The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Tag: PaaS

Cloud Computing and the OpenStack Advantage

by: Nagendra Nyamgondalu, Senior Engineering Manager at IBM India and Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies Master of Software Engineering Alum

It was only a few years back that most IT managers I spoke to would smirk when they heard  the  term  “cloud” in  a  conversation.  They  either  didn’t  believe  that  cloud cloud-iaas computing  would  be  viable  for  their  businesses’  IT  needs  or  were  skeptical  about  the maturity  of  the  technology.  And  rightly  so.  But,  a  lot  has  changed  since  then.  The  technology, tools and services available for businesses considering adoption of a public cloud, setting up their own private cloud or treading the middle path of a hybrid one, has  made  rapid  strides.  Now,  the  same  IT  managers  are  very  focused  on  deploying  workloads and applications on the cloud for cost reduction and improved efficiency.

Businesses  today  have  the  choice  of  consuming  Infrastructure  as  a  service  (IaaS),  Platform as a service (PaaS) and Software as a service (SaaS). As you can imagine, these models map directly to the building blocks of a typical data center. Servers, storage and networks form the infrastructure on top of which, the required platforms are built such as databases, application servers or web servers and tools for design and development. Once the two foundational layers are in place, the applications that provide the actual business value can be run on top. While all three models are indisputable parts of the bigger picture that is Cloud Computing, I have chosen to focus on IaaS here. After all, infrastructure is the first step to a successful IT deployment.

Essentially, IaaS is the ability to control and automate pools of resources, be it compute, storage,  network  or  others  and  provision  it  on-­‐demand.  Delivering  IaaS  requires  technology  that  provides  efficient  and  quick  provisioning,  smart  scheduling  for deployment  of  virtual  machines  and  workloads,  support  for  most  hardware  and  of  course, true scalability. OpenStack is an open source framework founded by Rackspace Hosting  and  NASA  that  takes  a  community  approach  to  make  all  this  possible.  It  was  designed  with  scalability  and  elasticity  as  the  overarching  theme  and  a  share­nothing, distribute-­‐everything approach. This enables OpenStack to be horizontally scalable and asynchronous. Since inception, the community has grown to a formidable number with many  technology  vendors  such  as  IBM,  Cisco,  Intel,  HP  and  others  embracing  it.  The  undoubted advantage that a community-­‐based approach brings, especially to something like IaaS, is the extensive support for a long list of devices and cloud standards. When a new type of storage or a next generation network switch is introduced to the market, the vendors have a lot to gain by contributing support drivers for their offerings to the community. Similar support for proprietary technology has dependencies on customer demand and the competitive dynamics amongst the vendors -­‐ this almost always results in delayed support, if that. While proprietary versus open source is always a debate, the innovation and cost benefits that open alternatives have provided in the recent years, has  clearly  made  CIOs  take  notice.  Support  for  a  variety  of  hypervisors,  Open  APIs,  support  for  object  or  block  storage  and  the  mostly  self-­‐sufficient  management capabilities are some of the common themes I hear on why businesses are increasingly adapting OpenStack. Additionally, the distributed architecture cloud_securityof OpenStack where each component (such as Compute, Network, Storage & Security) runs as a separate process connected  via  a  lightweight  message  broker,  makes  it  easy  for  ISVs  looking  to  build  value-­‐adds  on  top  of  the  stack.  All  the  right  ingredients  for  a  complete  cloud management solution for IaaS.

Most  IT  managers  dream  of  the  day  when  every  request  for  infrastructure  is  satisfied  instantly by the click of a button regardless of the type being requested, workloads run smoothly and fail-­‐over seamlessly when there is a need to, resource usage is constantly optimal  and  adding  additional  hardware  to  the  pool  is  a  smooth  exercise.  Business  managers dream of the day when they have instant access to the infrastructure needed to run their brand new application and once it is up, it stays up. Aaah Utopia.

The good news is it is possible here and now.

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Nagendra Nyamgondalu is a Senior Engineering Manager at IBM in India. He is a 2003 graduate from Brandeis University, Graduate Professional Studies’ Master of Software Engineering Program.

 

Bigger than “Cloud Computing”

by: Ari Davidow

It’s textbook season once again. That’s the time of year when I go through new textbooks for next semester’s course.

Cloud-Computing-capThe good news is, “Cloud Computing,” a subject so out on the edge when it was first offered four years ago that it was a “special topic,” is now relatively main stream. The bad news is, the textbooks still focus on how to teach network administrators how to set up cloud services. Which wouldn’t be a bad class, and it is certainly useful to IT professionals, but it isn’t the class that we teach here at Brandeis.

My course focuses as much on how “Cloud Computing” is changing how we do our jobs, as it does on the practicalities of using common Cloud infrastructure. We don’t neglect becoming familiar with common Cloud “Infrastructure as a Service” components such as: storage, queue servicing, database and web servers and the like. But that is a limited corner of the field.

I first realized how far ahead of the times our course was when I saw one of the computing consulting groups, IDC, refer to the topics we address as “The Third Platform.” Turns out, by focusing on the different types of Cloud Computing platforms, spending time considering related issues (“Big Data” and how “mobile computing” affects it all), we were focusing attention on what IDC feels is a major shift in computing. A shift so large it is comparable to the switch from mainframes to personal computers not so many years ago.

Additionally, the IDC report accidentally highlights how we create courses. Sometimes, when we’re teaching a language or computing system, we focus on the basics of just learning that language or platform. If you take a Ruby class, or a class in Analytics, you’ll get a good grounding in those disciplines. But with Cloud Computing we are talking about changes in technology that are changing everything around them.

SaaSSoftware as a Service (SaaS) has radically changed how Enterprise applications are purchased and maintained. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) has changed the way start-ups work and thoroughly changed the economics of putting new ideas to the test. The proliferation of mobile devices has similarly destroyed the likelihood that network security is as simple as thinking in terms of one person/one device, most of which are physically hooked up to the network. This is a paradigm already challenged by the need to integrate SaaS services with the rest of the network.

When you sign up for “Cloud Computing” this summer, you are signing up to explore the entire “Third Platform.” We’ll also walk you through some bare metal Cloud Computing basics and have some big fun with Big Data. I look forward to seeing you soon.

P.S. As with all Brandeis GPS classes, you can participate with whatever computing device is convenient to you—your computer, your tablet or smartphone. We like to practice what we teach.

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