Thursday Nov 06, 2008

Billing for Clouds

When considering the some of the issues related to building private clouds, the "Usage to Billing" problem was raised and I was reminded of Emlyn Pagden's Blue Print the Utility Model - Part II. I had been consulting with a mid sized European Investment Bank, and discussed the architectural problem with them, and Emlyn. Its a while since I have read Emlyn's paper, but he took the architectural decomposition

  • Measurement, what are people using
  • Aggregation/Mediation - accross the whole estate
  • Allocation - how many charges have they incurred
  • Invoicing - give us our money

and built a reference implementation using Solaris Resource Manager and accounting functionality and some third party products. At the time, he was working for a team that wanted to sell third party software, he had no engineering resources and thus a propensity to use 3rd Party software before building significant scripted functionality. With different resources and motivations, the reference implementation might look quite different, but the paper which was based in a real prototype exposes a working solution.I suspect that not all the companies he mention either still exist, or remain in the "Systems Management" business. However the decomposition should allow easy replacement and the advances in SOA may make this easier to do.

One of the key problems that inhibit adoption of these solutions is that end-user IT departments are cost centres and financially aim to spend or underspend their budgets. Their outgoing charging tariffs are based on cost recovery and they don't care how busy what they supply is; they have to charge for what they supply. If they don't do this they make a loss, and the CIO gets fired.

Neither he, nor I experimented with testing this on a grid, and it might involve having a global /etc/projects name space across the whole cloud, but with Virtual Box testing these things becomes easier. Sadly I have picked up enough projects from this trip already, but now I need to build a grid on a laptop.

We both agreed that the invoicing function was best left to the ERP system. Private cloud builders may not need to produce an invoice since they may not be using real money, they will have to make some entries into the Financials systems either cost relief transfers or something. Also new start ups of public clouds may wish to look at Open Bravo, an open source ERP package.

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Thursday Jun 15, 2006

Can we "commoditise" computing?

Again reflecting on some of the ideas generated from last week's Enron film; Enron's domination of the creation, distribution and exchange of gas and electricity created a vertically integrated monopoly. These require regulating or breaking up (or taking into public ownership). Also it seems to me that when trading becomes the 'raison d'etre' of a market, it offers very little value to the primary players. It made me wonder how the roles of primary provider, primary consumer, secondary traders and an exchange can be organised to enable a market, rather than distort it and if this can be applied to both bandwidth, which Enron experimented with, and CPU cycles. I've no real answer's today! More reading and listening....

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Monday May 15, 2006

The Changing Network

Everyone probably knows that BT are building out a new IP based network, but this will be across the whole of their network which has a global reach today. This together with the development of wifi & rfid, means that the Internet become pervasive and the network is no longer exclusively offering point to point connections (to make a call). I think this is important and revolutionary.

One of my feelings about the weakness of Carr's "I.T. doesn't matter!" is that it required a definition of infrastructure industries (which he didn't provide) and that the phone companies and railways only offered connections. The electricity, gas and water companies really offered a network. This is partly due to the homogenous nature of supply, we don't care if its the first c.c. of water out of a reservoir, or the millionth nor which reservoir it comes from. We don't care which technology components support our voice call, but we do care if it connects us to the wrong people, and with data, order is important. These all make IT and IT networks different from the classic utilities.

Alan Crowther then continued to place BT's activities in the context of the evolving network. BT Global Services are looking to help their customers, primarily companies, take advantage of the new business opportunities that the today & tomorrow's Internet offer. The state there are five priorities, "Build out the New Infrastructure", which may be social, and is not restricted to IT alone; "Ensure Security & Manage Risk"; "Serve Customers & Citizens", allows them to address private and public sector problems and opportunities, "Enable the Work Force" and "Extend the Organisation".

Phil Barnett (a Sun co-worker) asked about where Green issues were included or addressed, and the answer placed it very much in the context of corporate responsibility and good citizennship. I think that those who think this is important need to work harder at understanding how to make Green issues visible in the companies P&L. While shareholder supremacy is the principle of corporate governance, in any trade-off between the shareholders and pollution, its the environment and the companies neighbours that will loose. Law makers have the choice of prohibition or taxation. I think I need to do some reading.

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