Part 1: Why everything is becoming inextricably woven, especially in the datacenter.
If you’re anywhere in the high-tech biz, the two terms that are rocking your world are the Internet of Everything and the Cloud. Whether you are on the inside track of these, or on the sidelines, they are going to be two of the most disruptive technologies of the 21st century.
The cloud is already here and gaining momentum. Some people will argue that the cloud has been here since the inception of the Internet—or that it is the Internet. They define cloud computing as, simply, having access to data and programs via the Internet rather than going to your computer’s hard drive. While that has some element of accuracy, the original representation of the cloud can be traced back to early explanations and drawings of the Internet. It was a big, puffy, white cloud, interconnected to everything and existing above everything.
That definition has changed of late and the cloud has taken on its own persona, separate from the Internet, and even more so from the IoE. A better definition is that the Internet of today, and the IoE of tomorrow, will be the medium that accesses the cloud, where some applications and the majority of data will be stored.
Exactly how much data and what apps will be stored in the cloud is still somewhat sketchy. And how successful Web apps such as Office Online will become is unknown. What is certain, however, is that the cloud will be the repository for much of the world’s data.
The IoE is still mostly a vision, but it is based on solid principles and theories, and it is just a matter of time until we have it. While this article will focus mainly on the cloud, know that the two are inextricably interwoven, and the IoE will depend heavily on cloud platforms. Issues that affect the cloud also will have a bearing on the IoE, especially security.
Perspectives on the cloud and the IoE
One thing is for sure. Cloud services will be the next computing paradigm. Centralized (mainframe), client-server, and networking computing will become antiquated in all but a few instances. This new paradigm will remodel how clients will engage with their peers, subordinates, and superiors, both dependent and autonomous.
However, let’s step back for a moment. Just how “new” are clouds and the IoE?
Any savvy marketer knows that the best way to generate interest in something is to make it appeal to the consumer – to tout the benefits that the consumer just can’t live without. If you can’t generate interest in it the way it is now, then slap on a fresh coat of paint, give it a new name, add some creative marketing, and…voila…a star is reborn.
And stars they were in their day. M2M and remote storage were really hot when they were being developed. But in reality, neither the cloud (remote storage) nor the IoE (M2M) is new. What is new is the rebranding of them. Really, the IoE will largely be the ultimate iteration of M2M. And the cloud is simply the next level of remote storage enabled by the advancement of interconnect technology.
Because M2M wasn’t sexy enough for the 21st century, savvy marketers came up with the term Internet of Everything (IoE). And because the idea of decentralized, distributed remote storage is also not sexy enough, marketers came up with the term cloud storage.
Cloud storage sounds great. It is easy to remember, vague, and much less intimidating than remotely managed, interconnected vast warehouses of dispersed server groups that will become the repository of vast amount of data from the farthest reaches of the globe. But no matter what its moniker, the cloud is set to play a big role in future generations of computing. Regardless of whether the device is a smartphone, phablet, laptop, desktop, server, whatever, the direction is pointing to storing data on a universal platform of remote server banks.
However, these rebranded platforms are both exciting and confusing. Ask a dozen different individuals what the cloud or the IoE is and you are likely to get a dozen different answers. But one thing is for sure— they are positioned as taking the complexity out of technology. Data just gets put into the cloud, and you can access it anytime, anywhere, and on anything. Or, the IoE will take all the work out of device interconnect. Everything from your car to your house to your appliances will all be automated and do whatever is needed, at any time, regardless of distance or location. The Cloud and IoE promise to deliver convenience like never before. No longer will M2M simply be used for automated inventory management in warehouses. And the cloud will no longer have any bounds or limits. Advances in technology have seen to that.
The cloud of the future
Today, cloud technology is still in its infancy. It has been likened to the Wild West, where rules are made up on the fly according to the situation. But infancy doesn’t mean from a technology perspective. It means from an implementation perspective. Today the cloud consists primarily of individual server farms scattered around the world, most of them contained and managed separately. Examples of this are the Amazon, Google and Microsoft, but there also are hundreds of smaller vendors offering cloud services.
The real cloud of the future (now being called the Cloud of Things, or CoT) will be a ubiquitous, seamless flow of data between all cloud storage everywhere. Ultimately the cloud will be a pool of computers that will seamlessly serve up a diverse platform of services, applications, information and storage resources across an infrastructure of heterogeneous networks. The cloud’s components will have the ability to be rapidly orchestrated, capable of demand-based scaling, with provisioning done on the fly. This cloud will resemble more of an on-demand, utility-like model capable of dynamic allocation and consumption.
The basic elemental structure of this cloud will include:
• On-demand services, anytime and anywhere;
• Device-agnostic ubiquitous network access;
• Resource pooling;
• Elasticity (on-demand scaling), and
• Measured services.
There will also be several options for cloud services. Among them:
PaaS – This is where users deploy their own apps on the cloud. The advantage is that they have total control over the apps and do not have the heavy overhead of managing servers, IS, and storage.
SaaS – Apps are provided, and it uses same management model as with PaaS.
IaaS – In this model, the user is given access to the infrastructure to deploy their things. They do not manage or control the infrastructure, but they do manage or control the OS, apps, storage, and some network components.
All of this will be across multiple implementations. One is the public infrastructure where, typically, an organization will be the owner and sell the cloud services. Another is the private infrastructure where the subscriber will have their own “space” in the cloud. This may be managed by the subscriber, or a third party.
A third is called the “community” model, where several subscribers can share platforms that are common to them (medical or government, for example). This model can be managed in a managerial style, by one of the subscribers, or handed off to a third party. The fourth model is a hybrid. It has various options of combining the other models.
But all of this capability is not without some enormous issues, especially with regard to security, trust, privacy, portability, interoperability, and working issues such as QoS, reliability, bandwidth, and ownership. And it’s still not ready for commercial use.
One way all of this comes together in the IoE is sensors, especially in autonomous applications. Because many sensors will be at the lower end of the functionality scale, meaning with minimal resources, the cloud will be an ideal storage facility for their data and some of their applications. For one thing, dedicated networks may not be available to all the devices connected to a particular network. For another, some data needs to be available to a multitude of entities, such as utilities, transportation, wearables and medical implantables. In addition, such sensors may be scattered around the globe, requiring the same access platform and protocol wherever they are. A fractured cloud will not be able to support that.
Then there is the issue of mobile users. With the promise of access to personal data anytime and anywhere, cloud access must be globally ubiquitous, and all networks must be seamless and transparent to the user. The emerging platforms of multimedia and streaming data will place huge demands on the cloud, and it will need to use all the resources mentioned plus some not yet implemented to provide unimpeded data flow—in some cases worldwide.
If one listens to the pundits, the cloud will offer all to everyone, but there are many factors that have yet to be addressed. Some are not even on the radar screen, such as the IoE, seamless connectivity, a single technology platform, edge issues, and security, to mention a few. Yet the cloud promises to remove many of the technology challenges that we are dealing with today – incompatible platforms and technologies, location-based issues, and an unimpeded platform for every type of data to interface.
When all of this will come together is still very fuzzy. Some say the IoE and the cloud will be one and the same. That seems unlikely in the near future.