Monday, January 19, 2009

Introducing Cloud Hopping

Recently there has been a lot of talk of the so called "Distributed Switch" or "Virtual Network". The driving vision for this new breed of virtualized network technology is in it's ability to create a unified IT environment that enables globally distributed virtual machines, systems and networks to communicate and interact with one another using common networking protocols. In this post, I will explore some potential opportunities I see for its use within what I'm calling a cloud hopping infrastructure.

With the latest virtual networking technology such as VMware's, vNetwork Distributed Switch, Cisco Nexus® 1000V and Virtual Square's Virtual Distributed Ethernet project we may for the first time have a level of virtual network adaptability that enables us to directly modify an underlying virtual switch and related network protocols across a series regional hybrid data center environments. In the coming years the opportunity will be in addressing the intersection of multiple data centers and cloud providers into that of a unified cloud infrastructure that focuses on providing an optimal application experience anywhere at anytime for any application.

With these recent advancements we now have a fundamentally new method for accurately determining geographic cloud resources for internet applications & services. These advancements open up a world of opportunity for new geo-centric application architectures and deployment strategies. An opportunity to change the fundamental way in which we look at distributed or wide area computing. I'm calling this "Cloud Hopping".

The general idea of "Cloud Hopping" is to place additional cloud capacity directly at the intermediary points between multiple network providers on a geographical basis (or hops). At which point we can start to look at location information for each Internet hop to determine an optimal geographic scaling architecture. For example, the server might look at the first five hops from the client to the server. If four of the five routers have addresses within the geographic area of interest, the server can conclude that the client is probably within the geographic area and request additional cloud resources for those particular users.

I feel the greater issue is that up until recently anyone who created a website or Internet application was forced to use the same generic network inter-connects (hops). The benefit to this was that generic Internet backbone providers offered a level playing field but this also meant those who were in a position to request or pay for additional resource had no options available to do so. Let me be the first to point out there are some worrisome consequences to this approach, mainly that of Network Neutrality or more specifically in the concept of data discrimination whereby network service providers guarantee quality of service but only for those who pay for it.

I think the underlying problem within the fight for network neutrality has been a completely misguided crusade by those who fundamentally don't understand that innovation needs a scalable revenue model as well as distributive technical capabilities in order to succeed. To that end there currently is no motivation for network backbone providers to offer enhanced capabilities because more then anything the technology to enable it hasn't been available. Cloud computing is for the first time making this vision a reality.

With the recent advancements in virtualized networking and cloud computing the barriers are finally disappearing. The main stumbling block seems to be that of public opinion toward the potential miss uses of such technology without looking at the far greater potential advancements that this type of technology could enable.

What a cloud hopping infrastructure may offer is the best of both worlds, a per-use / consumption based revenue model that provides both the incentive to enhance traditional feature-less network backbones with a revenue that allows backbone providers a way to grow their bottomline. A model that rewards those who take the lead in building a new generation of geo-centric network cloud capabilities. Anther way to think of this is the Internet itself becomes a potential point of scaling your compute resources, beyond just the typical bandwidth point of view. Think of it as Hop-by-Hop scaling.

It seems to me that network neutrality may not be about "forcing" new fees on Internet application providers but instead offering additional choices for those who choose to improve their users computing experience.

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