Good Fences Between Apps and OS Make Good Neighbors in the Cloud
Divorcing server applications from the underlying OS in virtual application appliances (VAA).
By: Greg O'Connor
Jan. 20, 2010 04:15 PM
Did you ever have the invisible dream? I don't like it. It's the one where I have "the answer" to a big problem (usually involving giant, malevolent aliens) but everyone walks right past me because I'm invisible. I had that feeling yesterday reading James Urquhart's blog titled, "Application packaging for cloud computing: A proposal".
He'd written a series of posts considering deployment and operations in infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environments. Looking at the impact of cloud computing on the use of virtual machines and operating systems, Urquhart wrote, "The very heart and soul of software systems design is being challenged by the decoupling of infrastructure architectures from the software architectures that run on them."
Yes. Exactly what I've been saying. Exactly what AppZero does in divorcing server applications from the underlying OS in virtual application appliances (VAA).
Urquhart goes on to say that the more he explores the question of IaaS/PaaS server application packaging in light of what he calls his "big rethink," the more he thinks..." there is an opportunity to simplify cloud computing through changing the focus from infrastructure to applications." Yes, again.
He suggested that the answer might be found in, "a uniform description of an application, its configuration, and its operational requirements that can be used to describe any software deliverable to the cloud, whether meant for IaaS or PaaS." He allows as how "such a packaging format would have to be open and standard," (read, in the land of distant future where most visions live.)
My take is that Urquhart has proposed far more than standardized application packaging. What he has sketched is a proposal for a cloud system application lifecycle. To that notion, I give James two thumbs up. But no smart proposal changes the basic fact that when an installation inter-mixes an application with the OS, complexity follows with inflexibility and cloud lock-in. And its cousin datacenter lock-out.
So here's where that bad dream feeling starts to sneak up on me: The world has embraced the great benefit that comes from decoupling the OS from hardware but leaves the rest of the software stack as a giant, monolithic black box. And it doesn't have to.
If the cloud as IaaS or PaaS provided separation of server application and OS we'd:
Just as good fences make good neighbors, the isolation that comes with server application virtualization makes crystal clear who is responsible for what - lines of demarcation that can get really cloudy (yes, pun) once you move up the stack from basic machine provisioning. What's more, application virtualization is perfect for moving all or any part of an app from a data center to a cloud to another cloud and back to the datacenter.
Today. With AppZero. Can you hear me now?
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