CloudConnect Debrief: Real Life Cloud Computing Lessons

At this week's CloudConnect conference, many attendees showed that they've moved from studying to implementing, says CIO.com's Bernard Golden. He shares some interesting lessons learned on cloud economics, IT organization and privacy issues.

By Bernard Golden
Fri, March 11, 2011

CIO — If I had to summarize my assessment of this week's CloudConnect conference, it would be this: Attention regarding cloud computing is rapidly moving toward the pragmatics of using it and away from the theories of studying it.

Unusually for me, I was able to attend a number of sessions and, unlike most conferences, they were excellent, with a high level of content and low level of marketing. Here are a few of the things that I thought were interesting:

The first day (actually a pre-conference day) had a "Cloud Performance Summit," with a number of sessions and panels devoted to cloud statistics and use profiles. It was kicked off by Adrian Cockroft of Netflix, who described how his company is leveraging Amazon Web Services (AMZN). Among his tidbits:

• Netflix.com is almost 100% hosted on AWS. Netflix chooses to do this not because they don't know how to run a data center, but because it provides them enormous flexibility in terms of not needing to predict how much compute capacity the company will need in the future.

• Netflix uses Amazon Reserved Instances heavily. An AWS Reserved Instance is, essentially, a prepayment that offers a lower rental rate in return. Because Netflix purchases a three-year reservation, it is able to depreciate the lease, thereby converting an operational expense into a capital investment. Certainly a twist on conventional expectations.

• Developers, rather than IT, manage Netflix AWS use. In fact, Netflix has no CIO. Developers are trusted and expected to operate the AWS environment correctly. This may seem quite surprising, but it is consistent with a company that has no vacation policy and allows employees to take as much time as they like.

Another fact, rather astonishing to me, came up during the performance summit. A speaker from Cedexis (I think — note to self, take better notes in future) said that his firm had examined a large number of enterprise applications and found that 35% (!) of them had some dependency on Amazon Web Services Eastern Region. Yes, these were important apps, not trivial ones, so the dependency on AWS is quite remarkable, and testament to the changing nature of how applications are built.

I expect that very few of these apps run in AWS; rather, they probably make a call to some external service, some portion of which, unbeknownst to the application developer, resides in AWS. This leads to another current running through the conference: the changing nature of applications.

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