Arjuna update

February 1, 2013

So, it’s a New year and inevitably I have some new resolutions. At the top of my list is the need to get more exercise and to use my gym membership for something other than the right to drink over-priced coffee in the company of fit people. (I’m loathe to give up my membership, even though I never do any exercise, as it’s a statistical fact that people who are members of gyms are on average more healthy than people who are not). Anyway, a more pertinent resolution is to blog more frequently. As a number of people have pointed out I’m a less than regular blogger – in fact I blog less than Andy Murray smiles. (It’s a statistical fact that people who own blogs are on average better networked than people who don’t).

Let me start with a quick update on what’s been happening at Arjuna. We’ve spent the last few years focused on delivering support for Federation in Clouds – in fact we’ve been banging on about Cloud Federation since around 2006. At Arjuna we think that Service Agreements are the key to glueing services together and we’ve built ‘Agility’, a platform to support flexible, dynamic agreements and the policies that enact them. Over the last couple of years we’ve utilised our platform, very successfully, with a number of customers but, to be frank, those engagements have only used a fraction of the capabilities of our product. What we’ve been missing thus far are two things. Firstly, customer interest in Federation. The reality is that most organisations have been so busy trying to virtualise their own IT infrastructures that they haven’t been ready to consider how they are going to manage the new service-based relationships they need to develop within their supply chains. Well, we believe that, finally, Federation’s time has come. I’ll blog more on that subject later. The second thing we’ve been missing is a customer who has a real and immediate requirement for sophisticated forms of Federation. The good news is that, with the assistance of a Technology Strategy Board grant, we’ve found that customer. We’ll be making a full announcement giving details within the next few weeks.

Service Agreements in the Cloud

October 11, 2011

Service agreement: an expression of functional and/or non-functional aspects of a service delivered from one party to another, along with any obligations upon either party.

In an earlier post I described how at Arjuna we believe that IT service will increasingly be delivered by Federated Clouds. In This post I want to look at the glue which connect Clouds together – Service Agreements.

When a service is both commissioned and delivered within a single organisation, the appropriate IT resources are designated and trialled until an effective service is deemed to have been provided. In this case both the consumers of the service and the suppliers belong to the same organisation, are ultimately responsible to a single authority, and have common interest. Common interest results in a level of trust where formal contractual and detailed expressions of precisely what is required of the service can frequently be avoided. Knowledge of the specific dedicated resources being used and/or faith in the ability of the IT team within the organisation can reassure the IT consumer that the requisite quality of service will continue to be delivered.

However, today if you’re commissioning an application delivering some service you’d ideally like to push it into the cloud and forget about it. You want the cloud to be opaque. You don’t want to have to make resourcing decisions (and particularly you don’t want to incur any expense associated with over-capacity). But if the cloud is opaque then you don’t know what resources will be utilised, and as there isn’t the same level of trust, how can you, or the consumers of your service, be confident that a satisfactory quality of service will be maintained?

Well, if the risks associated with the failure of the service to behave as expected are low enough so as to be ignored or effectively mitigated by the consumer then a general purpose, low-cost, cloud which offers simple ‘best-effort’ quality of service may well be ‘good enough’. Many of the applications hosted on the cloud today do indeed fall into this category.

However, if the risks are perceived to be higher then a service may only be useable if backed by a service agreement which provides some specific contractual guarantees. Those guarantees might constrain the provider to utilise specific resources in support of the service e.g. fault-tolerant hardware, replicated storage, the availability of skilled support staff etc, and thereby reassure the consumer that the risk is lower than it might otherwise be; and/or the provider might agree to compensate the consumer if quality of service is not maintained. This compensation could be through the provision of an effective alternative service or may even be financial. Service providers supporting this form of service agreement are effectively reducing the overall cost of using the service for individual consumers by mitigating their collective risk.

A service agreement could specify not only how the service can be operated and what it is expected to do, but also what might go wrong and what then happens, the legal, financial and support obligations, what reporting is to be delivered etc. In the real world service agreements (just like other legal contracts) can rarely be absolutely complete i.e. aspects remain open to interpretation, but in the cloud they certainly need to be much more explicit than they need be when services are utilised within a single organisation. The trust relationship which exists within an organisation needs to be replaced by a more formal relationship i.e. a contractual service agreement which clearly defines all relevant aspects of the service to be delivered.

Servce Agreements and the Federated Cloud

September 30, 2011

Federation: an organisational structure where the parties concerned are autonomous but cooperate through agreement.

The Cloud Computing paradigm is, at its core, about improved sharing, where the means of sharing is through the consumption of services. With constantly improving network capacity IT users are now able, in many cases, to consume services sourced from third parties rather than managing their own applications. As a consequence services will increasingly be delivered by providers who can reduce service costs by taking advantage of economies of scale. This trend puts economic pressure on IT consumers to utilise shared services, and by implication the IT resources (hardware, software and staff) used to deliver those services. As prices fall, and shared services proliferate and mature, it is inevitable that we will see a gradual but consistent move from services delivered by dedicated IT to services delivered by shared IT.

However, for at least three reasons we are unlikely to move to a situation where all IT resources are in the hands of a few providers, irrespective of the economic benefits. Firstly, there will be many cases where sharing is unfeasible or undesirable – bespoke services may not deliver value to anyone but their creators, or may be of such competitive value that the creators will keep them to themselves; other services might have restrictions e.g. security or latency considerations, that prevent sharing from occurring. Secondly, the transition to using shared services will be very gradual (due to inherent conservatism and to sunk costs in existing dedicated IT) and therefore it will be many years before even all of those services which could be shared, will be. Thirdly, governments will not allow such strong economic controls to be concentrated in the hands of a few.

As a consequence, at Arjuna we believe that IT services will increasingly be delivered by a complex, interconnected network of federated service providers. Providers will consume services from each other, organisations will cooperate together to share services to mutual advantage, service brokerage and trading will be commonplace. Given the variety and multitude of possible IT services we believe that the resultant network will be orders of magnitude more complex than other service delivery networks such as the electricity grid or telephone network. While a lot of effort has been aimed at enabling the technical integration that is required in order to build such networks, we believe that insufficient effort has been directed towards issues of organisational integration. In particular we believe that much of the complexity in federated networks will come from the need to manage service agreements between organisations.

Arjuna’s Agility product delivers the service agreements that are the glue for the Federated Cloud.

Cloud: threat or opportunity for the IT department?

July 25, 2011

Simon Wardley in his fascinating series of blog entries on innovation and the enterprise (http://blog.gardeviance.org) points out that technologies tend to follow an innovation lifecycle, from early innovation, to custom-built solutions, then products and finally (if the technology is widely taken up) to commodity. What we call ‘Cloud’ today is, he contends, really just the transition from IT delivered as products to IT delivered as commodity service.

In many ways this transition mirrors the previous transition in IT, from custom-built (mainframes) to (off-the-shelf) products. In that case vendors identified a huge pent-up demand from line of business individuals and departments who were frustrated by the inability of their IT department to satisfy their computing needs. Consequently vendors produced hardware and software products intended to deliver business benefits direct to line of business, and in doing so bypassed IT. Although the uptake of those products delivered significant competitive advantage to organisations which successfully exploited this new paradigm, it also resulted in IT anarchy with hardware and applications scattered all over the organisation, and data stored in many locations and in incompatible formats. It’s taken the IT department most of the last two decades to regain control. And now, just when almost all of the IT has been consolidated into the datacentre, along comes this new disruptive transition.

Today’s IT users don’t turn to the IT department when they want a new IT service – they turn to Google. They search for a service (frequently freeware) that’s ‘good enough’ and just start using it. If they want conferencing they turn to Skype, for a marketing campaign they’ll use Facebook and Twitter, project managers will utilise 37Signals, sales people will use Salesforce, and for shared storage they’ll use Dropbox. Don’t believe it? – well, ask your Generation Y colleagues, 34% of whom admit to accessing unsanctioned services in order to get their job done (http://itknowledgeexchange.techtarget.com/cio/living-with-the-toys-of-generation-y-in-the-workplace/).

So what can IT do? Well, given the parallels it should be possible to avoid some of the mistakes from the last transition. Firstly, IT needs to be aware that this shift is occurring and to prepare for the impact. The IT department needs to start focusing on the services being consumed and understand how they can be managed. They need to avoid Ludditism. Coming up with a long list of ‘why nots’ (security, privacy, availability, legal issues etc) is an irrelevance if services are already being consumed without approval. A strong argument in favour of the IT department is that they can ensure service consumption conforms to organisational policy, but doing so requires IT to embrace the transition rather than resisting it. People won’t ask permission (or assistance) from IT if the answer will always be ‘no’.

Ending the IT investment cycle

January 14, 2011

IT equipment is generally replaced on a three to four-year cycle – a cycle that cloud computing can help bring to an end by making better use of existing capacity and also by enabling the organisation to obtain IT services on-demand from external providers. This means that over time many of the organisation’s IT functions can move ‘into the cloud’ where huge economies of scale mean that they can be delivered at a fraction of the cost of internally delivered services. To an organisation such as a university or local authority, this could mean millions of pounds saved annually from the capital budget. With capital budgets frozen or in decline, Cloud offers a way to make the most of the existing investment in IT, extracting far more value from expensive machines and applications. Crucially, when it’s time to grow, Cloud Computing will allow that to happen seamlessly, on demand, and without further capital investment.

Any new paradigm will be met with scepticism – particularly, in this case, by encumbent IT vendors wedded to selling expensive in-house IT systems, and by the IT departments who install and manage those systems. But the cloud view is taking off because the economies of scale involved in utilising the cloud make economic sense in absolutely the same way that they did when businesses moved gradually from managing their own electricity generation and their own telephony to consuming these services as utilities.

The industry’s biggest hitters, including Microsoft, Google, and IBM have now committed their futures to cloud computing. Cloud Computing is no longer a fad, or a buzz word, and is emerging from the industry hype and internet chatter that has surrounded its development. It will be a real force in 2011 and beyond – and it’s time that public sector organisations embraced it.

Cloud: A Business Proposition

January 4, 2011

All the major analysts forecast that Cloud Computing is going to grow in a huge way over the next three years – and we fully expect that, with restricted budgets and the need for extensive restructuring, the public sector, especially progressive local authorities and universities, will be actively benefiting from this exciting new paradigm.

Cloud Computing is a business proposition rather than an IT one and is a means to encourage innovation, improve customer service delivery and to achieve cost and energy reductions. This ‘magic’ is achieved by viewing IT, within or beyond the organisation, as a consumable utility rather than a ‘precious’ (in both senses of the word) in-house function.

The Cloud view places the focus on the consumption of ‘service’ rather than the consumption of IT and by doing so frees up the organisation from both the expense and the tyranny of internal IT.

Because IT is seen by many as an essential though utterly mysterious function, executives often don’t realise they’re actually only using a fraction of the available capacity of their expensive IT. (Industry figures of 10 to 15 per cent are frequently quoted). This occurs because IT is generally provisioned for dedicated tasks and for peak loads. The more tasks there are to be performed and the greater the difference between average and peak loads the greater the wastage. By pooling resources and enabling flexible sharing, Cloud technology enables organisations to harness that unused potential.

IT efficiency is key to Carbon Reduction success

October 26, 2010

Reducing energy consumption poses many difficulties for large complex organisations. Consumption is often difficult to track and energy reducing campaigns, although they might demonstrate short-term success, may not be sustainable.

IT can consume a significant percentage of an organisation’s energy (just look around your own office to make a rough estimate). It is also notoriously inefficient, often operating at 10% utilisation or lower and wasting in excess of 75% of the energy consumed.

Fortunately, unlike most other forms of energy consumption IT is inherently capable of accurate measurement and of automated control. By utilising these features measurable and immediate savings in energy consumption can be delivered that dwarf the efforts of campaigns to modify employee behaviour by switching off lights etc. Energy savings on IT of 20%-50% are readily achievable, often without significant effort.

At Arjuna we’re using cloud technology to help organisations utilise their existing IT more efficiently so that energy consumption can be significantly reduced.

Key to the success of our strategy is the fact that energy saving is the secondary benefit of introducing cloud technology; the primary benefit is the increased efficiency of IT in terms of both service delivery and of cost. This means that the organisation doesn’t have to sell a campaign to its employees – everyone benefits from improved IT, including the environment

Agility Alpha release

June 24, 2009

We’ve just released Agility as an alpha version to ‘lighthouse’ customers – early adopters that are working with us on PoCs/Pilots. It’s an exciting time as we are starting to get real traction around the fundamental concepts embodied in the product and the chance to talk about real use cases.

It’s been nearly five months since my last blog entry – far too long! But the last few months have been really busy. As well as developing Agility, we’ve been talking at conferences and telling analysts about the novel ideas behind Agility. We’ve also been building relationships with early adopters and, if you add to this, the fact that we’re currently raising another finance round you’ll get the picture.

But the good news is that we’ve taken Agility out of the demonstrator and into the customer site. This alpha release is solving real problems for customers. We’ve summarised our initial case study on Rozmic Wireless where Agility manages a SaaS deployment – managing a private cloud and cloudbursting onto the public cloud under the control of automated policy. We’re also contracted to a public sector organisation and we’ll describe how Agility resolves those particular issues soon.

With the alpha release you can manage your own hardware and software resources as a private cloud and then cloudburst out to the public cloud for scalability (and for fault-tolerance). You can insert your own policy to manage how and when you scale your applications, control which resources are used for what purpose, control load-balancing, insert specialist debug and monitoring at run-time, and do a whole lot more! Agility let’s you start small and add resources incrementally to take more and more advantage of cloud technology. All this without impacting upon your legacy systems.

Although the types of resources you can manage is still limited for this early release, and management consoles have relatively simple functionality, you can still use the alpha to get started in the cloud and begin to appreciate the power of the platform that Agility delivers.

If you’d like to explore the benefits of cloud computing using Agility then please contact us. We’d be happy to help you plan a PoC/Pilot using this alpha release. We plan to release a beta in August with full GA in January 2010.

Powered By Cloud, 2-3 Feb

January 30, 2009

I’m speaking in the ‘Consumers and the Cloud’ session at the ‘Powered By Cloud’ conference in London, 2-3 February. I’ll be talking about why Cloud Computing is like the Electricity Utility from a consumer’s point of view, but more interestingly, why it isn’t. If anyone who’s attending wants to talk about Cloud Federation, Policy, Service Agreements etc, then I’m more than willing.

Trusting the Cloud

January 19, 2009

This was originally posted in response to a blog entry http://news.cnet.com/8301-19413_3-10133487-240.html by James Urquhart in his insightful ‘The Wisdom of  Clouds’ :

At the moment there’s a clear difference of opinion amongst cloud aficionados on the subject of trust. The Web 2.0 optimists argue that informal trust is good enough. They’ll say “I’ve rarely had a problem with EC2/FlexiScale/Mosso and when I do I just restart my app some time later. Oh, and I get some credits too when that happens”. The business skeptics on the other hand say “How can I expect some third party to take the same care and attention over my critical applications that I do myself? How can I trust someone else not to lose, accidentally expose, or sell my confidential data?”

Trust is often treated in these cloud discussions as if it was a binary property. I either trust ‘the cloud’ or I don’t. But things aren’t as simple in the real world. I might trust James to look after my pint whilst I go to the restroom but not to look after my Porsche (if I had a Porsche, that is). Whereas I’d trust my colleague Barry with my Porsche but I wouldn’t leave him alone for 5 minutes with my pint. Trust between two individuals / organisations is a function of their previous interactions.

In the business world (and in the pre-nuptial arrangements of the very wealthy) trust is codified in legal contracts and in the legal system that supports those contracts. So, when you ask me if I trust my bank to look after my money then I’d say … (no, wait, that’s a bad example). When you ask me if I trust my airline to deliver the seat I’ve booked then I’d say ‘yes, in the main’. But if they don’t, then I know that there is a contract in place and an audit trail and that there are laws that will result in my being compensated for their failure to deliver. This knowledge bolsters my trust and is ultimately what makes my business with the airline, indeed all business, possible. I don’t think we’ll see broad take-up of cloud infrastructure until we can capture the contractual relationships between cloud customers and vendors (and incidentally I believe that in the cloud this distinction will become increasingly blurred).

At Arjuna we think this can be done by allowing service requirements to be clearly defined and then by constructing service agreements (effectively contracts) between independent parties intended to support those service requirements. (Thomas Bittman of Gartner has recently blogged on how potentially complex some of the requirements might be – http://blogs.gartner.com/thomas_bittman/2009/01/08/virtual-cloud-privacy-is-gray/ ). These agreements need to be very dynamic in nature and to be sufficiently flexible so that they are capable of supporting everything from complex, tightly defined business relationships backed by legal documentation, to the very loose and non-contractual relationships. Once an agreement is in place both parties can then build their own audit trail recording their view of how they and the other party have performed. This knowledge can be used to inform further agreements i.e. build trust, and to help to settle (or avoid) disputes between the parties.

Business requires contracts and, if it means business, then so does the cloud.


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