Is Cloud Computing Overhyped?

by Sonal Desai    Apr 17, 2009

Barely has a section of India Inc. given nod to the cloud computing technology, a bigger cloud has emerged which can put efforts of cloud computing vendors in jeopardy.

We are talking about a recent McKinsey report that calls the entire concept a crazed overhype.’ According to McKinsey analysts, a lot of companies are boasting about how they’re cloud computing players, but there’s still no real definition of what cloud computing is. They say that the buzz is disconnected from reality, and that the promised cost-savings are just not there.

But McKinsey is not all that hard on the technology. It says that while cloud computing may be more expensive for bigger businesses than the traditional data centers; it’s good news for startups, and small and medium businesses.

But Yahoo!, the second largest search optimization company, may disagree. A major user of cloud computing technology, Yahoo! operates multiple cloud computing clusters that include clusters/grids of 1,000s of commodity machines. And also, 10,000s of machines running Hadoop (largest cluster has 1,600 nodes), TBs, RAM, PBs disk.

Hadoop is a software layer responsible for distributing application data across the machines, parallelizing and managing application execution across the machines, and detecting and recovering from machine failures.

Rajeev Rastogi, VP & head of Yahoo! Labs, Bangalore, told CXOtoday, "Many search/advertising applications are computationally intensive and have a need to process petabytes of data. This is only possible with large machine clusters with thousands of computers. Our Web search crawlers index several billion pages (100 billion+) distributed across the Web, and this is typically carried out in massive data centers containing thousands of machines."

Hadoop has been used to construct WebMap (graph of Web pages and directed links between them), compute Page Rank over the Web graph, and build the database of Search Assist (suggestions provided when using Y! search) from three years of log data. 
Clouds are also useful for constructing machine learning models for predicting click probability from Web click logs in order to determine which ads (with the highest click probability) to place on a Web page, or in response to a search query, taking into account user behavioral, demographic, and geographic data.

Web pages are frequently clustered/classified to improve search relevance/quality/ranking or improve matching of ads with pages. Scaling to such large volumes of pages requires cloud computing support, said Rastogi.

Services firms too are testing the cloud computing technology. Gurdeep Singh, Head IT, Hanmer|MS&L, a public relations firm, has adopted the technology to host mails on Gmail cloud. "It saves money, server maintenance, and gives reliability of service," says Singh.

Our own CXOtoday survey, conducted as a part of the year-ender series, showed that a lot of CXOs are open to testing the technology.

K.R. Srinivasan, pro vice chancellor of IGNOU, believes that it will be the technology to watch out for in 2009. Ajay Kumar Dhir, CIO of JSL Limited, says that 2009 could see better adoption and deployment of technologies like cloud computing and virtualization.

Another interesting trend in the cloud computing technology is the use of private cloud vis a vis the public cloud. Santosh d’Souza, CTO, Sun Microsystems, explains the concept. Sun run on the cloud for different purposes such as computational programme, designing and processes. It uses compute ranches that use cloud computing technology, therefore harnessing the compute part available through some sort of job allocation.

He says, "We are not using anybody’s cloud. The trend is to deploy early as a standalone. Companies are now at the virtualization stage, and are putting applications on top." There is tremendous amount of interest from enterprises, globally and in India, to transform their data centers into own clouds. "They are not comfortable with going for public clouds."

According to d’Souza, there are benefits of starting data center into own cloud. People are keen to exploit the technology on public cloud, and then move on to own cloud. "The process has begun. Enterprises have entered the virtual mode. Allocation of resources, provisioning has begun. The next logical step now will be cloud computing."

The reason why cloud computing is reshaping the IT market place is it is offering opportunities to the IT organizations to focus on core business, and enabling the CIOs to be strategic partners in business decisions.

Cisco’s Datar lists the benefits of the cloud. "The combination of escalating customer demands for more powerful collaborative solutions, the availability of more dynamic Web services and the success of partner ecosystems have inspired Cisco to create the WebEx Connect platform for multidimensional and cross-organizational collaboration."

On-demand services and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions have become the preferred mechanisms for organizations to better leverage the power of technology. Rather than contend with the endless hassles and escalating costs historically associated with traditional, on-premise, hardware and software products, today’s on-demand services and SaaS solutions enable organizations to more quickly and cost-effectively harness technology to achieve their business objectives.

On-demand services and SaaS solutions capitalize on the ubiquity and real-time availability of the web to deliver a new breed of business applications that offer greater collaboration and productivity features via a pay-as-you-go subscription fee structure. These solutions also eliminate the infrastructure, installation, maintenance and support costs of the past. Organizations no longer have to acquire additional hardware or hire additional staff to support their business requirements. Instead, the SaaS provider assumes this responsibility as a part of guaranteeing the availability and performance of its solutions.

Rastogi of Yahoo! adds, "For a company like us, data mining involves analyzing massive Web click logs (billions of page views each day, ~25 TB of day per day) to determine profiles of users who visit certain Web sites, frequently searched keywords by various categories of users, etc., and this is carried out on clouds."

Finally, over 600 million users access Yahoo!’s services like mail, instant messaging, search etc. each month. Scaling to so many users again is only possible using large machine clusters with huge computational and storage resources.

Be that as it may, enterprises are carefully testing the cloud, waiting for the result on whether it will wither with the wind, or will stay even if it rains.



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