Another CloudCamp Austin Wrapup

James already posted, but I took notes too so here’s my thoughts!

CloudCamp was a great time.  Dave Nielsen did a great job facilitating it.  Pervasive Software hosted the shindig.  It started with Mike Hoskins, Pervasive CTO, telling us about how they started an “innovation lab” to reinvigorate Pervasive after being in business for 25 years, and that led to their DataCloud2 product hosted on EC2.

Then there were three lightning talks.

Barton James, Dell cloud evangelist, talked about the continuum between traditional compute to private cloud to public cloud, and how the midsection of that curve will shift over time to solidly center over private cloud.  I think that’s accurate; all the data center nonsense of the last number of years is certainly starting to convince us that you only want to manage hardware if there’s no other choice…   He talked about paths to the cloud- either starting with virtualization and then adding on capabilities until something is really cloud-ready, or just greenfielding something new (that’s what we’re doing!). It was good, apparently Dell has thought more about the cloud since their original ill-conceived attempt to trademark it as a server name.

Oscar Padilla, a senior engineer with Pervasive, spoke about their path moving their existing software to the cloud (very interesting to us,  since we’re doing the same) and the duality in being a both a cloud consumer (Amazon IaaS) and a cloud provider (Pervasive’s SaaS product).  This is an increasingly common pattern; I’d say that being a SaaS provider and not using IaaS  (unless you’re really huge) is likely a mistake on your part.  He also talked about the importance of adding an API so others can leverage your software – this is a huge point and it’s bizarre to me other people still aren’t getting this.

Finally, Walter Falk of IBM spoke about how the hybrid cloud is the bomb.  Hybrid cloud, or “cloud bursting,” is where you run your own nice and cheap local hardware for minimum loads and scale into the cloud for extra capacity.  He also showed a diagram indicating what kinds of workloads are low hanging fruit for cloudification (information intensive, isolated workloads, mature processes…  You’ve probably all seen the slide by now).  And he talked about how ecosystem is very important even for IBM – other people doing good stuff in the space.  “Go to ibm.com/cloud!”

Then we did a little impromptu panel thing, where I and some other folks were drafted up to answer questions.  This revealed something interesting, which is that a LOT of the people there were apparently coming from the cloud provider point of view, and had questions about power consumption and what hypervisor options there are.  As an IaaS consumer/SaaS provider, my main input there is “I don’t want to care about all that nonsense, thus I use IaaS!”   I answered a question about “how to define PaaS,” but my response was not thrilling enough to relate here.

Next came the conference sessions – we did the normal unconference thing of random people writing down topics and doing shows of hands on who cares about that.  The ones that got the largest response were Application Architecture for the Cloud and Systems Management for Cloud Consumers (the latter was mine; the panel gave me the heads up that I’d best add “consumers” to the end of that to not get stuck in storage-container-datacenter hell).

I didn’t go to Application Architecture for the Cloud but spoke to our guys that did and they did something that IMO should have been done in the larger group – did some quick demographics voting!  Bill, one of our devs, tells me that the responses were:

  • What language are you using?  2/3 Java, 1/3 .NET.
  • What cloud are you using?  Vast majority Amazon (even among the .NETters), notable minority Azure, trace amounts of others.
  • Are you internal IT or product focused?  50/50 split.
  • Are you using noSQL stuff?  A small number.
  • Are you using Rails?  No.
  • Are you using SOA/SOAP stuff?  No.
  • Are you using memcache?  A couple are, but more are doing app level caching with JPA or whatnot.

James covered the goings-on in Systems Management for the Cloud well; besides the specific tool takeaways I enjoyed the quote from one of the ServiceMesh guys about the practice of taking your traditional static infrastructure and just implementing it on the cloud without rearchitecting to take advantage of its dynamic nature is called “moving shit to shit.”  I was very impressed with the guys from ServiceMesh and from Pervasive that we met there; we’ve all already hooked up and done lunch to talk more.  All great guys doing some cutting edge stuff.

The last session was on Software to SaaS – taking existing software you sell for on premise use and turning it into a cloud offering.  Phil Fritz from IBM broke a lot of it down very accurately – there are some challenges from the customer side (trust, opex vs capex) but the vast majority of problems you face are internal.  And only a few of those internal issues are really technical in the “make it work in the cloud” sense, the rest are about metering, billing, the sales force not selling it because they don’t understand it or it’s against their usual commission model, forking of code and testing inefficiency, (IBM has a strict rule that there’s not a separate SaaS branch of the software, you have to fold fixes into trunk, which is extremely wise).  This is all very good stuff – our main issues with bringing SaaS to market similarly hasn’t been the technical side, it’s been the product marketers’ doubt, the “it’s not supported” in our ERP/billing system, sales and support staff education…

Then there was a wrapup, but it was like 10 at night on a weeknight so most of the norms had cleared out already.

In closing, it was an awesome event and we made some great contacts for further discussion.  Thanks to Dave and Pervasive for bringing CloudCamp to Austin, and I hope to see another soon!

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