March 24, 2013

Appliances, clusters and clouds

I believe:

I shall explain.

Arguments for hosting applications on some kind of cluster include:

Arguments specific to the public cloud include:

That’s all pretty compelling. However, these are not persuasive reasons to put everything on a SINGLE cluster or cloud. They could as easily lead you to have your VMware cluster and your Exadata rack and your Hadoop cluster and your NoSQL cluster and your object storage OpenStack cluster — among others — all while participating in several different public clouds as well.

Why would you not move work into a cluster at all? First, if ain’t broken, you might not want to fix it. Some of the cluster options make it easy for you to consolidate existing workloads — that’s a central goal of VMware and Exadata — but others only make sense to adopt in connection with new application projects. Second, you might just want device locality. I have a gaming-class PC next to my desk; it drives a couple of monitors; I like that arrangement. Away from home I carry a laptop computer instead. Arguments can be made for small remote-office servers as well.

To put all that more simply:

Appliances are a natural form factor for single-purpose computing. It is reasonable to characterize as “appliances” — in the computing sense of the term — medical equipment, vehicles, cash machines, cash registers, enterprise security devices, home entertainment, exercise machines and, yes, refrigerators; computers, in some form, can be found almost anywhere. But appliances also are a convenient way to package enterprise systems — configurations will be correct, installation will be simpler, and fortunate software-centric appliance vendors may capture margins on hardware sales and support. And the idea of SaaS-like continuous updates to your enterprise systems seems much more reasonable in the case of a locked-down appliance-like configuration.

Circling back to the beginning, I’d say there are multiple reasons not to expect all your computing to be done on a single cluster:

Ceteris paribus, fewer clusters are better than more of them. But all things are not equal, and it’s not reasonable to try to reduce your clusters to one — not even if that one is administered with splendid efficiency by low-cost workers, in a low-cost building, drawing low-cost electric power, in a low-cost part of the world.


7 Responses to “Appliances, clusters and clouds”

  1. Leif Svendsen on March 24th, 2013 6:55 am


    Could you someday asess the issue about license costs around appliances, clusters and cloud?

    Best regards
    Leif Svendsen

  2. The refactoring of everything | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on July 23rd, 2013 7:17 am

    […] previously noted, I expect most computing to eventually wind up on a combination of appliances, dedicated clusters and/or clouds. That applies even to organizations whose workloads are small enough to run on single servers, […]

  3. Context for Cloudera | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on October 13th, 2014 4:02 am

    […] Cloudera’s long-term dream is clearly to make Hadoop the central data platform for an enterprise, while RDBMS fill more niche (or of course also legacy) roles. I don’t think that will ever happen, because I don’t think there really will be one central data platform in the future, any more than there has been in the past. As I wrote last year on appliances, clusters and clouds, […]

  4. Hadoop’s next refactoring? | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on December 7th, 2014 9:59 am

    […] People would like this to be true, although in most cases only as one of several cluster computing platforms. […]

  5. Software delivery and pricing — the first 55 years | Software Memories on October 12th, 2016 10:07 am

    […] Last March, I opined that enterprise computing was moving toward a combination of appliances, clusters, and clouds. […]

  6. Some stuff that's always on my mind | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on May 20th, 2018 3:27 pm

    […] 6. The ongoing rise of “edge computing” and the “Internet of Things” fit into the general trend that in 2013 I summarized as appliances, clusters and clouds. […]

  7. Some stuff that’s always on my mind | Premium Blog! | Development code, Android, Ios anh Tranning IT on May 21st, 2018 11:12 am

    […] 6. The ongoing rise of “edge computing” and the “Internet of Things” fit into the general trend that in 2013 I summarized as appliances, clusters and clouds. […]

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