Microservices Expo Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, John Katrick, Pat Romanski, Gordon Haff

Related Topics: @CloudExpo

@CloudExpo: Article

Creating a Common Cloud Computing Reference API - Part One

A lot of what I'm outlining here may be better suited to a reference implementation than a standard

Reuven Cohen's "ElasticVapor" Blog

Over the last few weeks I've been engaged in several conversations about the need for a common, interoperable and open set of cloud computing standards. During these conversations a recurring theme has started to emerge. A need for cloud interoperability or the ability for diverse cloud systems and organizations to work together in a common way.

In my discussion yesterday with Rich Wolski of the Eucalyptus project he described the need for a "CloudVirt" API similar to that of the Libvirt project for virtualization. For those of you that don't know about libvirt, it's an open source toolkit which enables a common API interaction with the virtualization capabilities of recent versions of Linux (and other OSes).

I would like to take this opportunity to share my ideas as well as get some feedback on some of the key points I see for the creation of common cloud computing reference API or standard.

* Cloud Resource Description
The ability to describe resources is (in my opinion) the most important aspect of any standardization effort. One potential avenue might be to use the Resource Description Framework proposed by the W3C. The Resource Description Framework (RDF) is a family of specifications, originally designed as a metadata data model, which has come to be used as a general method of modeling information through a variety of syntax formats. The RDF metadata model is based upon the idea of making statements about Web resources (or Cloud Resources) in the form of subject-predicate-object expressions, called triples in RDF lingo. This standardized approach could be modified as a primary mechanism for describing cloud resources both locally and remotely.

* Cloud Federation (Cloud 2 Cloud)
The holy grail of cloud computing may very well be the ability to seamlessly bridge both private clouds (datacenters) and remote cloud resources such as EC2 in a secure and efficient manor. To accomplish this a federation standard must be enabled. One of the biggest hurdles to over come in federation is the lack of clear definition to what federation is.

So let me take a stab at defining it.

Cloud federation manages consistency and access controls when two or more independent geographically distinct clouds share either authentication, files, computing resources, command and control or access to storage resources. Cloud federations can be classified into three categories: peer-to-peer, replication, and hierarchical. Peer 2 peer seems to be the most logical first step in creating a federation spec. Protocols like XMPP, P4P and Virtual Distributed Ethernet may make for good starting points.

* Distributed Network Management
The need for a distributed and optimized virtual network is an important aspect in any multi-cloud deployment. One potential direction could be to explore the use of VPN or VDE technologies. My preference would be to use VDE, (Virtual Distributed Ethernet). A quick refresher, a VPN is a way to connect one or more remote computers to a protected network, generally tunnelling the traffic through another network. VDE implements a virtual ethernet in all its aspects, virtual switches, virtual cables. A VDE can also be used to create a VPN.

VDE interconnects real computers running (through a tap interface), virtual machines as well as the other networking interfaces through a common open framework. VDE supports heterogeneous virtual machines running on different hosting computers and could be the ideal starting point. Network shaping and optimization may also play an important role in the ability to bridge two or cloud resources.

Some network optimization aspects may include;

  • Compression - Relies on data patterns that can be represented more efficiently.
  • Caching/Proxy - Relies on human behavior , accessing the same data over and over.
  • Protocol Spoofing - Bundles multiple requests from chatty applications into one.
  • Application Shaping - Controls data usage based on spotting specific patterns in the data and allowing or disallowing specific traffic.
  • Equalizing - Makes assumptions on what needs immediate priority based on the data usage.
  • Connection Limits - Prevents access gridlock in routers and access points due to denial of service or peer to peer.
  • Simple Rate Limits - Prevents one user from getting more than a fixed amount of data.

* Memory Management
When looking at the creation of compute cloud memory tends to be a major factor in the performance of a given virtual environment, whether a virtual machine or some other application component. Cloud memory management will need to involve ways to allocate portions of virtual memory to programs at their request, and freeing it for reuse when no longer needed. This is particularly important in "platform as a service" cloud deployments.

Several key memory management aspects may include;

  • Provide memory space to enable several processes to be executed at the same time
  • Provide a satisfactory level of performance for the system users
  • Protect each program's resources
  • Share (if desired) memory space between processes
  • Make the addressing of memory space as transparent as possible for the programmer.

* Distributed Storage
I've been working on creating a cloud abstraction layer called "cloud raid" as part of our ElasticDrive platform and have been looking at different approaches for our implementation. My initial idea is to connect multiple remote cloud storage services (S3, Nirvanix, CloudFS) for a variety of purposes. During my research the XAM specification began to look like the most suitable candidate. XAM addresses storage interoperability, information assurance (security), storage transparency, long-term records retention and automation for Information Lifecycle Management (ILM)-based practices.

XAM looks to solve key cloud storage problem spots including;

  • Interoperability: Applications can work with any XAM conformant storage system; information can be migrated and shared
  • Compliance: Integrated record retention and disposition metadata
  • ILM Practices: Framework for classification, policy, and implementation
  • Migration: Ability to automate migration process to maintain long-term readability
  • Discovery: Application-independent structured discovery avoids application obsolescence

Potential Future Additions to the API

* I/o
The virtualization of I/O resources is a critical part of enabling a set of emerging cloud deployment models. In large scale cloud deployments a recurring issue has the ability to effectively management I/o resources whether on a machine level or network. One of the problems a lot of users are encountering is that of the "nasty neighbor" or a user who has taken all available system I/o resources.

A common I/o API for sharing, security, performance, and scalability will need to be addressed to help resolve these issues. I've been speaking with several hardware vendors on how we might be able to address this problem. This will most like have to be done at a later point after a first draft has been released.

* Monitoring and System Metrics
One of the best aspects of using cloud technology is the ability to scale applications in tandem to the underlying infrastructure and the demands placed on it. Rather then just scaling on system load, users should have the ability to selectively scale on other metrics such as response time, network throughput or other metrics made available. Having a uniform way to interact with system metrics will enable cloud providers and consumers a common way to scale applications.

Security & Auditability.
In my conversations with several wall street CIO's the questions of both security and cloud transparency with regards to external audits has come up frequently.

My list of requirements is by no means a complete list. Cloud computing encompasses a wide variety of technologies, architectures and deployment models. What I am attempting to do is address the initial pain points whether you are deploying a cloud or just using it. A lot of what I've outlined may be better suited to a reference implementation than a standard, but none the less I thought I'd put these out ideas out for discussion.

-- Update --

Looks like I've forgotten an obvious yet important aspect to my cloud standards. Authentication. Maybe something like OAuth or OpenID could form the basis for this as well. I'll need to do some more thinking on this one.

More Stories By Reuven Cohen

An instigator, part time provocateur, bootstrapper, amateur cloud lexicographer, and purveyor of random thoughts, 140 characters at a time.

Reuven is an early innovator in the cloud computing space as the founder of Enomaly in 2004 (Acquired by Virtustream in February 2012). Enomaly was among the first to develop a self service infrastructure as a service (IaaS) platform (ECP) circa 2005. As well as SpotCloud (2011) the first commodity style cloud computing Spot Market.

Reuven is also the co-creator of CloudCamp (100+ Cities around the Globe) CloudCamp is an unconference where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies exchange ideas and is the largest of the ‘barcamp’ style of events.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

Most Recent Comments
MiamiWebDesigner 08/25/08 06:25:14 AM EDT

Kudos to the Cloud Crowd for Re-Inventing the Wheel!

One thing 30 years in the IT industry has taught me is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Another is that the only memory we seem to access is short-term. Yet another is that techno-marketeers rely on that, so they can put labels like "revolutionary" and "innovative" on platforms, products and services that are mere re-inventions of the wheel ... and often poor copies at that.

A good example is all the buzz about "Cloud Computing" in general and "SaaS" (software as a service) in particular:


Both terms are bogus. The only true cloud computing takes place in aircraft. What they're actually referring to by "the cloud" is a large-scale and often remotely located and managed computing platform. We have had those since the dawn of electronic IT. IBM calls them "mainframes":


The only innovation offered by today's cloud crowd is actually more of a speculation, i.e. that server farms can deliver the same solid performance as Big Iron. And even that's not original. Anyone remember Datapoint's ARCnet, or DEC's VAXclusters? Whatever happened to those guys, anyway...?

And as for SaaS, selling the sizzle while keeping the steak is a marketing ploy most rightfully accredited to society's oldest profession. Its first application in IT was (and for many still is) known as the "service bureau". And I don't mean the contemporary service bureau (mis)conception labelled "Service 2.0" by a Wikipedia contributor whose historical perspective is apparently constrained to four years:


Instead, I mean the computer service bureau industry that spawned ADAPSO (the Association of Data Processing Service Organizations) in 1960, and whose chronology comprises a notable portion of the IEEE's "Annals of the History of Computing":


So ... for any of you slide rule-toting, pocket-protected keypunch-card cowboys who may be just coming out of a 40-year coma, let me give you a quick IT update:

1. "Mainframe" is now "Cloud" (with concomitant ethereal substance).

2. "Terminal" is now "Web Browser" (with much cooler games, and infinitely more distractions).

3. "Service Bureau" is now "SaaS" (but app upgrades are just as painful, and custom mods equally elusive).

4. Most IT buzzwords boil down to techno-hyped BS (just as they always have).

Bruce Arnold, Web Design Miami Florida

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Modern software design has fundamentally changed how we manage applications, causing many to turn to containers as the new virtual machine for resource management. As container adoption grows beyond stateless applications to stateful workloads, the need for persistent storage is foundational - something customers routinely cite as a top pain point. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Bill Borsari, Head of Systems Engineering at Datera, explored how organizations can reap the bene...
The dynamic nature of the cloud means that change is a constant when it comes to modern cloud-based infrastructure. Delivering modern applications to end users, therefore, is a constantly shifting challenge. Delivery automation helps IT Ops teams ensure that apps are providing an optimal end user experience over hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud environments, no matter what the current state of the infrastructure is. To employ a delivery automation strategy that reflects your business rules, making r...
"We started a Master of Science in business analytics - that's the hot topic. We serve the business community around San Francisco so we educate the working professionals and this is where they all want to be," explained Judy Lee, Associate Professor and Department Chair at Golden Gate University, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Cloud Governance means many things to many people. Heck, just the word cloud means different things depending on who you are talking to. While definitions can vary, controlling access to cloud resources is invariably a central piece of any governance program. Enterprise cloud computing has transformed IT. Cloud computing decreases time-to-market, improves agility by allowing businesses to adapt quickly to changing market demands, and, ultimately, drives down costs.
There is a huge demand for responsive, real-time mobile and web experiences, but current architectural patterns do not easily accommodate applications that respond to events in real time. Common solutions using message queues or HTTP long-polling quickly lead to resiliency, scalability and development velocity challenges. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ryland Degnan, a Senior Software Engineer on the Netflix Edge Platform team, will discuss how by leveraging a reactive stream-based protocol,...
We call it DevOps but much of the time there’s a lot more discussion about the needs and concerns of developers than there is about other groups. There’s a focus on improved and less isolated developer workflows. There are many discussions around collaboration, continuous integration and delivery, issue tracking, source code control, code review, IDEs, and xPaaS – and all the tools that enable those things. Changes in developer practices may come up – such as developers taking ownership of code ...
For over a decade, Application Programming Interface or APIs have been used to exchange data between multiple platforms. From social media to news and media sites, most websites depend on APIs to provide a dynamic and real-time digital experience. APIs have made its way into almost every device and service available today and it continues to spur innovations in every field of technology. There are multiple programming languages used to build and run applications in the online world. And just li...
The general concepts of DevOps have played a central role advancing the modern software delivery industry. With the library of DevOps best practices, tips and guides expanding quickly, it can be difficult to track down the best and most accurate resources and information. In order to help the software development community, and to further our own learning, we reached out to leading industry analysts and asked them about an increasingly popular tenet of a DevOps transformation: collaboration.
How is DevOps going within your organization? If you need some help measuring just how well it is going, we have prepared a list of some key DevOps metrics to track. These metrics can help you understand how your team is doing over time. The word DevOps means different things to different people. Some say it a culture and every vendor in the industry claims that their tools help with DevOps. Depending on how you define DevOps, some of these metrics may matter more or less to you and your team.
"CA has been doing a lot of things in the area of DevOps. Now we have a complete set of tool sets in order to enable customers to go all the way from planning to development to testing down to release into the operations," explained Aruna Ravichandran, Vice President of Global Marketing and Strategy at CA Technologies, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"We are an integrator of carrier ethernet and bandwidth to get people to connect to the cloud, to the SaaS providers, and the IaaS providers all on ethernet," explained Paul Mako, CEO & CTO of Massive Networks, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Grape Up leverages Cloud Native technologies and helps companies build software using microservices, and work the DevOps agile way. We've been doing digital innovation for the last 12 years," explained Daniel Heckman, of Grape Up in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"NetApp's vision is how we help organizations manage data - delivering the right data in the right place, in the right time, to the people who need it, and doing it agnostic to what the platform is," explained Josh Atwell, Developer Advocate for NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"Outscale was founded in 2010, is based in France, is a strategic partner to Dassault Systémes and has done quite a bit of work with divisions of Dassault," explained Jackie Funk, Digital Marketing exec at Outscale, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"I focus on what we are calling CAST Highlight, which is our SaaS application portfolio analysis tool. It is an extremely lightweight tool that can integrate with pretty much any build process right now," explained Andrew Siegmund, Application Migration Specialist for CAST, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Let's do a visualization exercise. Imagine it's December 31, 2018, and you're ringing in the New Year with your friends and family. You think back on everything that you accomplished in the last year: your company's revenue is through the roof thanks to the success of your product, and you were promoted to Lead Developer. 2019 is poised to be an even bigger year for your company because you have the tools and insight to scale as quickly as demand requires. You're a happy human, and it's not just...
The enterprise data storage marketplace is poised to become a battlefield. No longer the quiet backwater of cloud computing services, the focus of this global transition is now going from compute to storage. An overview of recent storage market history is needed to understand why this transition is important. Before 2007 and the birth of the cloud computing market we are witnessing today, the on-premise model hosted in large local data centers dominated enterprise storage. Key marketplace play...
Cavirin Systems has just announced C2, a SaaS offering designed to bring continuous security assessment and remediation to hybrid environments, containers, and data centers. Cavirin C2 is deployed within Amazon Web Services (AWS) and features a flexible licensing model for easy scalability and clear pay-as-you-go pricing. Although native to AWS, it also supports assessment and remediation of virtual or container instances within Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or on-premise. By dr...
With continuous delivery (CD) almost always in the spotlight, continuous integration (CI) is often left out in the cold. Indeed, it's been in use for so long and so widely, we often take the model for granted. So what is CI and how can you make the most of it? This blog is intended to answer those questions. Before we step into examining CI, we need to look back. Software developers often work in small teams and modularity, and need to integrate their changes with the rest of the project code b...
Kubernetes is an open source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Kubernetes was originally built by Google, leveraging years of experience with managing container workloads, and is now a Cloud Native Compute Foundation (CNCF) project. Kubernetes has been widely adopted by the community, supported on all major public and private cloud providers, and is gaining rapid adoption in enterprises. However, Kubernetes may seem intimidating and complex ...