Saturday, 17 September 2011

Cloud Computing – What does it mean to System Administrators

Cloud Computing – What does it mean to System Administrators

Most of us already know that Cloud Computing is a new Buzz word in the industry and it is very true that everyone want to learn about it as much as possible. For myself, I have been reading and observing cloud computing evolution for past one year, and recently I had an opportunity to attend for IBM’s SmartCloudCamp session which has given me some insight on current state of cloud computing evolution.

I have noticed several questions from System Admin community about the Cloud computing’s effect on Infrastructure Support Teams. In this post I am just trying to address the same question in a way that I understand cloud computing.

Cloud Computing

Let me tell you a small story before we go to discuss about t the Cloud Computing.

My Sister and her family is living in a small town in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. In the town, the power failures are so common and it is like 1 or 2 hours of power outage with a frequency of 2 or 3 times per day. My sister and her neighbors were so upset because these continuous power outages disturbing the kid’s studies and also making life difficult during the evenings. They know that there is an alternative to solve the problem by having power generator as a backup power source but most of the neighbor families are not in a position to afford for it and also they are worried about the regular maintenance cost of these devices.

One fine day, a group of smart minds came up with a solution to purchase a high capacity power generator , place it in some common place and to provide backup power connections to every home who ever ready to pay for the usage charges as per the the actual usage calculated by the electric meter plugged in at every home. Interestingly, the idea worked very well, and most of the people in the town were adapted the backup power source with the minimum capital investment and zero maintenance cost.

I believe, by this time, you might have understood the purpose of cloud computing in IT industry. If it is still unclear, lets go forward to look at it in more detailed terms

The Current definition of Cloud Computing is ” A Comprehensive solution which delivers the IT as a Service. Here the term IT can be expanded as Infrastructure, Platform, Storage and Software”. . At present the IT industry classified into two groups in terms of cloud computing , first one is Cloud Computing Service Providers and the other one is Cloud Computing Service Consumers ( Client).

Cloud Computing in its Basic Form
Quick refresh on Cloud Computing Benefits to a Client/Consumer

1. Reduced Capital Cost to setup IT Infrastructure

Scenario 1:

If any organisation want to start a new business function that needs IT infrastructure, the organisation need not go through the all the complex process of establishing IT infrastructure starting from the Data center planning. Instead the company simply can go for a Cloud Computing service provider who is providing the kind of service , in his service catalogue, that meets the organisation’s IT requirement for the new business function. The requested service could be anything like Server/Storage/Network Infrastructure, Platform Environment or already built software application which can be customized to your requirement. And the organisation will pay, to the service provider, only for the resources that has been utilized. No Capital investment, no running maintenance cost.

Scenerio 2:

If any organisation want to migrate it’s existing IT infrastructure ( or part of it ) related to less critical business function, it can again approach the Cloud Computing Service provider for a solution that works for their actuation requirement.

2. Rapid scalability with the help of dynamic infrastructure

Current Challenge:

In any business, it is very common that, the initial design of IT infrastructure happens considering the current potential of business and expected growth of business in near future. And these expectations / predictions about the future growth may or may not be correct, in current day high fluctuating business markets. Any large Investment in IT infra setup will be wasted if the related business not doing well , as expected. And at the same time insufficient IT infra resources could block the business growth if the business was progressing better than expected.

It is always a real challenge to any organisation to predict the actual requirement of IT infrastructure , and this challenge can easily addressable if the organisation considering the cloud computing solution.

Using Cloud Computing, organisations can easily scale it’s resources to the level it matches the business requirement which is very dynamic in nature.

3. Utility Pricing Model

This point is self explanatory, organisations will pay for the only resources that they have used. No Initial investment to setup infra.

4. Self Service by using Automated Provisioning

I believe, this is one key point where cloud computing affecting the existing IT infrastructure job roles.

By using automated provisioning feature of Cloud Computing , organisations can request the services mentioned in Service Catalogue and could receive the services instantly and dynamically with minimum or no technology skills.

5. Resource availability from anywhere of the world

Public clouds can be accessed from anywhere of the world using the internet, and this feature makes cloud computing as beautiful solution for many startup companies which are running using virtual teams located in different parts of world.

for more inforamtoin, you can refer my other post ” Cloud Computing – It’s not just another buzzword, but a near future “, which talks about cloud computing features and benefits.

Cloud Computing Layers

IaaS - Infrastructure as a Service

Iaas is basically a paradigm shift from “Infrastructure as an asset” to “Infrastructure as a Service”

Key Characteristics of Iaas:
Infrastructure is Platform independent
Infrastructure costs are shared by multiple clients/users
Utility Pricing – Clients will pay only for the resources they have consumed

Minimal or No Capital investment on Infrastructure Hardware
No Maintenance costs for Hardware
Reduced ROI risk
Avoid the wastage of Computing resources
Dynamic in nature
Rapid Scalability of Infrastructure to meet sudden peak in business requirements

Performance of Infrastructure purely depends on Vendor capability to manage resources
Consistent high usage of resources for a long term could lead to higher costs
Companies have to introduce new layer of Enterprise security to deal with the cloud computing related to security issues

Note: It is better not to adapt Iaas Solution, if the oraganisation capital budget is greater than the Operating budget

PaaS – Platform as a Service

Paas is a Paradigm shift from ” purchasing platform environment tools as a licensing product ” to “purchasing as a service”.

Key Characteristics:
Deployment purely based on cloud infrastructure
caters to agile project management methods

It is possible capture the complex testing & development platform requirement and automate the tasks for provisioning of consistent environment.

Enterprises have to introduce new layer of security to deal with the security in cloud computing environment.

SaaS – Software as a Service

SaaS is basically paradigm shift from treating “treating software as an asset of business/consumer” to “using software as a service achieve the business goals”

reduce Capital expenses required for the development and testing resources
Reduced ROI risk
Streamlines and Iterative updates of the software

Enterprises have to introduce new layer of security to deal with the security in cloud computing environment.

Layers of Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing Solutions for Enterprise

Public Cloud Solution for Enterprise

Public Cloud solution allows enterprise to adapt Iass, Pass and Saas services from a cloud computing service provide on the internet, and actual computing resources are available under control of Vendor.

Private Cloud Solution for Enterprise

Private Cloud Solution for Enterprise nothing but constructing cloud solution within the enterprise datacenter, to provide more security on physical resources. And the internal departments of the enterprise within the organisation can utilise and pay for cloud computing resources as if they are using public cloud resources.

Hybrid Cloud Solution for Enterprise

Hybrid cloud solution enables enterprise use both public cloud and private cloud resources same time depending on the criticality and importance of the business function.

Virtual Private Cloud Solution

Using Virtual Private Cloud Solution Companies can create their own private cloud environment with in the public cloud by using different network/firewall rules. And the purpose is to avoid external access to the enterprise resources.

Possible Cloud Computing Solutions for Enterprise

How Cloud Computing affects the Job roles in the Infrastructure Support Team

Depending on the Clod computing Solution that enterprise adapted, there will be direct and indirect effect on the various job roles with in the infrastructure support teams.

If you look at the Sysadmin role in general , the actual job role involves three major responsibilities:
Hardware administration
Operating System Builds
Operating System Administration
Network Services Administration

Once the organisation adapted the Cloud Computing solution ( IaaS / PaaS / SaaS ) , it no longer required to maintain the skillful technical people to deal with hardware related issues and OS Build operations but they still need resources to perform OS / Network administration and to customize cloud resources to meet the organisation requirements. And the same effect is true for the Network Support roles.

Cloud Computing solutions cannot replace every system administrator in the company but it will expect new level cloud computing related expertise instead of ” to be isolated hardware maintenance skills”. For sure, it’s a call for learning. And more importantly the sysadmin job roles specifically dealing with the “Hardware & OS builds” has to go away, in near future.

For any organisation, the current recruitment strategy for the SysAdmin Team is “No. of Sysadmins are directly proportional to the physical server foot print in the data center “. With IaaS adaption organisation’s server footprint will reduce drastically, and hence the no. of sysadmin positions.

As of now the Clouds were deployed to replace the Server infrastructure with windows / linux on X86 model, but not yet having solutions for Vendor Specific Server OS like Solaris on Sparc, IBM AIX and HP UX …etc. Considering the speed of evolution in cloud computing technologies, it may not take long time to provide solutions for all kinds of server infrastructure. From the other side, if the Organisation choose to migrate their applications to X86 model servers to receive the benefits of economic cloud computing then the change is more rapid.

Below pictures will give you an understanding how the roles are moving out of Infra Teams depending on the Cloud solution adapted by the organisation.
Job Role movement with IAAS Cloud Computing Solution

Job Role movement with PAAS Cloud Computing Solution

Job Role movement with PAAS Cloud Computing Solution

Final and one more story, i want to tell you, before closing this post.

As most of you already aware, India is an agricultural based society where people treat their land like “mother that feeds you everyday ” and cows like “part of family wealth”. A decade before, most of the families used to follow the traditional way of cultivation that requires more number people and long working hours . And this requirement for the human labor is the main source for the jobs , in villages, for longtime

With technology innovations in India, there were many new tools/machines had been introduced to the indian agricultural industry which in turn reduced the requirement for the human labor. During this technology change, many people back at villages worried about their livelihood for sometime. But, the worry didn’t last longtime because most of them quickly adapted the skills related to these new technologies like “regular maintenance of these new tools” , “using the tools for better productivity” and “finding new lands to cultivate using these new machines with low cost” etc., and started living better than earlier.

And I believe, same story applies for any other industry including IT. And whenever we notice an inevitable change in our way, it is always wise to understand and get ready to accept it, instead of worrying about and trying to resist it.

Note: All the opinions mentioned here are purely personal, please feel to drop your comments/inputs related to the title of this post.

1 comment:

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