IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and now introducing SCaaS…. Public Cloud Computing gets Real
… for me at least. And it turns out that it has been real for some firms for several years.
I attended a session held by IBM and Amazon Web Services (AWS) today at Hursley labs in Hampshire. The title of the session was: “Software as a Service: Getting started with IBM software on Amazon Web Services featuring WebSphere sMash & DB2″
The name kind of disguised what a mind-expanding day it was going to be. There were two major aspects to the day:
- that the commercial model for cloud computing is alive and well, and that we are at the beginning of a brand new ecosystem. This is as big as the first phase of the world wide web was, and bigger than web 2.0 by far
- the hands on proof that all the parts worked.
AWS is a provider of IaaS, and as I found out when signing up for my AWS, by reading the T’s and C’s, Amazon also has a subsidiary, Alexa, which provides Service Components as a Service (call it SCaaS or CaaS for short) – notably search and indexing.
Instead we will look at two of the major offerings of AWS, namely Simple Storage Service (S3) and the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). There are quite a few other offerings from AWS, which are interesting if you are using IaaS, but the core offerings illustrate why IaaS is more than a flash in the pan.
S3 is simply the provision of secure storage. Secure in the sense that it is private, and in the sense that it is persisted across multiple data-centres.
EC2 is the ability to provision (i.e. not just turn on, but to create) virtual machines – specifically various flavours of intel machines, running various OSs – within minutes. And then just as quickly to be able to release the machines. An AWS virtual machine is called an Amazon Machine Instance (AMI).
The story of how Amazon came to be providing infrastructure on demand, originally for its internal consumption, arises out of their desire to remove ‘undifferentiated heavy lifting’, e.g. how do we provide secure storage? (now provided by S3) They wanted to save each team having to solve similar heavy lifting problems, and concentrate on adding value. The end result is that the one IaaS provider I do (now) know something about, now, is already in a position to provide cheaper infrastructure to most blue chips, than any internal IT department – including those which are run by outsourcing outfits. AWS certainly will not be the only game in town; we can expect more players to join the market – which will make the cloud IaaS offering even more competetive:
- AWS have a large bank of hypervisors (hardware on which virtual machines can run), and have sorted out the provisioning of Virtual Machines to those hypervisors such that:
- The provisioning is controlled by the user, either through a web gui, or via web-services invocations
- The provisioning can be billed by the hour
- The provisioning can be automated to provide scaling on demand
- The hypervisors (i.e. the actual hardware) tend to run at about 80% utilisation. That is about sixteen times as much as most in-house IT shops. This means that AWS has one sixteenth of the cost of hardware, power, space, and cooling for any given set of software running.
Before I went to the session, I was aware that one of the benefits of cloud IaaS was that it was on-demand. I had no idea that the costs for running the machines 24×7 would be so much cheaper than most blue-chip’s IT shops.
The lab sessions were set up around the use of WebSphere sMash and IBM DB2 9.2 CE all running on virtual machines called Amazon Machine Instances (AMIs) in the EC2.
This is very much like the session I had a couple of weeks ago with the WebSphere Cloudburst appliance. Cloudburst makes it easy to deploy multiple instances of WebSphere Application Server (WAS) to a set of hypervisors (machines which are running as hosts to one or more virtual machines). The cloudburst appliance was very slick in its operation, and a big step towards virtualisation and re-use within a datacentre.
Setting up all of this virtualisation (i.e. the hypervisor estate on which to install and un-install the various virtual machines) within an IT shop requires a fair amount of capital expenditure, not to mention time.
The big difference between the cloudburst session, and this session is that the hypervisors are already there, ready to be used in the Amazon EC2 cloud: i.e. the capacity is there already. No capital investment required. No lead time. The labs allowed us to set up and instantiate the AMIs via a web gui with little fuss. A web-services API is also provided for this, with the relevant (X.509 and other) security mechanisms, and there is a vibrant developer community writing libraries in various languages to invoke these web-services.
The AMIs come in a variety of flavours, in terms of base operating system: windows, various Linux distros Open Solaris, but the second innovation is that commercial software is also available by the hour, just by paying a bit more on the hourly rate. So an AMI with a ‘free’ OS is cheapest ($0.0095 /hr at time of course, and now $0.0085 /hr). Windows costs a bit more (currently $0.120 /hr). All of the AMIs come with the necessary software to work with the AWS infrastructure – for instance to be able to capture snapshots of themselves (after configuration) for further cloning, or the capability to connect to S3 storage.
IBM is also taking part in that it is offering AMIs with various of its software products. Often the developer version is ‘free’ in that it costs the same as the minimum AMI cost with a bare OS. Then when moving to production the paid-for version is available as a higher cost AMI (say $0.36 /hr for express edition DB2, or $1.25 /hr for the workgroup edition). Similar terms exist for other IBM products (WAS, WebSphere Portal Server, sMash). This is a major step forward, as it allows the complete stack to be paid for on demand. IBM also allows you to bring your existing licenses to the infrastructure running on AWS.
It is worth noting that although IBM is a frontrunner, it is not alone in working with AWS in this way. Microsoft and Oracle also have database instances available, for example.
In summary.. by looking at AWS and IBM (so we expect the market to be at least as good as this) we can see that :
- Cloud IaaS offerings are already here making the infrastructure offerings of in-house IT look expensive.
- The management of that infrastructure by the hour, and the ability to pay by the hour (no capital expenditure) is compelling, especially for those organisations which have highly variable load
- AWS have a good story around data protection, Sarbanes-Oxley and other FUD-inducing regulatory measures
- Value added ‘heavy lifting’ like storage, and load-balancing is greatly simplifying development and deployment (users do not have to be Cisco and EMC black-belts), thus reducing development costs.
- There will be a growing number of value add components, e.g. card merchant services, search engine in the cloud – such that it will soon be the case that many large solutions have more components ‘in the cloud’ than they would have ‘in our data-centre’.
So now I am going to stick my neck out, and say that within three years there will be no large organisation that does not investigate cloud IaaS for new infrastructure installs (including refresh operations); and within ten years 50% of all large organisations (£100m turnover +) will have at least 50% of their data-centres ‘in the cloud’. It will be a higher proportion (say 80% of smaller organisations).