Feeds

Why clouds should be more like operating systems

Best things come in small management packages

Boost IT visibility and business value

For the cloud to become more like an operating system and less like an amorphous mass, and by definition more useful to business, some basic functions need to become part of the fabric.

By that, I mean seamless (and near invisible) integration with the underlying infrastructure components (operating system, virtual machine, hardware, networking). These kinds of things will drive developers to the cloud and make it a more manageable environment. Package management, akin to what's found in Linux distros, is one milestone that seems the easiest for existing and aspiring providers of cloud services to achieve.

As the name implies, a package management systems help you install or remove, upgrade or configure the packages in a system - Linux and Unix mostly. Typical functions include: upgrading from a repository, verifying signatures and checksums and managing dependencies.

Examples of Linux package managers include Red Hat's RPM, the Fedora YUM or APT from Debian/Ubuntu. Each manager has some different features or functions and they also cross borders to other distributions. Sun Microsystems' vice president of developer and community marketing Ian Murdock has posited that package management is "the single biggest advancement Linux has brought to the industry" here.

On Ubuntu Linux, the apt-get utility provides a command-line interface to system packages. It's easily invoked with a simple command plus an argument.

Let's say I want to install Gimp on my Ubuntu box, then I type the following:

[Dave-ElReg:~] dave% sudo apt-get install gimp

If there is a new release of Gimp or other software I have installed, I run the update command to update my local package index of what's available:

[Dave-ElReg:~] dave% sudo apt-get update

And to run an upgrade of all the software on my machine I use the following command - note the -u option shows the complete list of packages, which will be upgraded:

[Dave-ElReg:~] dave% sudo apt-get -u upgrade

The upgrade command will detail out the packages that will be updated and then work it's magic.

OK, let's get back to the cloud.

Let's say you are running multiple different Amazon Machine Images (AMIs), which contain your applications, libraries, data and configuration settings on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), and you are using Amazon's S3 for storage. Don't think running everything in the cloud will abstract away potential management problems. You'll still have a system administration headache until you script something or update your AMIs with your new software and application code.

A better - and obvious - answer would be if you could have all of your images, code and applications available in a dashboard where you could simply update everything on the fly.

An even better answer would be to not have to perform any system administration functions at all. Currently, the only way to make that happen with Amazon is through third-party tools like 3Tera and RightScale.

Amazon may be the best-known cloud provider, but it's certainly not the only one. There are a variety of arguments in favor of other approaches, such as Microsoft's yet-to-launch Azure Services Platform and the existing Salesforce.com service.

I guess we'll have to wait and see what transpires with Azure, as it's still available only in early access to a selected number of testers. That leaves Salesforce.com's hosted platform, Force.com, which Salesforce.com was pushing hard this month as a cloud.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Intel's Raspberry Pi rival Galileo can now run Windows
Behold the Internet of Things. Wintel Things
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
Eat up Martha! Microsoft slings handwriting recog into OneNote on Android
Freehand input on non-Windows kit for the first time
Time to move away from Windows 7 ... whoa, whoa, who said anything about Windows 8?
Start migrating now to avoid another XPocalypse – Gartner
You'll find Yoda at the back of every IT conference
The piss always taking is he. Bastard the.
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.