The Network is the Bottleneck
Cloud Computing is being considered a nirvana for enterprise computing and SMB computing alike. Service-oriented IT — both Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) — are a seminal innovation of the last decade. Broad adoption of Salesforce.com, Amazon AWS, and Google Apps, etc. underscores how important the notion of a “service” will become in this new decade. At the core of a service is “user experience,” and public cloud vendors are scrambling to improve that each passing day. SaaS vendors continue to emphasize usability and website performance. IaaS vendors are scratching the surface of user experience by deploying data centers worldwide, replicating data geographically and thus closer to the user, leasing transcontinental network cables, and renting CDNs (think Akamai) for mostly static content. The name of the game is to push content and computing as close to the user as possible. WAN is public cloud’s biggest enemy.
Private clouds are an equally important piecein the cloud computing puzzle. Enterprises and government agencies that want better control over data and computing — security, compliance, and overall quality of service — will continue to implement their own clouds. User experience — or the ability to push data and computing closer to the user — is as critical to the distributed (geographically dispersed) enterprise as it is to public clouds. But unlike the big service providers, most enterprises do not have the economies of scale to lease private network links or dictate good quality of service from CDNs. Notwithstanding all the WAN optimization innovation of the last decade, latency is a user experience killer. Satellite and branch office survivability is an important service goal, but extremely expensive to achieve because of the oligopoly of network service providers who charge exorbitant rates for the failover link to the corporate hub. The private WAN is an even bigger enemy of the private cloud.
SANs at the edge are overbearing
The leased line to the corporate hub is a bane, given the latency-sensitive and bandwidth-hogging workloads of this decade, e.g., rich media, virtual desktops, etc. Distributed enterprises have had a bittersweet experience with server rooms in satellite offices. They were clunky, ever-growing, and extremely hard to manage remotely from headquarters. Server room equipment was no different than that in large central data centers — unwieldy in form factor, power-guzzling, HVAC-hungry, noisy, and cluttered with haywire cables implementing complex networks. A big reason for this expansive clutter was the overbearing compute-network-storage architecture in which different pieces of the computing and storage puzzle fit in separate dedicated hardware. Quite reminiscent of the personal computing era when we used a cellphone for calling, a PDA for personal organization, a media player for music, a camera for photography, and a PC for emails, word processing, and web browsing. Then came the Apple iPhone. The rest is history.
An “iPhone” for Enterprise Computing
The private cloud at the edge needs an “iPhone-like” revolution that converges compute, network, and storage into one server-room-friendly equipment that is 5x smaller in form factor, extremely portable, green, content-rich for unparalleled user experience, and backed up to and easily managed from the “iCloud”. There is no separate SAN or NAS. There is no separate blade chassis. There is no need for hundreds of spindles of storage. There is survivability, in case the “3G” network is misbehaving. There is fault isolation because two “iPhones” don’t fail together. There is an “iOS” experience when managing individual devices at the edge. There is “Bonjour” to detect neighboring machines. There is impeccable serviceability with “auto downloads”. Most importantly, there is an “iCloud-like” corporate hub from where these “iPhones” can be managed, secured, and disaster-protected.
We need an Apple revolution in enterprise computing, period.
And that would be true homage to the genius who changed our lives forever.