Last night I attended Cloud Camp London, a gathering of cloud technologists that takes place in the unlikely setting of the undercellar of an 18th century church next to Clerkenwell Green. Close on 300 of us attended what the website describes as "an unconference where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies exchange ideas."
It's been just a few months since the first London Cloud Camp was held at the same venue on July 16 (other Cloud Camp events have or will take place in San Francisco, Chicago, Menlo Park, Brussels, Washington DC, Toronto and elsewhere). What I found remarkable was how dramatic the evolution of thinking about cloud has been in the few short months since July's event in London. Then, most of the content was about cloud adoption. More complex questions around service levels, interoperability and standards bubbled under the surface but were not dealt with.
Yesterday, those more sophisticated issues formed the core of the content. Gojko Adzic has done a detailed write-up of the presentations so I'm going to home in on the notion of federated clouds, which struck me as a core theme running through the evening and conference organiser Alexis Richardson of CohesiveFT (who I've written about here and here) assured me the topic convergence was organic happenstance rather than pre-planned.
Paul Watson of Newcastle University, in a presentation submitted by Arjuna Technologies, put federated cloud center stage. He explained how private clouds maintained by growing numbers of enterprises are inevitably individual silos, even when there are several within a single enterprise. This creates a need for service agreements to allow sharing of resources across federated private clouds. "Because it's done under a service agreement it's controlled and both parties are happy," he said. Similarly, contract-based policy can be used to determine when to export work to outside providers such as Amazon for example a policy might stipulate that when quality of service degrades to a certain threshold, that's the time to tap external cloud resources. His conclusion: "There should be many clouds and the key is service agreements to federate them together."
There followed a couple of presentations that confirmed this is what customers are asking for.
Rhys Jones of Royal Bank of Scotland, said that providing aggregation of multiple clouds was one of the key things that "cloud vendors have to get together and do for us," adding that "a big provider could really clean up" by becoming the linchpin of cloud federation. Oh, he also foresaw increased use of SaaS by enterprises for non-critical apps, which also warmed my heart.
Another presentation came from Phil Dean, architectures manager at Cisco, relating what CIOs are telling Cisco about the cloud. He also talked about SaaS as part of the cloud picture because there would be increasing use of Saas both internally and from external providers. But back to the cloud itself. "CIOs have the notion of a service broker," he said an agent that aggregates external services and works with a service aggregation layer to handle SLA, cost, risk management. This was another spin on the federated cloud story, as well as confirming something I learnt on a visit to Cisco's San Jose headquarters campus a couple of months ago, which is that Cisco is targeting cloud interoperability as a major new market where it can have a big influence.
In which case, it is probably looking at Zimory, a startup that brokers services across different cloud providers. "There is no seamless experience in the cloud today," Zimory's Philipp Huber told attendees. Of course that serves the providers' interests at present, but users want a seamless ability to move services between clouds. In the end, he said, users will insist that vendors get their act together on issues such as security and compliance, billing models, quality of service and image interoperability.
Finally, there were a couple of presentations from Sun and Microsoft that highlighted how far behind the big players really are. As so often with emerging technologies, all the innovation and leading-edge thinking is happening at specialized startups. Having said that, I did have fun moderating a session on Windows Azure with Microsoft evangelist Nigel Watling. If you want to know more about Microsoft's cloud platform, then you should return here on Monday when I'll be posting a podcast interview I recorded last week with Ambitabh Srivastava, Microsoft's corporate VP in charge of the Azure platform.
One thing I should say is that I did learn a couple of useful new words I hadn't come across before. "Cycle scavenging," which RBS' Rhys Jones mentioned, is the practice of farming out processing to unused desktops overnight. And Sun's Wayne Horkan, CTO of UK and Ireland, introduced me to the term "petascale," which certainly sums up cloud, I guess.
Next week I'm torn between several different events while visiting San Jose for the SIIA OnDemand conference on SaaS next Tuesday and Wednesday. Sun and Joyent are running an Enterprise Cloud Computing Seminar in Menlo Park Monday night I'm not sure I'll be able to get to that as I have networking to do at the SaaS event in San Jose. I also suspect I'll miss David Berlind's Mashup Camp, one of the original unconferences and a terrific event, running Tuesday through Thursday. Just for a bit of variety, I'll briefly dip into Adobe MAX in San Francisco on Monday. Finally there's Sys-Con's Cloud Computing and Virtualization events later in the week, again in San Jose, which I hope to get to for at least some of the sessions. If you see me there, do take the time to say hello.