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Insulating Innovators with Cloud Computing

Yahoo's Shelton Shugar emphasizes we should focus on business, not IT infrastructure

The SMS message was desperate. AJ sent the plea "If I have to see one more picture of a cloud in a PPT I might lose it…" After two days of presentations at the 4th International Cloud Computing Conference and Expo, where companies tried to bring the audience up to an Intro to Clouds 101 level, some attendees were grasping for new ideas, new information, new reasons why companies should release their IT models currently based on strict FUD-Factor (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) compliance, to the new generation of cloud computing.

Shelton Shugar - Yahoo

The "same slides, different day" approach was starting leave some attendees a bit glazed, until Shelton Shugar, SVP of Cloud Computing at Yahoo! kicked off the morning with his keynote speech "Accelerating Innovation with Cloud Computing." Shugar woke the audience up with an overview of how Yahoo! Is "walking the talk" with cloud computing deployments in their own network.

Yahoo! Mail, Sports, Finance, and other applications – all are using some level of cloud compute support based on HADOOP. Shugar detailed Yahoo's support of the open source community through their "Open Cirrus" program. Not only aggressive cloud computing thought leadership, but actual industry leadership.

Insulating Innovators
Perhaps the most enlightening "sound bite" of the morning is Shugar's statement that cloud computing relieves the developers from spending time on IT, allowing them to "focus time on their (business) problems, and not on the infrastructure."

This is really significant. Having joined several presentations at the Cloud Computing Conference and Expo in Santa Clara, mostly repeating the same lines of reduced OPEX, CAPEX, energy savings, IaaS, PaaS, Saas, and so on, Shugar finally started bringing the ideas into a perspective business managers could relate to their own professional pain points, as well as open new ideas of what value this cloud "thing" might actually offer.

I remember in the old days (of the '90s) while working at a telecom company, aggressively breaking into the Internet industry. We had a training section which consumed a lot of their schedule supporting remote access training for NOC (network operations center) technicians needing high level access to servers and routers. The training section maintained dozens of switches, routers, and servers in a computer room to support the training environment.

Each student needed practice working at the command line interface of network hardware, however in their day-to-day job they would never need to physically touch a network device, as the actual device could be located anyplace around the world – they simply need to practice troubleshooting and monitoring through remote access.

Looking around the conference hall at the Cloud Computing Conference, companies such as 3tera offer a provisioning tool that is able to automatically produce images of servers, switches, and routers within a virtual environment. You need a new LINUX box, you drag and drop a pre-configured LINUX image into your environment. It "spools" and is ready for access within about 2 seconds. From the user's perspective, it is a physical LINUX server that could very well be mounted in the next room. The object functions exactly as a physical server would behave.

Within the virtual environment the instructor (or students) could spool up as many virtual images of the LINUX box as needed to meet the class' training requirements. The instructor and training division no longer has to spend a lot of time each day wiping servers, reloading images, replacing failed memory or hard drives – any of the non-productive tasks that traditionally prevented them from spending their valuable time building better training curriculum, spending more time with their students, or delivering the course as an eLearning course anyplace in the company.

Now apply the same idea to any job where you have either knowledge workers or manual workers spending any amount of their time working on IT infrastructure-related tasks which do not directly produce revenue or some level of customer service (a broad category). Even better if you consider the supporting IT infrastructure may not even be in the same building, city, or even region. You may be getting your applications and IT support through a public cloud service provider (CSP) physically located in a different country!

The idea of insulating your knowledge workers from the IT infrastructure is one more item for our bag of 30 second cloud elevator pitches. It is great when such as simple statement can have such profound meaning. Looking around the auditorium, when Shugar may the statement and described the need to insulate our knowledge workers from the burden of IT infrastructure operations and management, I could see about 1000 pairs of eyes lighten, eyebrows rise a bit higher into the foreheads, and smiles appear on the faces of attendees who finally breeched the layer of skepticism and fog which had drawn them to the conference.

The rest of the conference will now be a much more free and productive use of their new enthusiasm for knowledge on cloud computing, what it is today, and what innovations they will be able to apply to cloud computing platforms and infrastructure in the future.

John Savageau, Long Beach (from the Cloud Computing Conference and Expo, Santa Clara, California)

More Stories By John Savageau

John Savageau is a life long telecom and Internet geek, with a deep interest in the environment and all things green. Whether drilling into the technology of human communications, cloud computing, or describing a blue whale off Catalina Island, Savageau will try to present complex ideas in terms that are easily appreciated and understood.

Savageau is currently focusing efforts on data center consolidation strategies, enterprise architectures, and cloud computing migration planning in developing countries, including Azerbaijan, The Philippines, Palestine, Indonesia, Moldova, Egypt, and Vietnam.

John Savageau is President of Pacific-Tier Communications dividing time between Honolulu and Burbank, California.

A former career US Air Force officer, Savageau graduated with a Master of Science degree in Operations Management from the University of Arkansas and also received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Asian Studies and Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland.

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