Day two of the Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas continued reinforcing old topics, appearing at times to be either enlist attendees in contributing to Gartner research, or simply providing conference content directed to promoting conference sponsors.
For example, sessions “To the Point: When Open Meets Cloud” and “Backup/Recovery: Backing Up the Future” included a series of audience surveys. Those surveys were apparently the same as presented, in the same sessions, for several years. Thus the speaker immediately referenced this year’s results vs. results from the same survey questions from the past two years. This would lead a casual attendee to believe nothing radically new is being presented in the above topics, and the attendees are generally contributing to further trend analysis research that will eventually show up in a commercial Gartner Research Note.
Gartner analyst and speaker on the topic of “When Open Meets Clouds,” Aneel Lakhani, did make a couple useful, if not obvious points in his presentation.
- We cannot secure complete freedom from vendors, regardless of how much you adopt open source
- Open source can actually be more expensive than commercial products
- Interoperability is easy to say, but a heck of a lot more complicated to implement
- Enterprise users have a very low threshold for “test” environments (sorry DevOps guys)
- If your organization has the time and staff, test, test, and test a bit more to ensure your open source product will perform as expected or designed
However analyst Dave Russell, speaker on the topic of “Backup/Recovery” was a bit more cut and paste in his approach. Lots of questions to match against last year’s conference, and a strong emphasis on using tape as a continuing, if not growing media for disaster recovery.
Problem with this presentation was the discussion centered on backing up data – very little on business continuity. In fact, in one slide he referenced a recovery point objective (RPO) of one day for backups. What organization operating in a global market, in Internet time, can possibly design for a one day RPO?
In addition, there was no discussion on the need for compatible hardware in a disaster recovery site that would allow immediate or rapid restart of applications. Having data on tape is fine. Having mainframe archival data is fine. But without a business continuity capability, it is likely any organization will suffer significant damage in their ability to function in their marketplace. Very few organizations today can absorb an extended global presence outage or marketplace outage.
The conference continues until Thursday and we will look for more, positive approaches, to data center and cloud computing.
Federal, state, and local government agencies gathered in Washington D.C. on 16 February to participate in Cloud/Gov 2012 held at the Westin Washington D.C. With Keynotes by David L. McLure, US General Services Administration, and Dawn Leaf, NIST, vendors and government agencies were brought up to date on federal cloud policies and initiatives.
Of special note were updates on the FedRAMP program (a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services) and NIST’s progress on standards. “The FedRAMP process chart looks complicated” noted McLure, “however we are trying to provide support needed to accelerate the (FedRAMP vendor) approval process.
McLure also provided a roadmap for FedRAMP implementation, with FY13/Q2 targeted for full operation and FY14 planned for sustaining operations.
In a panel focusing on government case studies, David Terry from the Department of Education commented that “mobile phones are rapidly becoming the access point (to applications and data) for young people.” Applications (SaaS) should be written to accommodate mobile devices, and “auto-adjust to user access devices.”
Tim Matson from DISA highlighted the US Department of Defense’s Forge.Mil initiative providing an open collaboration community for both the military and development community to work together in rapidly developing new applications to better support DoD activities. While Forge.Mil has tighter controls than standard GSA (US General Services Administration) standards, Matson emphasized “DISA wants to force the concept of change into the behavior of vendors.” Matson continued explaining that Forge.Mil will reinforce “a pipeline to support continuous delivery” of new applications.
While technology and process change topics provided a majority of discussion points, mostly enthusiastic, David Mihalchik from Google advised “we still do not know the long term impact of global collaboration. The culture is changing, forced on by the idea of global collaboration.”
Other areas of discussion among panel members throughout the day included the need for establishing and defining service level agreements (SLAs) for cloud services. Daniel Burton from SalesForce.Com explained their SLAs are broken into two categories, SLAs based on subscription services, and those based on specific negotiations with government customers. Other vendors took a stab at explaining their SLAs, without giving specific examples of their SLAs, leaving the audience without a solid answer.
NIST Takes the Leadership Role
The highlight of the day was provided by Dawn Leaf, Senior Executive for Cloud Computing with NIST. Leaf provided very logical guidance for all cloud computing stakeholders, including vendors and users.
“US industry requires an international standard to ensure (global) competitiveness” explained Leaf. In the past US vendors and service providers have developed standards which were not compatible with European and other standards, notably in wireless telephony, and one of NIST’s objectives is to participate in developing a global standard for cloud computing to prevent this possibility in cloud computing.
Cloud infrastructure and SaaS portability is also a high interest item for NIST. Leaf advises that “we can force vendors into demonstrating their portability. There are a lot of new entries in the business, and we need to force the vendors into proving their portability and interoperability.”
Leaf also reinforced the idea that standards are developed in the private sector. NIST provides guidance and an architectural framework for vendors and the private sector to use as reference when developing those specific technical standards. However leaf also had one caution for private industry, “industry should try to map their products to NIST references, as the government is not in a position to wait” for extended debates on the development of specific items, when the need for cloud computing development and implementation is immediate.
Further information on the conference, with agendas and participants is available at www.sia.net
On October 20th, Bill Reidway, Vice President of Numbering Services Product Management at Neustar blogged on the topic of number portability, and why it is important to both the telecom industry and end users. As manager of the National Portability Administration Center (NPAC), Neustar connects more than 2000 carriers in North America, supporting user ability to change carriers without changing their phone number, and seamlessly routing calls between all carriers regardless of the original source of individual or blocks of phone numbers.
Pacific-Tier Communications interviewed Reidway with the intent to learn more about Neustar’s activities with the NPAC, as well as dig a bit deeper into the company’s vision on the future of telephony, telephone numbers, and communications.
Origins of the NPAC
According to Reidway, administration of the NPAC has continued to change since local number portability was mandated as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Neustar has managed the NPAC program since 1997, with changes along the way including addition of wireless network portability, internodal portability, and most recently in 2007, VoIP carrier portability.
Reidway is convinced telephone numbers and telephone carriers have a good future. While many talk about the potential of peer-to-peer technologies, such as Skype, as the future of communications, Reidway strongly believes the need for telephone numbers remains unabated. “Even Skype needs to connect to the PSTN (public switched telephone network) to provide a meaningful user experience” noted Reidway. “Bypassing the telephone number is still an exception to the rule.”
While emphasizing the existing TDM networks offer a great deal of control, particularly in terms of cutting down unwanted telephony traffic, Reidway cautions the IP telephony world is still a bit like the wild, wild, west, raising challenges in security, load balancing, and network authorization. “Neustar has to keep up with technology” continued Reidway, explaining the telecom industry has made the decision to support Internet protocols (IP). He uses the cable industry as an example of carriers running “all” IP telephony networks.
Decline of the Fixed Line Network
It is clear fixed line telephone services in the United States are beginning a rapid decline, with users favoring mobile phones and computer-enabled telephony. Reidway fully appreciates the dynamics of user migrations and mobility, assuring the NPAC is not constrained by the “vagaries” associated with fixed-line networks and location. “As the fixed line network begins to fall by the wayside” explained Reidway, “the notion of telephone numbers associated with a specific geography falls with it.”
Reidway also explained that although telephone numbers no longer have rigid location sensitive significance, users still generally prefer to associate their phone numbers with a location, and that is particularly important for business users. While it is certainly possible for a business or individual to use an area code, or even country code from any point in the world, he believes an area code “still says something about the identity behind the number.”
A Peek into the Future
Neustar currently has no specific plan to change NPAC’s operations, as carriers understand there are still ample supplies of telephone numbers available to support new numbers, possibly for several decades into the future. With additional opportunities through number pooling (in 2000 the FCC allowed smaller carriers with large amounts of unused telephone numbers to contribute those excess resources to a common number resource pool for distribution to other carriers in need of additional numbers), North America has sufficient numbers to last at least several decades.
When asked of the potential of individuals, businesses, and even objects such as refrigerators all being able to tag an identity to an IPv6 address, with all potential modes of communication ultimately finding a way to that identity, Reidway understands the question. The issue, and the very long term significance, are a very important discussion, one which Reidway is prepared to engage.
The communications and network-enabled global community are changing quickly to meet the needs of existing and new users. Infrastructure shortfalls in many locations around the world which have historically throttled citizens from being able to join the the global community are now being reinforced, allowing nearly every point of the world some level of access to the Internet, long before most are able to secure a fixed line telephone.
Impact of Peer-to-Peer
As of September 2011 Skype claims more than 660 million registered users, nearly 1/8th of the world’s population, representing more than 190 billion minutes of non-telephony, unpaid communications, with 13% of those minutes bypassing international carriers.
As the concept of interpersonal communications continues to morph into a form which may not be easily envisioned today, Nuestar, with additional services such as domain name and registry services, IP geolocation, and IP translation/mapping services such as ENUM, Reidway maintains confidence Neustar and the NPAC have both flexibility and resources to ensure North American carriers, users, and networks are not caught short in the global move to Internet-enabled multi-media and communication services.
Reidway concluded “we have the experience and capability to help any transition to new technologies and emerging forms of communication.”
You can read all of Reidway’s blogs at Neustar Insights, and comment on his ideas, visions, and support of the North American communications community.
NOTE: Pacific-Tier Communications LLC is not affiliated with Neustar or the NPAC. This interview and article are intended to inform readers of the NPAC, and some of the thought leaders responsible for managing and developing infrastructure needed to keep the US and North American competitive in the global market and community.