There was spring in the air yesterday afternoon. So what do you do ? You make a nice drive in your convertible car and you head for the Antwerp Zoo. (I don’t have a convertible, but I thought this would be a nice start for today’s blog)
Antwerp Zoo: not that i am such an animal-freak, but that’s where the 1st CloudCamp for Belgium was held. For this first, the organizers got about 80 people together. Not bad, and gives an idea of the buzz going on about this topic. And as you will see, these sort of CloudCamps happen everywhere in the world. Take your chance if there’s one in your country.
For those not familiar with Cloud Computing, a good primer “Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing” was recently released by Berkeley University. You can download it here.
You will quickly find out that this is the space of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google AppEngine, Microsoft Azure, and many many others. Many, many others… right. Just have a look at the list of sponsors of yesterday’s CloudCamp: some well established big boys such as Sun and Microsoft (strange that neither AWS not Google had any presence or sponsorship), and then “the rest”: all (at least for me) new names such as A-Server, Zeus, iTricity, Flexiscale, Terremark, WDC (Wallonie Data Center), Virtualization.com, Ausy, Unuits Open Source, etc…
It’s maybe good to throw in some buzzwords in here:
- IaaS: Infrastructure-as-a-Service
- PaaS: Platform-as-a-Service
- SaaS: Software-as-a-Service
Most of the speakers come out of what i call the datacenter/hosting space. The IaaS space. When i walked in (too late, as usual), there was a presentation going on about: cooling, racks, power being 30%+ of the cost of a datacenter,…
I was only 30 min late, but this was already the 5th presentation after the keynote.
That’s a bit the problem with these “un-conference” formats. Each speaker gets 5 min to do a non-commercial pitch, and for the rest one hopes that during the “power-break” and the “beer with cheese” after-event some good discussions or business will happen: they usually don’t (except of seeing some old pals again after years) and there is no way how you can get some depth on these subjects. And then at the end you have these terrible unprepared Q&A sessions with the “panel” that really go nowhere.
But there was a lot of positive as well:
There was this spring "Internet Boom” feeling again: a lot of idealism, lots of young people, going for it and not afraid to go to war against the incumbents.
The speaker from Microsoft at least had a story to tell. Although his presentation was in essence a very high level powerpoint of the Berkeley report (download above) plus one obligate slide on Azure, he was not too arrogant to admit to sat “there is still a lot of work to be done”.
And of course every time you have Microsoft in the room, you get these sterile and religious “let’s bash Microsoft” interventions about the desktop is dead, everybody else is more secure than Microsoft, etc, etc. It’s a real pity, because Microsoft deserves better and they have a story to tell. And the speaker handled the questions very well in an non-arrogant and respectful way.
There were some good interventions by the Sun guy. You could feel he was used to talk to CIO’s and alike. In the end he said that any big company will need it all: their own infrastructure, a private cloud next to their datacenter to be able to deal with latency issues, and one or more public clouds.
There was a good – although light – debate why big banks or airline companies (i think business criticality and high I/O were the underlying themes) have not yet embraced Cloud. The answers from the panel were staggering and almost a license to kill for any CIO you would like to convince about Cloud:
- We are in a learning phase
- There are a lot of security issues to be tackled
- You don’t have the right skills
- Cloud is for Web 2.0 architectures, for rendering and streaming. We can’t help you with your legacy.
- High I/O database projects don’t fly well in the Cloud.
As the afternoon progressed, i got more and more irritated with what i would call “The Unbearable Lightness” of these sort of events. These folks really have to do a major effort to speak the language of the business: they speak about security, migration, liability, scalability, resilience like you would talk to your 3 year old daughter about your latest visit to the Zoo. I know some companies where you would be shown the door after 5 minutes if you came with such a pitch.
By contrast, we closed the day with a not-so-light Belgian Beer and Cheese buffet. After that, i strolled around in the by now empty Zoo. “That’s where he belongs”, i hear some of you thinking.
The last sunrays were sprinkling a soft and cozy “light” into the warm early spring evening: in the end, i was happy i went to this CloudCamp: this is a space with a lot of action for the next 1-2 years. Then the rain will fall out of the clouds, and we will see who will be able to offer alternatives to the Cloud power houses of today.