Cloud Connect: U.S. IT In Forefront
The Cloud Connect conference opens with a warning on how the rest of the world views the U.S.-driven cloud computing phenomenon.
March 16, 2010 04:11 PM
Thanks to cloud computing, information now flows over national borders with an ease that alarms some governments.
It's typical in the U.S. for companies to sell a set of new technology products and move on before government, either here or abroad, takes much interest. But cloud computing is different, warned Dan Elron, Accenture's managing partner for technology strategy, at the opening of the Cloud Connect conference in Santa Clara, Calif.
Elron, who regards cloud computing current state as "a supranational phase" of the expansion of the Internet, made his remarks before about 290 attendees in an auditorium of the Santa Clara Convention Center.
Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has publicly defined cloud computing as a key part of the U.S. government's IT strategy, somewhat ahead of the business world. Governments abroad are both intrigued and alarmed by its possibilities, Elron added.
The large data centers being built for access over the Internet by Amazon, Google, Microsoft and other vendors "break down national boundaries," Elron noted. Both Google and Microsoft have built or are building data centers in the major economies around the world, where anyone with an account may access and use them.
Governments in Europe and other parts of the world are concerned that cloud computing is a U.S.-based development that may compel them to adopt online practices that they did not anticipate or originate. "Governments are worried about vendor lock-in, the security of their data and privacy of their citizens, Elron added.
With cloud computing still at an early stage, both the U.S. government and the technology industry need to figure out how to offer examples avoiding vendor lock-in and setting standards to protect data in the cloud. If cloud suppliers proceed on a strictly competitive and proprietary basis, as previous waves of disruptive technology have, it will retard adoption of cloud computing in many parts of the world, Elron warned.
Business as usual will inhibit widespread cloud adoption. "The faster we take on these issues as an industry, the more we'll achieve," he said.
Two of his follow up speakers illustrated why cloud users elsewhere in the world may be concerned about where U.S. practices may be taking them. Guy Rosen, CEO of market research firm Vircado, illustrated how it is possible to derive figures on the size of existing clouds, despite the suppliers viewing that information as proprietary.
During World War II, U.S. intelligence estimated that Germany was producing 1,400 Panther tanks a month, but skeptical mathematicians looked at evidence of tanks destroyed, captured or photographed and concluded they were producing 256 a month. The actual number, wartime records proved, was 255 a month.
How had the mathematicians done so much better than the intelligence community? He asked. The answer lay in the fact that manufacturers painted a serial number on each tank and careful examination revealed how many were coming out of the factories each month. In a similar manner, Rosen has applied his market research talents to the sizes of individual vendors' clouds and concluded:
- Amazon maintains about 83,000 servers in its Elastic Compute Cloud at multiple data centers.
- GoGrid maintains 181 servers.
- Rackspace maintains 488.
Both GoGrid and Rackspace number their servers sequentially, said Rosen, while Amazon Web Services has a coded numbering scheme that includes alphanumerics. He's been able to translate Amazon's code into numbers that he says tells him the total number of servers.
Since 2006, Amazon's EC2 has fired up a total of 23,192,900 servers or virtual machine workloads in its data centers, indicating use of the cloud for infrastructure computing may be more extensive than many people realize, Rosen said.
Rosen shares his research findings in a blog.
GoGrid has launched 75,391 and Rackspace 165,975, based on figures derived through September 2009, he said.
Rodney Joffe, senior VP and senior technologist at Neustar, a IT consulting firm, said just as cloud vendors may have greater reach than many realize, so does the underworld of cloud exploiters, who take over business and individual computers and form a virtual cloud based on their bots. They can activate and use their version of cloud services for the distribution of spam, malware and phishing initiatives. The Conflicker worm infects over 6 million computers worldwide, despite efforts to eradicate it. Its distribution represents one of the largest clouds in existence, Joffe said.