Enlightenment in Cloud Computing

I spoke at the Service Technology Symposium two weeks ago and had a great time.  This was a really impressive conference with a lot of quality content and speakers.  While having a conversation with one of the other attendees, whilst talking about how virtualization has played a key role in cloud computing (but not for reasons people think) I stumbled upon computing enlightenment… of sorts.  It is said that the things we possess come to possess us.  This simple statement has profound spiritual implications, but it has some technical applicability as well. 

Everyone has worked somewhere that has a server that has been running for years and they can never seem to get rid of.  This is normally an old application server – it just runs, and everyone is afraid of replacing it.  So it just sits there and becomes more fragile.  Read to fail at any time.  You’re a truly fortunate person if you’ve never seen one of these servers. 

Physical to Virtual (P2V) virtualization has alleviated some of this problem, we can at least get away from bit-rot and old servers physically dying, but just making them run on new hardware with the same OSes and components doesn’t really fix the underlying issue and still keeps the platform and software out of date. 

And this is when I recalled that true cloud computing, the way it is meant to work and deliver unlimited scale, is through statelessness.  Statelessness not only of the software, but of the platform as well.  This is something I think Microsoft got right with Azure web and worker roles.  They are fundamentally stateless (or should be) and any components they need are part of the Azure deployment.  This even works with HPC on Azure, which is really cool because those components (that make Windows HPC) are simply added to the VM through configuration. 

This statelessness is the key to scalability and to getting the most from the cloud.