I'm getting ahead of the curve and calling it, there will be a Cloud 2.0. I know, shocking, but I think that there are some interesting changes afoot that will lead to a change in cloud deployments. Enough to justify the 2.0 tag. If you haven't read it yet, you should probably read my 2GB is enough for anyone post as it'll set the stage for what's going on here.

The key part about what happens in that post that relates to this one is that Internet companies will start having commercial relationships with telcos. They'll be paying for bandwidth, and they'll want to optimize their own costs. But before we can talk about 2.0 and how that optimization can happen, let's first define what 1.0 is.

Cloud 1.0

There are a million definitions of what "cloud" is, and I'm not going attempt to clear up all the confusion or provide a comprehensive definition. That'd result in failure. But because of the confusion, I feel that we need a common thought to work from.

I'm going to go ahead and talk about Cloud 1.0 as the move from servers you own, to servers you rent and that you have no idea of the real physical location. Sure, you know that Amazon has different zones, but most people couldn't give you the mailing address for them. This is a transition from a world where you knew, and did a lot of planning around your hardware. If you thought you were going to have 10x as many customers next month, you're already behind on ordering and deployment. Today, there's no reason to care about that except to optimize your costs, which is something most startups aren't immediately concerned about. This is a good time to start a company who's main costs would have been servers.

From "where?" to "how many?"

At some point when your server setup starts to become super fluid, you start loosing track of how many servers you have. "Did we set up a second load balancer?" "Oh, I guess someone should figure that out." Today while you'd spend time to set up that second server (might be as easy as juju add-node) you still might not be entirely managing the exact numbers there.

In the future I think it is fair to say that there will be software managing the numbers for you, instead of allocating servers you'll specify a quality of service that you want to maintain (and this'll involve costs as well, maybe you can skip a daily backup during high shopping season). That change will make it so that the only thing that actually knows how many servers you have is your management software, and the person billing you for the time. But, you can still find out how many servers are out there, and you're still paying for individual machines. We can call this Cloud 1.5 in this discussion. It changes how you think about your setup, but in reality, your architecture is roughly the same.

Who cares how many servers

The problem even with that setup is that every customer to your service is still going across the Internet to get there. The edges of the network are getting faster at a more rapid rate than the backbone. This is most evident in the cell phone case where LTE speeds are making it so that rapid access to the cell tower is commonly available, but from the cell tower is a more difficult proposition. Cellular providers and high speed home networking providers are trying to combat this with bandwidth limits, but that's not a great solution for anyone. But it does lead to a unique relationship between Internet companies and cellular providers.

How does this effect clouds? Because of this existing relationship between the Internet services and the cellular network providers where they're working to avoiding bandwidth caps. Now they've got a relationship where they're both interested in reducing bandwidth costs. What would reduce bandwidth costs the most? It would be running the servers directly in the cell tower. Why not? With cloud platforms already setting up Internet companies running on virtualized environments, there's no reason those couldn't be expanded to the towers themselves.

It makes sense to me that these would be deployed on demand based on usage. There will always be a limitation of space and if Facebook is popular in Texas but MySpace in California, you'd want to only be using resources where it makes sense. Which means, at some level, deployment needs to be controlled by the cellular operator from images provided by the company providing the service. Which means, that as a company providing a service on the Internet, you might not even know how many of your servers are running. And that, not knowing how many servers you're actually running, that is Cloud 2.0.

posted Dec 3, 2012 | permanent link