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Author Interview: George Reese

George Reese is the author of the book Cloud Application Architectures: Building Applications and Infrastructure in the Cloud. George spoke to us about his book and his vision on cloud computing.

theCloudTutorial: There are many definitions of Cloud Computing. How do you define Cloud computing?

George Reese: Defining cloud computing is such a volatile topic because so many vendors desperately want their products blessed as being "cloud" as if "being cloud" suddenly makes a bad product good. When I'm explaining it to a general audience, I prefer to describe cloud computing as "technology which is not my problem". After all, that effectively captures the origins of the term "cloud". Cloud was always that part of the network diagram that represented black boxes outside of my control or that were assumed to "just work" for the purposes of the diagram at hand. As computing has evolved, the part of the diagram taken up by the cloud has gotten larger and the part that's not cloud has gotten smaller. In the end though, it's still the stuff that's "not my problem".

When it comes time to get a bit more technical, I have three criteria I used to define cloud:

  1. The service is accessible via a web browser (non-proprietary) or web services API.
  2. There is zero capital expenditure required to get started.
  3. You pay only for what you use as you use it.

I do think, however, we should all just accept the NIST technical definition and move on.

theCloudTutorial: Tell us about your book on cloud computing?

George Reese: Cloud Application Architectures is a book on how to approach cloud computing from the application architect's view of things. It starts off with a general look at the role of cloud computing in the enterprise, including analyzing the financial impact. It then goes into the details of building systems in the cloud with specific examples from Amazon Web Services. I put a huge focus on security and disaster planning.

theCloudTutorial: What inspired you to write this book?

George Reese: Deploying systems to the cloud is not like deploying into a standard infrastructure. You have different tools available to you and, if you use them widely, capabilities you never dreamed of. After about a year of personal experience deploying systems into the Amazon Cloud, I decided I had built up knowledge that others could use to make the move into the cloud.

theCloudTutorial: What are the target audience for your book?

George Reese: Application architects, systems administrators, technology managers, and even CIO/CTO types.

theCloudTutorial: Which trends do you see in this decade for cloud computing?

George Reese: Cloud computing is as big a revolution in technology as was the Internet itself. Adoption of cloud computing appears to be moving at a much faster pace, however. 2009 was for cloud computing what 1996 and the first part of 1997 were to the Internet. We're at about mid-1997 now, and I expect by the end of 2010 we'll reach the point where the Internet was at the end of 1998. In other words, everyone will being doing something in the cloud, but there's still going to be a widespread lack of trust mixed with general confusion about where all of this will lead. When we look back at this decade in ten years, however, we will find that the cloud is our primary application platform and that non-cloud systems will be the exception.

theCloudTutorial: Which cloud computing vendors are going to grow exponentially in the next couple of years?

George Reese: Amazon owns the Infrastructure as a Service market right now, and they are innovating so fast. Nevertheless, they have a lot to learn about what the enterprise looks for in an infrastructure vendor. They will learn and make mistakes, and their mistakes will form opportunities for the solid challengers like Rackspace. There's also an interesting opportunity for regional cloud providers who can both "be cloud" and still provide customers with personalized, local service. We are working with several of these, including ReliaCloud in Minneapolis and Cloud Central in Australia.

theCloudTutorial Any cloud computing products that you use yourself?
George Reese: Amazon Web Services, Google Apps for Business,, Valtira, Tungle, Zendesk, Rackspace, ReliaCloud, enStratus.

theCloudTutorial: Is the hype around cloud computing justified?

George Reese: The cloud is underhyped. The hype you hear is more than justified.

theCloudTutorial: A major roadblock on the growth of cloud computing is security concerns of organizations. Do you think security will continue to remain a oadblock for the exponential growth of cloud computing?

George Reese: The real issue around security is the need to translate existing controls that an organization relies on to feel secure into cloud operations. Tools like enStratus take care of that real issue. In the end, the cloud is as secure/insecure in general as the Internet as a whole. That's not really a reason to stay out of the cloud. When you compare the cost difference between internal IT and cloud systems, the extra cost of internal systems almost never justify the extra costs simply to get a higher perception of security. Especially when all you are getting is increased security perception and not likely actual increased security.

theCloudTutorial: Other than your book, any other cloud computing books will you like to recommend the readers of theCloudTutorial?

George Reese: I recommend a set of blogs/websites

  1. Wisdom of the Cloud
  2. Cloud Ave
  3. Thinking Out Cloud
  4. Rational Survivability Blog
  5. Cloud Security
  6. John Willis' blog