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Guest View: The cloud community faces industrial scale challenges

James Walker | Jan. 22, 2014
No one group has all the expertise needed to create a perfect cloud environment – it needs expertise in application behaviour, datacentre design, network and machine virtualisation, wide area networking and so much more. Getting this all working together calls for collaboration, and the CloudEthernet Forum (CEF) is the way to do it, says CEF President, James Walker

If we are to find new ways to streamline the process, reducing the grunt work rather than moving it all to the control layer, then it will need a fundamental rethink: it will need a cloudEthernet.

The second big issue centres on collaboration: the problems are different when you begin linking remote datacentres. Yes, it also increases scale, but the real challenge is bringing together mature disciplines with already established boundaries: the people who build datacentres and design applications are not WAN experts, just as telcos have much to learn about the needs of applications and datacentre architecture.

An enterprise cloud solution typically brings together at least four major players in addition to Network Equipment Manufacturers: datacentre experts, WAN service providers, cloud service providers, usually some exchange provider like Equinix, Telx or CoreSite who may be hosting ten thousand logically discrete tenants in a single datacentre. These are big worlds needing to find common ground or a connecting bridge. If that does not happen, then any failure in cloud delivery will widen the rift as each discipline starts blaming the others for any system failure.

Collaboration is the key. Before the cloud's Ethernet foundations start to show its cracks, we need the whole industry to work together to reinforce those foundations. There are already giant players in this game: in 2012 AWS, Google and Microsoft accounted for 40% of all the Ethernet ports shipped worldwide. While that gives some idea of their massive investment, the total being less than 50% also tells us that not one of these giants is yet big enough to dominate the scene and dictate its own cloud connectivity 'standards' for global usage. So standards need to be created before the market fragments.

Taking a familiar example: the outstanding success of Carrier Ethernet happened because vendors collaborated to create and certify global standards in the name of MEF - rather than battling each other to see whose technology could take the lead. The users could buy certified services and equipment without having to waste time choosing technologies, the service providers and vendors made faster sales, and world business gained by the acceleration of high performance, lower cost WAN services brought about by Carrier Ethernet.

A similar level of collaboration by cloud stakeholders is needed now. The CEF is gathering expertise in application behaviour, datacentre design, security, network and machine virtualization, wide area networking and so much more. Those who join are collaborating to build a firm foundation for tomorrow's cloud - a cloudEthernet meeting the needs of scalability, determinism, availability at the speed of VMs being made and torn down. Those who stand aside may find themselves delivering services on a creaking platform, pointing the finger of blame at everyone but themselves.



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