Tuesday, September 29, 2009

IBM CloudBurst Part 5: IBM CloudBurst Offering in Comparison to other Cloud Offerings

Samuel Sharaf, Solution Director West Coast

In the previous blog entries we discussed the IBM offering for establishing private clouds i.e. the CloudBurst device and its configurations. In this final part of the blog series, I will discuss the other cloud computing options, specifically open source and how they compare to the IBM offering.

Besides IBM, the other big players in the cloud computing domain are Amazon, Sun (Oracle), Google, SalesForce, etc. The Amazon EC2 (elastic compute cloud) offers a very flexible cloud computing solution for public clouds; offering both open source as well as vendor specific technologies. Before we start the comparison of the offerings; let’s revisit the architectural service layers of cloud computing. The architectural services model of cloud computing can be viewed as a set of 3 layers viz. applications, services and infrastructure.

Layer 1 – SAAS (Software as a service) e.g. Sales Force CRM application
Layer 2 – PAAS (Platform as a service) e.g. XEN image offered by Amazon
Layer 3 – IAAS (Infrastructure as a service) e.g. e.g. Amazon EC2 and S3 services

The IBM CloudBurst device basically offers all 3 layers of cloud computing in a single device for establishing a private cloud. As far as public cloud is concerned, IBM offers several SAAS services e.g. IBM Lotus Live Notes, Events, Meetings, and Lotus Connections etc.

So how does an open source cloud computing model look like? At the platform layer level, companies like Sun Microsystems are offering solutions built around open source Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl/Python (AMP) stack. Open source communities are very actively developing solutions catered for cloud computing, in fact, cloud computing is acting as a catalyst for the development of agile new open source products like lighttpd (an open source web server), Hadoop, the free Java software framework that supports data-intensive distributed applications; and MogileFS, a file system that enables horizontal scaling of storage. However, a cloud computing solution based on open source is yet to be adopted by early adapters of cloud computing. As Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Media, and others have pointed out, open source is predicated on software licenses, which in turn are predicated on software distribution — and in cloud computing, software is not distributed; it’s delivered as a service over the Web. So cloud computing infrastructures and the modifications to the open-source technologies that enable them tend not to be available outside the cloud vendors’ datacenters, potentially locking their users in to a specific infrastructure.

Although the software stacks that run on top of these cloud computing infrastructures could be predominantly open source, the APIs used to control them (such as those that enable applications to provision new server instances) are not entirely open, further limiting developer choice. And cloud computing platforms that offer developers higher-level abstractions such as identity, databases, and messaging, as well as automatic scaling capabilities (often referred to as “platform as a service”), are the most likely to lock their customers in. Without open interfaces linking the variety of clouds that will exist — public, private, and hybrid — practical use cases will be difficult or impossible to deliver with open source technologies.

IBM’s offering for setting up private clouds, though completely vendor based, does offer a one stop solution which is scalable and dynamic.

Samuel Sharaf is a Solution Director at Prolifics on the West coast with real world customer expertise with Portal implementations, Dashboard, Forms and Content Management. Sam also has expertise with migrating applications from non-IBM platforms to IBM WebSphere Application and Portal Servers.