Thursday, January 19, 2012

It Will Be a Data-Centric (Cloudy) World

(Or, Where Tomorrow's Clouds Will Form)

Move Mohammed to the mountain, or the mountain to Mohammed? 

In the context of data, applications and cloud computing, this question takes on a new perspective - and the role of Mohammed and the Mountain may soon reverse.

In the traditional application-centric (and static infrastructure) world, the Application is the immovable "mountain". Like a magnet, the app is permanently-located, attracting to it local data stores and peripheral support apps.  Administrators dote around it like worker bees around the queen.

But for some uses and applications this may all change - altering with it the how-and-where compute and community clouds form.

Observation #1: Apps are becoming mobile

With increased use of a virtualization layer, migration tools, shared storage, fat network pipes, and virtual I/O and switching, we are all now realizing that where the executable application code resides is becoming far less important. Everything is just data - and can be moved/migrated. In mature virtual environments, VMs typically move between servers because of maintenance windows, because of capacity adjustments, etc.  But when VMs move move between physical data centers (separated by many miles or more) there is often a data movement as well. But there's no denying that the application is becoming more mobile.

We also have the emergence of large data arrays and analytics appliances that embed internal servers that speed queries and analysis. VM's typically run on top of these servers being migrated in-and-out of the arrays as workloads and queries change. Hang on to this visual... we'll come back to it later.

Observation #2: Big Data is becoming bigger

When we start talking about hundreds of Terabytes - or even Petabytes - of structured/unstructured "big data", moving that data becomes increasingly physically difficult. Where it's generated is generally where it stays. Think about financial stock exchanges; retail data warehouses; medical imaging; geologic or climatological data. These stores are now becoming big and immovable.

So, enterprises are now locating these data stores within critical data centers - within which they are co-locating the applications that require frequent access to that data. Sometimes that proximity is sufficient, and sometimes the analytics may even move within the array. But any way you look at it, those data stores are becoming the center of attention, around-which the applications now congregate.

An interesting shift. But wait, there's more...
Outcome: Where Tomorrow's Clouds Might Form

So let's expand this model from enterprise data centers to public clouds. Or even to "community clouds".

Take the example of financial exchange data - NYSE’s Capital Markets Community Platform about which I blogged last year.  Here we have a special-purpose, "community cloud" - optimized for financial institutions, wherein they can locate trading and analytics applications. (Imagine a 3-person hedge-fund startup needing infrastructure). Operationally it's fit-for-purpose, with a high performance, low-latency compute backbone, with a common security/compliance envelope. But it's got another trait: At its core is a historic data warehouse of every tick for every trade. Now that's big data.

If you think of it, the NYSE data store has become the "Mountain" around which applications (supplied by the cloud tenants) now congregate.They run their algorithms and analytics against the local data store. The data within the community cloud has become the anchor, the magnet. The apps are moved to be near the data.... not the other way around.  Remember that data array that had embedded VMs? Well, think of this model as that array on steroids.

So, what might this mean if you want to build a differentiated cloud computing resource - say, targeting a specific industry vertical?  It says to me that the world will shift to a data-centric model. Focus on amassing and maintaining massive high-value data, all (presumably) requiring a similar security/compliance model. And then build a business by allowing tenants access by co-locating their applications in the same cloud as the data resides.

I could see this transforming both the cloud service provider ecosystem, as well as entire industry groups. Consider new Cloud Service Provider models:  What if NOAA formed the Weather and Atmospherics Community Platform? If healthcare companies created federated Medical Records Community Platforms? If the USGS formed the World Geologic Community Platform? If other brokerages created equivalent capital markets platforms? 

Cloud computing is shifting lots of conceptual IT models these days. But while you're considering what Cloud makes possible for applications, spend some time wondering what data makes possible for the Cloud.

Other References


    Shivan said...

    Interesting post, thanks! Data is an important component to any application and I agree with large volume, where data is gathered, thereso data will remain. Applications are getting very mobile, but they are consolidating around the data. Another component to application centricity is target audience for applications. Geographic boundaries and regional influence are important to keep in mind and will determine how large data sets are partitioned or dispersed over time.

    Look forward to more posts in the future!

    Note: I work for RightScale

    Ken Oestreich said...

    Shivan -

    Good point about geographic boundaries too... given privacy, legal compliance and national regulations, data will also likely sediment into country-specific data centers.