are a little like
the Wild West. Innovators
alike are aligning definition
applying marketing for new perspectives
and finding applications that can serve the
masses; all while attempting to achieve a
level of comprehension for what the cloud
offers as a value proposition.
Organizations are anxiously looking to
leverage the cloud for its storage and service
applications. Unfortunately, we’re seeing
growing confusion, a hunger for more
definition and a thirst for viable secure applications.
Nonetheless, the law and disorder
of cloud technologies seems to have already
created a quantum shift in the future
of storage and networked services.
Looking at the continuing development
of activities surrounding the cloud, quite a
bit needs to be understood in order to allow
users the opportunity to better place
their potential “cloud needs” into a proper
framework. Over the next few installments
of this column, we’ll put some dimension
to what the cloud is, what it offers and how the cloud fits into your organization.
We start by discussing the origin of the
cloud; which began as that infamous “cloud
icon” on network topology diagrams. The term actually came directly from those
architectural drawings that used a cloud
symbol as the ubiquitous networking icon.
Conceptually, the cloud then represents
“any-to-any” connectivity in a private or
public network infrastructure. Fig. 1 shows a generalization of the cloud which may
provide an enormous level of services to a
multitude of users.
CLOUD SERVICES OR STORAGE?
Fig. 1: A generalization of the cloud, which can provide many services to many users
The answer is yes. Cloud services
should be distinguished from cloud storage in similar fashion to the way an application
living on a PC is distinguished from
the storage connected to or contained on
that same PC.
Essentially, cloud storage is a repository
for bits. The cloud may have no more management
sophistication than what you’d
find on a PC attached to a shared drive that
has simple, defined privileges such as read/
write rights and access conditions.
A service, when set in the cloud, can be
another aspect of the cloud architecture.
Cloud services provide value-added benefits
such as pay as you go; pay only for
what you need; elasticity, i.e., the illusion of
infinite capacity; and of course the simplicity
of use and/or management of the data
storage or services.
The cloud may also provide functional
operations—applications—that may be
utilized by multiple users who request
(and pay) for those functions.
A user may only choose to put their
data into a storage bin that is located in
the cloud. Often these storage services will
provide the usual redundancy and backup
protection, secure accessibility from multiple
locations and shared access depending upon the rights and privileges established
by the user/administrator.
DropBox and Carbonite, both popular
commercial file-sharing and backup storage
solutions (respectively) are good examples of where a storage provider, anchored
in the cloud, provides fundamentally basic
services for a price that is economical, very
simple and quite functional for millions of
users. They both rely on a public network for access, and have specific user-defined
sharing and access rights that are established
by the primary user of the account.
Cloud services, on the other hand, offer
an extended set of capabilities that
can include functionality such as content
delivery management (CDN), transcoding,
processing and even “cloud-editing.”
ON DEMAND THROUGH
Fig. 2: A method of how cloud services can be virtualized to provide data storage and compute resources to users
An important part of the cloud model
is the concept of an “on-demand” resource
pool that allows sets of resources to be
drawn from in small increments. The scale
of the resource pool is often concealed
and is therefore transparent to the individual
Because this resource pool is collectively
shared among many users, all with
potentially differing sets of needs, the costs
of those services for any one user will generally
be much less than if the same user
were to purchase the equipment that performs
those services themselves. This relatively
recent innovation is made possible
In similar fashion, cloud storage is simply
the delivery of on-demand virtualized
storage. When storage services are delivered
over a network of appropriately configured virtual storage and related data services
and are founded on a request for a
given service level; the service is referred
to as “Data Storage as a Service (DaaS).” Fig.
2 shows another method of expressing
how cloud services can be virtualized to
provide data storage and compute resources
As discussed in Al Kovalick’s article, “The
Cloud: What’s It All About?” (Cloudspotter’s
Journal, Aug. 22, 2012), other provisions
are also available in the cloud. Those being
considered in standards development activities
include “Infrastructure as a Service
(IaaS).” This concept enables the delivery,
over a network, of an appropriately configured
virtual computing environment based
on a request for a given service-level agreement
(SLA). IaaS may be either self-provisioned
or provisionless. Like other cloud
services, IaaS is billed based on the user’s
consumption of those services.
When a virtual programming environment
is needed, such services may also be
delivered over a network consisting of an
application deployment stack based on a
virtual computing environment. This is
called “Platform as a Service (PaaS)” and is
based on IaaS. PaaS can be either self-provisioned
or provisionless, is billed based on
consumption, and provides an application
deployment stack that is called for on demand.
“Software as a Service (SaaS)” is yet another
capability that can be virtualized in
the cloud. The previous example of cloudbased
transcoding services is a good representation
Cloud standards are intended to define
and establish the functionality of the
various resources that might be offered as
services within a rich cloud environment.
In these models, clients are exposed to resources
as data paths. More precisely, the
data paths are “functional interfaces” that
are managed by control paths otherwise
known as “management interfaces.” To
make this work on a universal basis, cloud
standards are being developed and adopted so as to allow a semblance of uniformity
regardless of the storage or services architecture
supported inside the cloud.
Metadata becomes an extremely important
concept in the cloud data management
specification. Metadata is a convenient
mechanism used to express the
management of large amounts of data with
differing requirements. The management toolset is one of the underlying data services
that differentiate the treatment of the
data in order to meet the intended requirements.
There is a great deal more to uncover in
the cloud. In a future issue, we’ll get into
how cloud services and cloud storage is
built out using SoA (Service Oriented Architectures),
the defining of SLAs, and how the cloud is utilized from the user and the
cloud provider’s perspective.
Karl Paulsen (CPBE) is a SMPTE Fellow
and chief technologist at Diversified
Systems. Read more about these and other
storage topics in his recent book “Moving
Media Storage Technologies”. Contact
Karl at email@example.com.