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LinuxWorld/Next Generation Data Center attendees get schooled in cloud computing

A Next Generation Data Center cloud computing session outlined some important changes IT departments need to make for a successful foray into the cloud.

It was standing room only at the session "Cloud Computing and the Data Center of the Future" at the LinuxWorld/Next Generation Data Center conference in San Francisco Aug. 4-7.

The promise of cloud computing is that, eventually, there will be a virtual dial that administrators can crank up to automatically get more compute power whenever it is needed, said Sam Charrington, the vice president of product management and marketing for St. Louis, Mo.-based Appistry Inc., which makes a grid application platform and which hosted the session.

Cloud-computing enthusiasts envision being able to move applications and data fluidly between different cloud environments provided by various companies, like Amazon.com, he said.

This environment is attractive to companies that have frequent highs and lows in compute demand, because it allows them to pay for resources as needed instead of making capital expenditures in new hardware. Companies that have run out of data center space and/or power are also interested in cloud computing.

Cloud computing's prerequisites
But cloud-computing environments – which are scalable, adaptive, reliable and fault-tolerant, programmable, virtualized and self-managing by design – won't catch on without changes within the IT industry, Charrington said.

For one, hardware standardization will have to happen in order for applications and data to move seamlessly from one cloud environment to the next, Charrington said. Today, commodity x86 servers are the building blocks of clouds, and blade servers are being used for their scalability in data centers. For networking, 10Gigabit Ethernet completes the puzzle by allowing virtualization and data movement in the cloud environment, Charrington said.

Standardization efforts such as Open Virtualization Format (OVF) will also be an important measure in moving cloud computing forward, because it standardizes the means to package and distribute virtual machines across platforms. Charrington likened OVF standardization to MP3 formatting, which allowed audio to be transmitted between different vendor devices.

In addition, for cloud computing to be valuable, CIOs will have to learn how to become savvy at positioning their applications in various cloud environments, he said.

In closing the session, Charrington gave attendees some of the following suggestions on using cloud computing.

Companies interested in moving applications to the cloud should first become familiar with cloud platforms like Amazon.com's EC2 and GoGrid. The next step is to explore cloud application platforms, like Appistry's own Enterprise Application Fabric (EAF), a grid-based platform that simplifies the development and deployment of software applications. With Appistry EAF, software developed in Java, Spring, .NET, C++ and other languages can be scaled-out across a virtualized grid of servers running Windows or Linux.

He also suggested taking inventory of applications that could benefit from being in a cloud environment. Applications that are typically put into a cloud environment are Web applications and scalable applications, like high-volume data and event processing applications, Charrington said.

"Today, we are seeing people on both sides of the spectrum; either they put the apps that they don't really care about in the cloud, or they put those really large, important applications in the cloud," Charrington said.

Finally, he suggested convening a task force of administrators from architecture, operations and development teams who can migrate a few applications to a cloud environment as a test.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

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