The Cloud is For Everyone

Intel wants its customers to install cloud in less than a day. The job is exciting but not easy.

Aiming to be in the thought leadership position, Intel, which never got tired with its ‘Intel Inside’ campaign, now claims that cloud will dramatically extend the reach of the digital world. This is a very tempting offer for most large, medium and small businesses as they struggle to expand reach and reduce operation costs on one hand, and face unknown competition from most unexpected places.
The chip maker which has for years dominated the computing processor space and is now aggressively positioning itself as the cloud technology company, announced a range of new technologies, and investments and industry collaborations aimed at making it easier to deploy agile and scalable clouds so businesses can deliver new services faster and drive revenue growth. “The cloud is for everyone”, said Diane Bryant, senior VP and GM, at Intel. Ever since the company launched its ‘Cloud For All’ program last year, they are leaving no stone unturned in their endeavor to get 10 – 12 thousand clouds off the ground as soon as they can. Intel’s stated goal is to help its customers to be able to set up a cloud in less than a day.

Unleashing Tens of Thousands of New Clouds
That cloud in many places is giving amazing results is evident from what users have to say. John O’Connell, senior VP at publishing and educational content creator company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), says that “the education sector is in the midst of profound transformation because of technology that is bringing in higher innovation, dynamism, accessibility and engagement, and hence newer opportunities. We are now able to update content faster, and tailor content to suite the students needs. And we can now predict students outcomes, and take preventive action”. HMH has deployed for storage and data privacy.”And this momentum is only going to go up”, adds O”Connell. That cloud is transforming how organizations can handle and serve customers, is very clear from Sandeep Rao too, the principal technologist at NASDAQ. “With cloud and data centers, we can move many more regular services to the high priority category, and that becomes a big thing for financial services companies, their partners and customers”.

There seems to be no area where the cloud is not changing the rules of the game. Dr Joe Grey, chair of the Biomedical Engineering Dept at the Oreqon Health & Science University believes that the Collaborative Cancer Cloud the university has set up to collaborate with other institutes on research and drug personalisation, has been able to collect and analyse data from million of patients, that has resulted in precision medicine and patient care. Similarly, Quinton Anderson from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia feels that “the cloud allows the organization to experiment and learn without compromising on stability and security to deliver sound financial solutions to our customers”. He adss that “these two environments will have to co-exist and cannot be separate, for us to be innovative and ahead of competition”. This bank has seen over 90% reduction in per unit opex, far better developer experience as she can deliver in less than 3 hours compared to 2 weeks time taken earlier, and far lower operation complexity and risk.

That cloud becomes truly successful is a big desire of investors too. The industry has seen over USD 17.5 bn cloud related VC funding in the last 5 years. Revenue growth from sales of cloud and cloud software is likely to touch 28% now. And as open source becomes very critical, Intel is pushing its partners and customers hard to open up.

As part of its Cloud for All initiative, Intel is investing in others in the industry to accelerate SDI-enabled clouds, optimizing key technologies, and aligning the industry to drive the development of standards and easy-to-deploy cloud solutions. Intel is collaborating with CoreOS and Mirantis to bring together two of the most popular open source technologies to orchestrate container and virtual machine-based applications. The merging of these two technologies into a single solution will simplify choices for cloud operators to accelerate the adoption of cloud solutions.

Supporters of cloud insist that for incremental change organizations can continue to follow the traditional IT models. But they also add that incremental change is not helping because the new generation companies are basing their business models on very highly disruptive technologies like cloud. Daniel Zelem, CTO of Johnson & Johnson, says that “we took the bold decision to move to cloud very early. They have hybrid cloud and 85% of their IT infra is virtualized. The end result is that their provisioning time has gone down from 3 months to about an hour now; performance has gone up by 60%; and costs have gone down by more than 50%. Similarly, Johaan Carlsson, CTO at the UMEA University, with 31K students in 8 campuses, have been to completely transform their user experience. For instance, their IT infra provisioning, which took about 5 days from the time of request to actually being made available, now happens within 30 minutes, thanks to a self service portals that he has been able to create. Their is lesser manual intervention in many of these things, and the ROI waas achieved within 12 months. “But most importantly, with the cloud I was able to make my staffs boring job exciting and interesting”, adds Carlsson.

Rosy but not easy
While businesses want flexibility and choice in cloud deployment models to support innovation while maintaining control of their most strategic assets, challenges are many. Despite a willingness to invest in modern software-defined infrastructure (SDI) , businesses find the prospect of doing so themselves to be complex and time-consuming. Orran Kreigger, founding director of the Cloud Computing Initiative at the Boston University, says that “todays clouds are owned, operated, and controlled by a single provider, and that limits research and innovation, which was one of the key USPs of a cloud platform. Such clouds also have security issues, and because of vendor lock-in costs start going up”. While the dream is rosy, the road to the dream is not easy. Experts like Alex Freedland, co-founder of Mirantis, and Susan Blocher, VP at HP Enterprises are giving cloud a 5-10 year time frame before it becomes so prevelant and pervasive that users will not even think or know about their IT infrastructure.

Intel is firing on all its cylinders to expand and support the ecosystem, that will eventually help its processors sell more. IIntel and VMware announced a network of Centers of Excellence aimed at accelerating cloud deployments. The centers will drive custom optimizations, facilitate proof-of-concept testing and integrate cybersecurity best practices.

The company also announced the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) the world’s largest cloud application testing cluster for applications “born in the cloud.” The cluster will include more than 1,000 Intel Xeon processor-based server nodes designed to provide developers with the opportunity to test applications at larger scales and deliver the efficiency and portability of cloud native applications to businesses.

To ensure that the ecosystem builds rapidly, Intel is expanding its Cloud Builders program to include SDI use cases and accelerate ecosystem optimization efforts that allow customers to take full advantage of infrastructure as a service (IaaS) orchestration and automation. The new Storage Builders program also aims to accelerate the industry’s use of cloud-ready, next-generation storage solutions by fostering greater innovation by matchmaking between in the cloud ecosystem. Intel currently has more than 340 member companies across its cloud, storage and network “builders” programs. Plus they have got 260 tech papers publication to help build case studies, best practices and solutions. Intel has recently at the Mobile World Congress also launched the Network Builders University.

“Its going to be tens of thousands of clouds, and not just 10-12 thousand clouds”, clarifies Diane. The optimism does not seem to be very misplaced.

Intel’s Key Ingredients for the Modern Cloud
Tomorrows’ demands from the cloud and the networks that support it can only be a matter of imagination. Sandra Rivera, VP, Data Center Group at Intel believes that the network will soon have to handle over 50 billion devices and 2 ZB of data traffic. So what we will need is a cloud ready network. And SDI will be the foundation for the most advanced clouds in the world. It makes the delivery of cloud services faster and more efficient by dynamically allocating the required compute, storage and network resources through intelligent software, carefully orchestrating the delivery of applications and services on-demand and across many users. Keeping in mind emerging needs, Intel announced Xeon processor E5-2600 v4 product family, built on 14nm process technology, that provides key ingredients for SDI including Intel Resource Director Technology, which enables customers to move to fully automated SDI-based clouds with greater visibility and control over critical shared resources like processor caches and main memory. Intel claims that this results ins intelligent orchestration and improved utilization and service levels. The new product family delivers improved performance for cloud tasks with more than 20 percent more cores and cache than the prior generation , supports faster memory, and includes other integrated technologies for accelerating a wide range of server, network and storage workloads. Security enhancements like workload isolation, security policy enforcement and faster cryptography have been added to help protect data more effectively.
For fast and reliable data access to the cloud, Intel unveiled new solid state drives (SSDs) optimized for the Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v4 family, enterprise storage and cloud deployments. The Intel SSD DC P3320 and P3520 Series are the first Intel SSDs to use the industry’s highest density 3D NAND technology to provide users with a highly efficient, dense storage solution. The DC P3320 offers up to a 5-times performance boost compared to SATA-based SSDs4 . The new Intel SSD DC D3700 and D3600 Series are Intel’s first dual-port PCI Express SSDs using the Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) protocol. The dual-port design provides critical redundancy and failover, safeguarding against data loss in mission-critical storage deployments. Customer systems using the D3700 can see up to a 6-times increase in performance over today’s dual-port SAS solutions.

By Ibrahim Ahmad from Santa Clara, US

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