From the Blogosphere
The Tao of Cloud
Balance, harmony, and flow
By: Scott Powers
May. 20, 2011 10:00 AM
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
In this initial posting on this particular blog, it is fitting to wax a bit philosophical. Indeed, it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. OK, that’s historical, not philosophical. But to the point. A number of years back, there were a host of books on business, and other aspects of life, influenced by Eastern thought and philosophy, with many inspired by the Tao Te Ching, a classic treatise ascribed to the Chinese sage Lao Tzu. Examples of such works include The Tao Jones Averages, The Tao of Leadership, The Tao of Pooh, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, and truly one of my favorites, the Tao of Physics. Not to mention numerous other books applying principles of warriorship and strategy to life and business, leveraging the writings of Miyamoto Musashi, Sun Tzu, the Shambhala warrior tradition, and others.And for good reason. These original sources contain valid and timeless principles that apply today just as well as when they were originally crafted.
I especially appreciate the principles of Taoism, with its teachings of balance, harmony, and flow. Ignoring for the moment that the Tao is essentially and inherently indescribable, its essence is about wholeness, balance, harmony, and flowing with the moment.
How is this all possibly related to technology, and to cloud computing?
For some years now, I have been working in a field I would broadly define as automation - lab automation, test automation, infrastructure automation, many forms or names for automation. It has all been about enabling the dynamic allocation and automated provisioning of resources from shared pools of equipment. It began by provisioning physical resources - loading boot images and configurations on servers, switches, and routers - and dynamically connecting them to other equipment to dynamically build entire topologies on demand. And then tearing them down to release the resources back into the pool when they were no longer needed for the immediate task. As virtualization technology emerged and became mainstream, the same practices were extended to include the dynamic provisioning of virtual, and hybrid, infrastructures. With the same notions of shared infrastructure; on-demand scheduling, allocation, and capacity management; connectivity and relationship management; automated provisioning and configuration; user self-service enablement; optimized resource utilization; and extreme efficiencies in time, CAPEX, and OPEX.
It is what we now call cloud.
So back to the Taoism idea. Several key aspects of the Tao can be conveniently used to discuss some of the issues that frequently arise in cloud debates today, and therefore provide a useful and interesting framework for discussion.
Tao is about wholeness.
What is needed in cloud management and orchestration frameworks, whether for private or public, is a more complete, holistic approach. Architects and administrators must be able to design and specify complete end to end topologies and scenarios that support rich and complex - and realistic - workloads and deployments in the cloud. That is wholeness.
Tao is about harmony and balance.
Where it's at is about fit. Fit and balance. There are valid and appropriate use cases for both private and public cloud, as one size and shape does not fit all. The decision to design and deploy a private cloud infrastructure, or to leverage the easily accessible and on-demand resources available in the public cloud offerings should be determined solely by the conditions, circumstances, and requirements in the organization. Without that, there is no way to argue for public vs. private.
Conferences chairs and panelists that pit private vs. public seem to do so for the sake of controversy. And folks who blindly retweet controversial and unsubstantiated statements such as "private cloud is discredited" or "cannot trust the public cloud" are no better. Stop, think, and balance the requirements to the available solutions.
Now we might say that hybrid is harmony. If private cloud is appropriate for your business and IT circumstances, build it out, but you can design your capacity for the base case or normal load. In telecom traffic engineering we used to call it average day busy hour, which would be a reasonably high average load. But for the peaks, design into your cloud management framework the ability to seamlessly add capacity or shift exceptional or excessive workloads to a public cloud, when and as needed. Or as I heard mention by James Staten, "Own the base, rent the peak." So that is balance. That is harmony.
Tao is about being in the moment.
Tao is not about scheduling.
But it just doesn't fit my theme. Damn. But life is not neat and tidy and does not fit themes or models just because you would like them to. It flows and occurs as it will, regardless of our preconceived notions or what we try to call it. It follows the watercourse way. But that, my friends, is the Tao. So we are still good.
And so we go with the flow. I hope I have not massacred in this discussion the pure concepts of the Tao. But it really doesn’t matter anyway, as words are ultimately pointless.
The Tao that can be described is not the eternal Tao.
In closing, a favorite from the Witter Byner translation entitled The Way of Life, According to Lao Tzu:
There is no need to run outside
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