The concept of the cloud in a box is breaking down as more people come to question how Oracle defines elasticity.
At Oracle Open World last week, the company repeatedly stated that its Exalogic machine is elastic as virtualization is built into the system. Each of the 360 cores can be virtualized. How many virtual machines depends on several factors.
We spoke today with John Considine, founder and CTO of CloudSwitch, which we wrote about today in a post about extending data centers to the cloud. Considine is well-qualified to talk on the topic. Prior to starting CloudSwitch, Considine served as director of the platform products group at Sun Microsystems. Much of the Exalogic system was built on Sun's technology.
Considine wrote about the elasticity issue on the CloudSwitch blog this past week. In it, he outlined why Exalogic is a box but not an elastic environment.
Considine makes the point that a box is a defined as a set of resources. Customers provision for the maximum size of the box. But if you use less, you have already paid for the box, so scaling back does not have the cost benefits as it does if you were scaling up and down in the cloud. He writes:
"Placing the term "Elastic" in the name of this offering is stretching the accepted definition of the term as it relates to cloud computing. The Exalogic server is a contained set of resources that is purchased, operated, and maintained as part of the enterprise infrastructure. You can scale your applications up and down within this solution, but in the end, you are limited to the number of cores, amount or RAM, and size of the storage you purchased. While you can add more racks to the solution, you are stuck paying for the whole thing independent from what you really use - not exactly elastic or pay for only what you use. "
This does not mean that the Oracle Exalogic machine is poorly suited to a virtualized data center. Considine says Exalogic represents the future of the virtualized data center. Instead of spreading out over thousands of square feet, Exalogic is an all-in-one environment.
"While you raise good points about Oracle's own definition of cloud in a box, I think there is a case to be made for a bundled solution with a cloud infrastructure inside getting the label "cloud in a box". If you think of the cloud as more fluid (or to use the popular term, elastic) allocation of resources, where those resources are typically CPU, RAM, storage, and bandwidth, something that bundles all those things in a package that allows for infinite reconfiguration of a pool of resources is in effect a cloud in a box.
EMC and HP are both making solutions that fit this description, by providing the resources on a common backplane, with a management layer that allows users to request a subset of the resources. When the use case ends, those resources are then returned to the common pool to be redeployed, just as they would be in a larger cloud infrastructure."
Yes, we agree that HP convergence strategy has value. But, still, a system is not elastic when it is in one box. The limitations are the box itself. You will eventually have to buy more boxes. That's fine for a data center but not the cloud where scaling works across limitless resources that do not cost $1 million when you max out the box.
It makes much more sense to think of extending the data center into the cloud, sharing virtual machines in an encrypted bridge. The data center becomes part of the cloud's flow. The Exalogic machine serves as one component in the overall infrastructure.