Basic Rules for Running a Cloud

By John Suit  |  Posted 2009-02-25 Print this article Print

So, let's talk about what is your problem. The cloud down the hall-that's yours. All yours.  And there are a few basic rules you have to follow to ensure when you're running a cloud down the hall:

Rule No. 1: You can't run out

Unlike rolling blackouts, your application owners don't want to hear that human resources put up some giant new application and now their Web server is going to be slow. You have to grow the cloud to meet the consumption needs. And these days, lightning-fast provisioning and cheaper than physical pricing is really driving up demand.

Rule No. 2: You can't store leftovers

Until someone manages to put time in a bottle, all that extra unused storage, unused server capacity, underutilized machines and over-provisioned space is a waste. Unless you're among the mythical few IT shops that don't feel the squeeze of budget cuts, there is no room for waste in your cloud.

Rule No. 3: You can't have outages

Now that it's virtual, one outage can mean a whole neighborhood without power (even a 99 percent uptime service-level agreement (SLA) equals three days of outage per year!). Since every VM is owned by a different group-each tinkering around in there to make it work for their application-it becomes a veritable game of bumper cars around the electric poles, and every so often, something's going down. And you are the only one driving the cherry picker.

Rule No. 4: You're the meter reader

The guy that comes by to check the meter? That's you. And you better be sure you know whose bill to tack that onto. And when they moved. And whether it is time to cut off power. Right now you have a 32-character string, an Excel spreadsheet and a pad of Post-it notes. You better remember your arithmetic because this is your justification for new investment. And per rule number one, you can't run out.

That's a lot. If the power company did it, we should be able to do it too. There are really two categories of things that would make these challenges easier:

1. Better information

Whose VM is whose? When did they use it? How much resource did it consume? When should I shut it down? How full is my environment? Which VMs are over-provisioned? There's a long laundry list of fairly basic questions to which we just don't have answers now. It's like plugging a subdivision into a power strip-how could you possibly allocate, grow, charge, decommission or manage those customers?

2. Demarcated control

Certain things are fixed and your customers can't change them. You get 120v power, whether you like it or not. You probably haven't haggled over your power bill lately either, and you don't get power unless you have an account, so there are no squatting tenants running hair dryers all day. To get a piece of the cloud, you have to play by the rules.

But there is also flexibility. If I want to stick three PCs, four monitors, a surround sound system, and a keyboard into the same power strip, and my circuit breaker flips, taking down my unsaved masterpiece, that's my own problem to fix. Power is still running to my house; what I do with it is my problem.

Your cloud needs the same thing: controls that prevent individual users from compromising the cloud itself (the barriers around the electric poles) and freedoms to enable users to effectively use their piece.

The analog way to get information and control would be to send out meter readers, collate Post-it notes and become veritable policemen of your own cloud. Most of us don't enjoy those tasks, nor do we have the time or extra people to staff these goals. Luckily for us, we work in the digital age, so our solution may come from something more automatic.

John Suit is Principal Founder and CTO of Fortisphere. John founded Fortisphere in 2006, and is responsible for developing the core technology behind the Fortisphere product suite. Prior to founding Fortisphere, John was the founder and CTO of SilentRunner, a successful company that was ultimately sold to Computer Associates. John has held several leadership positions at both vice president and CTO levels, and he has invented and launched countless new products in the security space. John continues to advise the Department of Defense and Directorate of Central Intelligence in the areas of virtualization security and management, as well as information operations. He can be reached at

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