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Commodity clouds, the 'Tuning Tax' and what Cloud users really need

Bernard Golden | May 27, 2013
Application-tuning capabilities coupled with today's commodity cloud offerings are more than many users need. Just like broadband Internet, though, it's only a matter of time before these 'overserved' users turn to the commodity cloud to meet 'unserved' needs. Will this leave enterprise cloud deployments in the cold?

As an example of the unserved market (or markets, really), consider the technology of broadband Internet connectivity. While higher bandwidth supports more complex websites, the downstream implications of how high bandwidth will affect the business world are only now unfolding: The explosion of user-generated video, the potential of telemedicine and the entire "Internet of Things," which posits billions of devices applied to specialized tasks, generating data and enabling everything from thermostats that learn to cars that drive themselves.

Seen from this perspective, the cloud computing market probably looks more like this:

One could nevertheless argue that, well and good, commodity clouds have a very bright future-but there will still be a need for providers that offer enterprise-quality configuration and tuning to support those applications that cannot, for technical reasons, be satisfied with commodity offerings.

That may be true, but it remains to be seen how big a cloud market that becomes. It's hard to see how a service provider can make those finicky technology knobs and gears available as services that can be manipulated via an API.

While much of the cloud computing (and networking) vendor community is currently gaga over software defined networking, most of the discussion revolves around relatively simple configuration domains such as setting IP addresses and retaining relationships (e.g., this server needs to talk to that server). I haven't seen any discussion about configuration and tuning capabilities of the sort required to wring the last drop of performance out of a network configuration.

In other words, can this complex tuning capability required for a certain domain of applications truly be offered as a cloud service, or are we really talking about spiffed-up colocation or managed service hosting presented as a shiny cloud offering? The crucial question is what depth of tuning is required for the applications that reside at the top of the pyramid and what proportion of those applications' performance requirements can be served via an API.

Overall, I'm not convinced that performance-sensitive applications that require tuning represent the future of the cloud computing market.


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