August 04, 2009
Some of the most excited HPC vendors these days are the grid computing companies that are rapidly extending their portfolios for the cloud computing market. Companies like Univa UD, Cluster Resources and Platform Computing, among others, are hoping that their expertise in utility computing can be parlayed to address a much wider market. Across the industry, the attraction of delivering infrastructure and software as services has become irresistible. Unlike grid computing, which never attained widespread use, cloud computing is almost certainly headed for fame and fortune.
Two general trends are pushing cloud deployment to the front of every CIO's to-do list: the falling price of hardware and the increasing expense of managing that hardware as a single resource. Managing infrastructure at scale is where the grid middleware vendors come in, and at this stage it is these companies that see nothing but green field between high performance computing and the rest of the commercial enterprise market.
That's one reason you saw Platform Computing trumpet a recent survey it passed out at the recent International Computing Conference (ISC) that reflected cloud deployment interest by IT execs. According to the survey, 28 percent said they were planning to deploy a private cloud in 2009.
To be honest, this seems a bit higher than I would have expected. But since ISC attracts a lot of practitioners from Europe, where grid computing always seemed more popular than in the US, perhaps we're just seeing grid proponents moving on to the next utility computing paradigm. And as The Register's Timothy Prickett Morgan suggests: "We may be merely witnessing a buzzword shift."
Since the survey was directed at the HPC crowd, the majority of the cloud deployers (67 percent) reported they were planning to run simulation/modeling apps in the cloud. Other applications categories that got high marks included Web services (32 percent) and business analytics (18 percent).
The survey also solicited feedback on potential hurdles. From the Platform press release:
[A]ccording to the survey findings, 76 percent of IT executives admit they do not feel that business decision makers understand the potential of private clouds. Also, according to respondents, over one third (37 percent) felt organizational culture was the biggest barrier to establishing a private cloud. The survey demonstrates that while IT executives recognize the benefits that private clouds can deliver over the traditional approach to IT, and want to deploy quickly, some decision-makers still need convincing. Others cited complexity of managing (26 percent), security (21 percent), upfront costs (8 percent) and application software licensing (8 percent).
It's worth noting that no mention was made of the lack of standards as a barrier to cloud computing. Either Platform forgot to ask or they chose not to. (Like most middleware vendors, not to mention, most cloud infrastructure vendors, Platform is interested in the private cloud market.) Interoperability between clouds of different vendors will eventually be a constraint to their wider use. One of the fundamental principles of the cloud model is to get rid of the siloed architecture of the datacenter. But without interoperability, you effectively have just moved the wall of the silo to the edge of the datacenter.
On the other hand, it could be argued that the grid computing community's obsession with standards from day one is what did them in. In general, innovation and standards tend to be at odds with one another. In any case, it's probably too early in the cloud hypecycle to be insisting upon standards.
The implicit point behind Platform's survey is that what's good for HPC is good for every other IT segment. Although there are plenty of cloud skeptics in the industry, most analysts concede that cloud computing growth is now inevitable. For example, Gartner says by 2012 80 percent of Fortune 1000 enterprises will be paying for cloud computing services and 30 percent will be paying for cloud computing infrastructure services. And IDC is predicting that cloud services revenue will grow 300 percent in the next three years, reaching $42 billion. In fact, today you would have trouble finding an analyst who is not forecasting at least a partly cloudy future for IT. For vendors like Platform, that is good news indeed.
Posted by Michael Feldman - August 04, 2009 @ 5:28 PM, Pacific Daylight Time
Michael Feldman is the editor of HPCwire.
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