would later on be acquired by Compaq Corporation, which was eventually acquired by Hewlett-Packard (HP).  DEC’s flagship relational database product (RDB) was acquired by Oracle Corporation.

As we all know, with time, Windows and Mac started to offer very good server operating systems as well, starting on the desktop and then on the server. The Linux OS came later, on x-86 hardware.

Coming to the present, while talking to customers and end-users, meeting people at trade-shows and events, it is still very obvious that Cloud Computing is being interpreted uniquely, depending on who you talk to.  While the NIST model is fairly self-descriptive, a major trend “Clouding” the topic today is the role of Virtualization and its role in the Cloud, no pun intended!   In a previous posting, I’ve tried to outline the key relationships between Virtualization and Cloud Computing.

What is very interesting is that the existence and roles played by multiple virtualization platforms parallels the blossoming of multiple operating systems in computing history.  While the past is no indication of the future, I tend to be a fan of George Santayana and believe one can learn a few things from history.

The fact is there are multiple virtualization platforms available today – in the open-source as well as the commercial marketplace.  And the reality is  that a Cloud Computing Infrastructure can be enabled in many ways – with or without a virtualization platform – or for the technically inclined – with or without a hypervisor.

We continue more about this in a Part II of this post, where we discuss type of hypervisors and deployment architectures – with or without virtualization.  I also wanted to take this opportunity to share a new offering AT&T launched recently, called Cloud Architect,  that provides on-demand computing in uniquely innovative ways.

In the interim, some points to think about:

-How many operating systems do you current have in your environment ?

-How many types of hardware platforms do you currently have in your environment ?

-About how much percentage of your computing is in a Cloud vs. non-Cloud ?

-About how much percentage of your computing is in Private Cloud vs Public Cloud?

We look forward to your answers.

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