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Experts: Cloud computing faces difficulties

Posted: 06 Oct 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:cloud computing  Internet  parallel programming 

The concept of cloud computing seems simple enough—just as we use the Internet today to search for data, we are envisioned in the future to tap into web servers to run applications.

Some skewer cloud computing as marketing hype. Others predict that in the next century most companies will ditch their in-house computers and tech staff, just as they once stopped paying for systems and specialists to generate their own electricity.

Making the vision a reality will require years of work, much of it in creating new approaches to software, said panellists at an annual research event at the eBay headquarters. The new tools needed range from parallel programming primitives to authentication standards and application programming interfaces.

"The software side of this effort is nothing like the metaphor of the electrical business," said David P. Young, CEO and founder of Joyent, a California-based start-up offering cloud computing services. "Software scaling is poor, and this is a problem that needs to be solved."

Young cited progress in some areas. He said Joyent will support the Eucalyptus project at the University of California at Santa Barbara, an open-source version of the EC2 API used by Amazon.com for its cloud computing services.

"I think Amazon has won, and its EC2 will become the x86 chipset of cloud computing," Young said.

The next big step will be to create similar standards for security and metadata services that will let computers authenticate and describe jobs to systems used by competing vendors. "I'm sure everyone is working on it, but not in an open way," he said.

The panellists agreed that finding ways to tap into the increasingly parallel processing resources inside Internet data centres will be a key to cloud computing. That's still a long way off, according to one audience member.

"We're still writing serial programs because parallel primitives are lousy," he told the panel. "We need new programming models and primitives.

"There are projects at HP, Yahoo and elsewhere addressing that," said Prith Banerjee, vice president of research at Hewlett-Packard Labs and a panellist.

Scatter/gather computing techniques such as Google's MapReduce and the open source Hadoop "are steps in that direction," Banerjee added, "but they can be applied to a limited set of applications. We are working on other approaches."

- Rick Merritt
EE Times





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