Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to Quickly Evaluate Cloud Fitness

Cloud computing is an effective platform to build highly scalable and fault tolerant software products. But cloud computing is often confused with clustering. The so-called private cloud often muddles the water even more. While virtualization gives programmers the illusion of disappearing physical server boundaries, in reality virtualization also makes CPUs and networks themselves disappear easily on a whim. Therefore, a software product that is designed to run on physical servers in a data center often fails to live up to its promise in an elastic cloud environment. This article offers four simple clues to reveal if a software product is fit for cloud. The “cloud” used here refers to Amazon Web Service (AWS).

Clue #1: Are the addresses of all cluster nodes defined in a configuration file?
This is the first sign of trouble. An elastic virtual machine doesn’t have an IP address until it boots up.

Clue #2: Is shared storage required between cluster nodes?
There is no shared storage in the cloud.

Clue #3: Does the cluster use multicast?
Multicast strikes fear to the hearts of network admins. Muticast packets are problematic in traversing subnets. A layer 2 network emulated on top of layer 3 only makes the problem worse. No wonder multicast is disabled in AWS.

Clue #4: Does the cluster rely on UDP to manage cluster membership?
Your “subnet” in the cloud actually runs on an overlay network. Ever heard of routers dropping UDP packets in time of congestion?

Armed with these three clues, one can quickly filter out a lot of vendor noise in the web sphere today.