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October 19, 2010

What’s Missing From This Year’s Cloud Circuit

Nicole Hemsoth

Conference season is upon us, folks, which for some of you means an endless series of flights and hotels and for others means anticipation officially begins now for SC ’10 in New Orleans.

There are a number of upcoming events that bridge the divide between HPC and cloud coming in the next year, one of the most notable of which will be taking place in Frankfurt, Germany at the end of this month, ISC Cloud.

While the program there will be highlighted in the coming weeks in advance of the event, a look at the events calendar is worthwhile if you have some frequent flyer miles and the desire to network and learn more about some of the bleeding edge innovations taking place in the cloud space for high-performance computing.

ISC Cloud is one of a handful of cloud events that is HPC-specific, whereas the majority of events taking place between now and spring are focused on mainstream cloud computing, or cloud for the SMEs. On the industry/academia front, however, ISC Cloud is a winner in terms of casting and conversations.

One other particular event that has caught my eye is covering a range of topics that we try to grant some exposure to here, this is the 11th annual CCGrid 2011 function—a three day HPC/Cloud/Grid fest with a rather interesting lineup of topics.

Among the host of issues to be tackled are those related to current paradigms and technologies (so most likely topics revolving around system architecture and design, old and new programming models, and of course, GPGPU computing). Additionally, the focus will be on emerging matters of green computing and the economic implications of utility computing.

Perhaps one of the more eye-catching topics is in the realm of applications and experiences, which as the event organizers explain will focus on “applications to real and complex problems in science, engineering, business and society” along with case studies based on large-scale deployments of systems or applications.

Bingo, CCGrid ’11 organizers—this is what’s missing from the conversations…real-world deployments, practical scenarios, and most importantly, balanced and truthful outcome reports.

The Missing Meat of Mainstream Cloud Conferences

It seems to me that some of the most successful conferences have some kind of focus on real-world applications versus simply discussion of abstract (albeit relevant) topics. Just as any publication devoted to covering a technological paradigm (ahem) that is still in its infancy owes its readers some keen delivery of practical examples or case studies of actual deployments, it seems that conference schedules should deliver that same relation to the real world as well.

As I prepare to embark on a journey to Cloud Expo, which is coming in the first week of November, I am forced to spend some time planning which sessions hold the most value, both for you guys and for my own personal enjoyment.  However, I take a look at the session list and see a number of technical discussions and practical implementation sessions, but these are all aimed at teaching people how to use the cloud—what it is, how it works, and how the speaker’s own view/product (after all, most of the speakers are CTOs are major cloud companies) fits into the overall picture. What this event needs are two or three sessions that simply a “How X Left Behind its Legacy Systems” or “Details about How X Implemented a Private Cloud” led by, well, X himself.

I wonder how many of the speakers will talk about actual deployments, the challenges, the benefits—all of this in a way that is balanced and fair, revealing the good, the bad, and the ugly (because this cloud migration business is no picnic, at least according to some of the larger enterprise leaders I’ve talked to candidly about how long it took for them to get their solution up and running and the roadblocks along the way). 

There is certainly nothing wrong with brainstorming and information-sharing sessions at any event and in fact, for academic conferences like ISC Cloud, this is ideal since guests get a broad range of deeper insights than might come from a mainstream, cloud-for-all conference. However, it seems to me that for users, even those who are coming to a mainstream cloud event, one of the most salient bits of information they could glean would be in the form of a few talks on the challenges and benefits of an actual deployment. No product solution chats (although I know they pay the bills for organizers) and no single-solution discussions about one, single-sided aspect of a cloud deployment (i.e., choosing and deploying an automation product)—just a straight-up, “this is my company, this is what we do, these were our IT challenges, this was our decision on the cloud front (public, hybrid, private, etc.) and here’s the skinny on how it went down.”

Why is this so difficult to find?

I have high hopes for the CCGrid’s focus on applications and implementations and will look for news about that as it happens.

Although May 2011 might seem to be a point in the inconceivably distant future, the 11th IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Cluster, Cloud and Grid Computing (CCGrid 2011) has announced its call for papers with a deadline of November 30 for the Newport Beach, California event sponsored by the IEEE Computer Society, Technical Committee on Scalable Computing and the ACM.