Amazon’s EC2 ‘cloud’ outage is just a minor bump in major right road.

By now you’ve heard about Amazon’s EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) cloud service failure, or perhaps felt it. If you use Foursquare or read Reddit, use or Quora (among other services or websites) you no doubt felt the impact.

On 4.21 at 1:48am PDT. Quora even had a fun ‘down’ message: “We’d point fingers, but we wouldn’t be where we are today without EC2.” And this YouTube video:

Lew Moorman, chief strategy officer of Rackspace, said it best “It was the computing equivalent of an airplane crash. It is a major episode with widespread damage”. But airline travel, he noted, “is still safer than traveling in a car” — analogous to cloud computing being safer than data centers run by individual companies.

The fact remains, the cloud model is rapidly gaining popularity as a way for companies to outsource computing chores to avoid the costs and headaches of running their own data centers — simply tap in, over the Web, to computer processing and storage without owning the machines or operating software.

Consumers don’t realize that there are a host of sites that base a majority of their ‘up-time’ on cloud services, including Hotmail and Netflix to name just a few. Netflix was not affected by the recent outage because Netflix has taken full advantage of Amazon Web Services’ redundant cloud architecture (which is NOT inexpensive).

Industry analysts said the troubles would prompt many companies to reconsider relying on remote computers beyond their control. And while discussions surrounding that might happen in the next several weeks, in the long-term cloud computing will continue and thrive and evolve into what most industry experts and others already know it to be – a necessary and valued component of doing any kind of business or having any sort of web presence on the Internet. The truth is, every day many more companies around the globe experience ‘outages’ that take their services and sometimes web site down for hours. Added all together, they add up for far more lost time, money and engineering resources that Amazon’s interruption last week.

This round, the companies that were hit hardest by the Amazon interruption were start-ups who are focused on moving fast in pursuit of growth, and who are less likely to pay for extensive backup and recovery services or secondary redundancy in another data center (or Amazon’s redundant cloud architecture).

One of the things that most people are not aware of is that Amazon has an SLA (service level agreement) which is one of the weakest cloud compute SLA of any competing public cloud compute services, even though its uptime is actually very good. Most providers offer 99.99% or better, with many offering 100%, evaluated monthly, with service credit capping at 100% of that monthly bill. Amazon offers 99.95%, evaluated yearly, capping at 10% of that bill, and requires that at least two availability zones within a region be unavailable. Therefore, companies MUST take this into consideration when choosing a vendor as how it relates to what they do on the internet. Taking a secondary, back-up approach can close some of those holes, but it can get mighty expensive. Amazon’s EC2 pricing overall reflects this type of SLA and the ‘human’ support is not included — because of this aspect it can give a 10% to 20% uplift to the price, and it is geared primarily toward the very technically knowledgeable. Amazon is a cloud IaaS-focused (infrastructure-as-a-service) vendor with a very pure vision of highly automated, inexpensive, commodity infrastructure, bought without any commitment to a contract. Amazon is a thought leader; it is extraordinarily innovative, exceptionally agile and very responsive to the market.

That being said, the recent Verizon acquisition of Terremark should put most Tier 1 vendors on their toes including Amazon. Terremark offers colocation, managed hosting (including utility hosting on its Infinistructure platform), developer-centric public cloud IaaS (vCloud Express) and enterprise-class cloud IaaS (Enterprise Cloud). It is a close VMware partner (VMware is one of its investors), and is generally first to market with VMware-based solutions. It is a certified vCloud Datacenter provider. Some of Terremark’s perceived weak spots can and should now be addressed by the merger between the 2 service offerings, in particular the added personnel to better deliver on customer service and satisfaction (stretched thin’ has been the compliant). Now that it has a substantially bigger war chest from its parent Verizon and Verizon’s exceptional network worldwide (remember Uunet), it can take on and adapt more bleeding edge technologies, which it has done in the past, but has not been able to do so most recently.

Combinations like this will likely increase in this space over time as other vendors realize that 2 can be better than one. The devil is always in the details and the trick here is for company cultures to be merged efficiently with a clear and concise plan laid out for both sets of employees. The last thing you need are internal employees to wonder who is going to be replying to the same RFP (request for proposal) to any particular vendor moving forward. Strong, well thought out details by upper management should avoid these pitfalls for the most part, however, it can be pretty tricky to implement.

Long story short – I’d still bet heavily on the long-term success of this business. It’s a smart, cost efficient and labor efficient business model needed for most start-ups, mid-size and Enterprise clients. The days of sending your IT guys into a cage to update the companies software with numerous discs and software patches hoping that it doesn’t disrupt the companies servers should be long gone.

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HP’s feet firmly planted in the clouds. The future is here, now. The Hard Drive is a dinosaur.

The announcement this week by the CEO of HP that HP wants to provide the platform of choice for cloud services and connectivity and that they will launch a public cloud offering in the near future is significant. Cloud computing has really come of age. No one will be laughing at Google’s CR-48 notebooks and Google’s Chrome OS anymore. Its no a flash in the pan.

The CEO, Leo Apotheker says everything HP will do in the future will be delivered as a service. HP also intends to install WebOS on a variety of devices, not just smartphones like Palm did. PC’s and laptops will have WebOS pre-installed and be able to run Windows as well. HP will perform a number of strategic acquisitions of innovative software and cloud-based service providers. And there is no shortage of innovators in the space. Take a look at the OnDemand 100 list of private companies in the space put together by Morgan Stanley, KPMG, Hewlett-Packard, Blackstone Group, Bridge Bank, Fenwick & West, Silicon Valley Bank, and industry experts: http://bit.ly/h4mqfK . HP certainly will find a few jewels in this crowd and probably won’t have to spend a fortune acquiring them given the numbers of competitors.

HP plans to establish an application store for enterprise customers and consumers. The app store will not just be mobile specific, like most other current app stores like Apple App Store and Android Market, but targeted at a wider range of devices. And its will be an open marketplace. Nice.

It’s a big change for HP. They are moving away from focusing on PCs, printers and hardware in general to the cloud, connectivity, security and services. HP does not plan on competing directly with other OS’s like Windows but rather to run in parallel. WebOS might also be able to run alongside Android on smartphones for example, giving user’s the choice of switching between platforms. Clearly, consumers and businesses will be changing the way they use PC’s and computers. The days of storing your data on your hard drive locally is numbered.

Where it is all going…into the clouds. Read on.

For the past five years, the Web hosting market has been evolving toward on-demand infrastructure provisioned on a flexible, pay-as-you-go basis. Never used to be this way before. The introduction of cloud computing offerings has radically accelerated innovation in the hosting market.

First some definitions you’ll need. Often times, these new services have the following anacronym

associated with them:

 

SaaS – software as a service

IaaS – infrastructure as a service

CaaS – compute as a service

PaaS – platform as a service

 

Cloud hosting can be seen in the following ways:

Self-managed IaaS, for cost-effective agile replacement of traditional data center infrastructure.

Lightly managed IaaS, for customers who wish to primarily self-manage but want the provider to be responsible for routine operations tasks.

Complex managed hosting, for customers who want to outsource operational responsibility for the infrastructure underlying Web content and applications.

The market for traditional Web hosting is very mature. Most Web hosters have very high levels of operational reliability and excellent support, and the best providers also have the ability to manage complex projects and proactively meet the customer’s needs. By contrast, the market for cloud IaaS is highly immature. While cloud IaaS reliability is still good, it is generally engineered to higher levels of availability than traditional dedicated hosting.  Service and support definitely varies from provider and web services that are looking for a provider have lots to sort out and consider, among them: SLA’s, quick deployment vs. not, back-up and large scale hosting ( more than 75 servers) , application support, location of the hosting (although this more for overseas clients), network availability, management capabilities including (but not limited to) ; infrastructure software, database servers, web servers, storage and back-up, security, testing and professional services.

Years ago (and not that long) there really wasn’t a place to put your server except in a colo facility or managed services facility. If you were in colo, you purchased an application platform for several million dollars (got about 20 discs sent to you – I always found this part quite amusing) and sent your IT guy trotting off to the colo to insert each of these discs and download any recent patches to upgrade what he (the co.) bought. If all went well, the new service was up and running within a week or less. If all didn’t go well, he’d be on the phone with the software company for HOURS trying to figure out what didn’t go right.  I was at many a company that did this – what a nightmare.  And, its still done like I’ve described even today.

 

With Saas/Iaas, sometimes configuration and deployment of your environment is as easy as a well done GUI (graphic user interface) for the client and once that’s been decided along with the associated cost, he hits the ‘submit’ or really the ‘deployment’ button and within a relatively short time, his environment is up and running. Patches, upgrades, security, all buttoned down and done and all monitored 24/7. The SLA’s today (with the exception of Amazon’s EC2) are mostly 100% uptime guaranteed, so for the most part your environment is quite stable.

If I had a new company today doing e-commerce or dependent on applications or even general uptime and a web server, I’d outsource the whole issue. The cloud environment has gotten to be too good and secure to instead go out and purchase my own equipment (which is outdated in 6 months to a year) and hire a bunch of IT guys (no offense guys). It just makes no economic or reasonable sense.

The newer cloud players are:

bluelock

connectria

virtualark

virtustream

voxel

carpathia hosting

datapipe

hosting.com

NTT Communications

Verizon

But there are many other main players as well. Among them;

Savvis

AT&T

Rackspace

Terremark

GoGrid

Joyent

IBM

Amazon

CSC

NTT

Media Temple

Layered Tech

Softlayer

SunGuard

NaviSite

OpSource

Akamai

Nirvanix

Choose your partner wisely and do NOT sign long term contracts – technology changes so rapidly as does new players sometimes its hard to lock yourself into a long term deal. Unless of course you get a good enough financial incentive to do so.  😉