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Cloud-Oriented Architecture (COA)

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Cloud-Oriented Architecture (COA)

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With all the hype this year about cloud computing and things like Amazon EC2/S3 as well as Google App Engine and Bigtable, you can feel it coming. Soon vendors will be peddling COA (Cloud-Oriented Architecture) solutions, probably combining them with their SOA solution and somehow probably getting their ESB solution into the mix as well. This past weekend at the Enterprise Architecture BOF at the Southern Ohio Software Symposium, we had a discussion about cloud computing among other things. Ted Neward even coined the term "Enterprise Service Cloud" and I came up with "Cloud Service Bus," surely the next Big Thing. Any vulture (I mean, venture) capitalists out there want to invest in my new Cloud Service Bus company? I have a pretty brochure ready to go!

The big difference I see with regard to cloud computing is the fact that, unlike your typical ESB/SOA peddling vendors, companies like Amazon and Google already have cloud or cloud-like solutions in place a la Amazon EC2/S3 and , and Google App Engine and Bigtable. Now all of those things just mentioned are not "the cloud" (whatever "the cloud" actually is defined to be), but it doesn't matter because the point is these companies have designed, implemented, and most importantly, run their critical business operations on these platforms. That in and of itself is more important than all the vaporware and marketing hype any other vendor comes up with. Rather than having to get customers to believe that a solution works via marketing and then force it down their IT staff's throats, Google and Amazon are basically saying "Hey why not use stuff that we use and have proven can scale up to handle huge loads and huge amounts of data?"

To me as a developer this is a much more appealing approach for several reasons. First, it means there won't be (or shouldn't need to be) any "golf-course deals" where the vendor sales guys and customer CIOs/CTOs/CEOs meet up and decide on the technology stack independent of any real technical analysis, investigation, or input of the people who will be charged with implementing the vendor stack (and they better do it well else it's their job on the line to boot).

Second, I can base my decision to use a Google or Amazon service based on their actual track record in delivering these services and eating their own dog food, since they are trying to monetize their existing investment in proven highly distributed and scalable infrastructures. Yes, there have been Amazon outages this year and whenever it happens it is big news because it is right there out in the public, as opposed to a company whose IT operations are totally in-house and which isn't going to publicize their downtime statistics. I'd wager on Amazon and Google's availability over probably most other companies. Of course I have no way to prove that last statement, but the mere fact that I can get objective statistics on their services helps in my decision making process and planning.

Last, I can decide how much or how little to outsource to the Amazon or Google infrastructure; for example some organizations might choose to keep their most sensitive data (e.g. customer information, credit card numbers, etc.) in-house but outsource everything else to, say, an Amazon EC2/S3 infrastructure. There is still some level of vendor lock-in here, but there is with anything else short of you implementing your own solution from scratch. And if, by leveraging proven solutions by companies like Amazon and Google, you are able to deliver real value to your customers faster and are able to scale up, out, and beyond without needing to build that infrastructure yourself, then I'd say that could potentially equate to a big win.

So when that vendor comes calling with their shiny new COA solution, be very afraid, and make sure you know your options and present them objectively. We as an industry have more buzzwords and hype (at least from my perspective) than almost any other, and this causes more money than I can possibly imagine to be wasted every year on solutions that don't (and never will) work as advertised. Developers often have a feeling that the VDD (vendor-driven development) solutions just won't work, but cannot convince their managers or their managers' managers of this fact, which is why communications skills are critical in today's world. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be the person who becomes responsible for implementing a solution I don't believe in.

"The Cloud" and cloud computing are definitely here to stay forever, and as Amazon and Google have proven, can add huge amounts of value to businesses. I am sure there will be other companies perhaps trying to implement similar strategies and monetizing their investment in their own infrastructure, and that will be mostly a good thing to have different options and competition to further push the Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) to continually improve their offerings. Get ready, because our toolboxes have just become a lot bigger.


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