Friday, December 31, 2010

The 2010 cloud computing winner

Who was the 2010 cloud computing winner? It’s a subjective topic. And you’re really comparing apples to oranges. There are SaaS, PaaS and IaaS offerings, all serving different customer needs. Some vendors are established, while others are only just getting started. And of-course, people tend to declare a technology they are familiar with as a winner.

To identify a winning technology it’s usually best to go straight to the market and see what people are actually using. Winning technologies get adopted, new jobs get created and specialized skills get requested for.

Below is the job trend for the top 3 cloud vendors – Amazon, Microsoft and Google. While being non-scientific, this approach does raise some interesting points. Demand for Amazon cloud services is booming, both for compute and storage capabilities. There are almost triple the jobs requesting Amazon EC2 skills to those asking for Microsoft Azure capabilities. And Google AppEngine is surprisingly in little demand. So, is it fair to declare Amazon the 2010 cloud computing winner?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yes, the cloud even has some security benefits...

Security is still cited as a main reason by your large, stodgy corporations for staying clear of cloud computing. And while the cloud does have its security challenges, there is one key security benefit that cloud computing offers — Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) protection.

After all, you can try to block, engineer and reroute traffic (difficult) or you can just throw more infrastructure at your attackers (easy) until they get tired of pumping traffic at your web servers. Amazon themselves exemplified this benefit by scaling up infrastructure to disrupt a recent DDOS attack by the group Anonymous. The image in this post is actually a Twitter statement admitting defeat, after only a short burst attack against Amazon.

In a few years I expect large organizations to use the cloud as part of their DDOS strategy, especially as prevalence of this type of attack goes up and the costs of running cloud infrastructure goes down. So, yes, there are actual security benefits to using the cloud.

Friday, December 10, 2010

WikiLeaks and the Cloud DDOS Strategy

I found the recent WikiLeaks saga to be fascinating. Never in history has the individual had so much power to collate and disseminate sensitive information, with the ability embarrass governments around the world and put them into damage control. But for a cloud computing vendor like myself, this story added an interesting twist.

Within hours of releasing documents, the WikiLeaks servers were under heavy attack from patriotic individuals, and likely also governments, trying to stem the flow of information. It was a typical distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack, which can usually shut-down an organization like WikiLeaks with ease.

What surprised me about WikiLeaks is that they didn't take the usual route of dealing with a DDOS attack by working with upsteam ISPs and traffic engineers to restrict the traffic approaching their servers. They realized that trying to stop an onslaught of traffic is both a political and technical challenge, and one that is likely to fail. Instead, they moved their services further into the cloud, distributing their content across the on-demand, readily billable and highly scalable Amazon EC2 infrastructure. It's an excellent plan that realizes that you can avoid an attack by simply throwing more infrastructure at those trying to attack you.

Smart companies should look at the cloud as part of their DDOS mitigation strategy. It costs nothing to be prepared (Amazon EC2 charges are nil until you actually spin up the servers), provides infrastructure that can rapidly scale to meet the traffic challenge and provides you with a world-wide set of data-centers across which to spread the load.

[Yes, I know that WikiLeaks were eventually kicked off the Amazon EC2 infrastructure due to political wrangling by Senator Joe Liberman, but hopefully your organization isn't that offside with the government that this should be a concern ;-)]