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Roundup: CloudConnect 2011 Platforms and Ecosystems BOF

The need for cloud provider price transparency. What is a workload and how to move it. “Open”ness and what it means for a cloud service. Various libraries, APIs, and SLAs. These are some of the engaging discussions that developed at the Platforms and Ecosystems “Birds of a Feather”/”Unconference”, held on Tuesday evening March 8th during the CloudConnect 2011 conference. What about the BOF worked? What didn’t? What should be done differently in the future? Below are some observations gathered from early feedback; please leave your comments, too.

Roundup

In true unconference form, the discussions reflected what was on the mind of the audience. Some were more focused than others, and some were more contentious than others. Each turn of the wheel brought a new combination of experts, topics, themes, and participants.

Provider transparency was a hot subject, both for IaaS services and for PaaS services. When you consume a utility, such as water, you have a means to independently verify your usage: you can look at the water meter. Or, if you don’t trust the supplier’s meter, you can install your own meter on your main intake line. But with cloud services there is no way to measure many kinds of usage that you pay for – you must trust the provider to bill you correctly. How many Machine Hours did it take to process my SimpleDB query, or CPU Usage for my Google App Engine request? Is that internal IP address I’m communicating with in my own availability zone (and therefore free to communicate with) or in a different zone (and therefore costs money)? Today, the user’s only option is to trust the provider. Furthermore, it would be useful if we had tools to help estimate the cost of a particular workload. We look forward to more transparency in the future.

As they rotated through the topics, two of the themes generated similar discussions: Workload Portability and Avoiding Vendor Lock-in. The themes are closely related, so this is not surprising. Lesson learned: next time use themes that are more orthogonal, to explore the ecosystem more thoroughly.

In total nine planned discussions took place over the 90 minutes. A few interesting breakaway conversations spun off as well, as people opted to explore other aspects separately from the main discussions. I think that’s great: it means we got people thinking and engaged, which was the goal.

Some points for improvement: The room was definitely too small and the acoustics lacking. We had a great turnout – over 130 people, despite competing with the OpenStack party – but the undersized room was very noisy and some of the conversations were difficult to follow. Next time: a bigger room. And more pizza: the pizza ran out during the first round of discussions.

Participants who joined after the BOF had kicked off told me they were confused about the format. It is not easy to join in the middle of this kind of format and know what’s going on. In fact, I spent most of the time orienting newcomers as they arrived. Lesson learned: next time show a slide explaining the format, and have it displayed prominently throughout the entire event for easy reference.

Overall the BOF was very successful: lots of smart people having interesting discussions in every corner of the room. Would you participate in another event of this type? Please leave a comment with your feedback.

Thanks

Many thanks to the moderators who conducted each discussion, and the experts who contributed their experience and ideas. These people are: Dan Koffler, Ian Rae, Steve Wylie, David Bernstein, Adrian Cole, Ryan Dunn, Bernard Golden, Alex Heneveld, Sam Johnston, David Kavanagh, Ben Kepes, Tony Lucas, David Pallman, Jason Read, Steve Riley, Andrew Shafer, Jeroen Tjepkema, and James Urquhart. Thanks also to Alistair Croll not only for chairing a great CloudConnect conference overall, but also for inspiring the format of this BOF.

And thanks to all the participants – we couldn’t have done it without you.

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