Creaner on Cloud Computing

Martin Creaner’s blog teaches us the fundamentals of cloud computing, but where’s the TM Forum leadership?

The hype and hope of cloud computing continues. There’s an opportunity here, and I’m happy to see more contributions to the debate on how service providers can embrace new architectures. Frequently, though, they lack any meat, or real understanding of what cloud computing actually is.

above. Cloud computing architecture. Click to enlarge

Martin Creaner, President of Tele Management Forum, has recently blogged his two pennies worth. He’s somebody senior management listen too, so it’s good to see he’s written a piece that brings clarity to the whole cloud thing.

Take a look at Martin’s article on the TMF blog.

But What About The Cons?

Martin is a little too convinced that cloud computing will be the Next Big Thing. There are plenty of potential ‘fatal flaws’ in the concept that deter  users today and could easily scupper the movement in the next few years. Just two of them:

No portability. You can’t pick-up a Google AppEngine application and reinstall it in Amazon EC2 or Microsoft Azure. Each cloud platform is proprietary. Really proprietary. If you thought supporting applications on Solaris and Windows Server was a hassle, this is nothing compared with cloud computing.

Limited Functionality. OSS and BSS applications are non-trivial. They rely on complex business logic, workflow engines and sophisticated features of relational databases. Most of this is not available in the cloud. You get Java POJOs, a component model, and a flat data store that’s got less functionality than Excel.

It may just be a matter of time before these problems are solved. We’re starting to see Java support in clouds, and some platforms, like Azure, are expected to introduce proper SQL databases. They better get a move on though…

Here’s What the Cloud Can Do For You

The high-light of Martin’s piece is his clear explanation of the benefit of cloud computing: You get the resources you need quicker, and pay less up front for them, compared with procuring your own servers and software.

These simple financial savings and time savings are the basis of the cloud proposition. Maybe that’s a little disappointing? Were you expecting it to be whizzy-bang technology that revolutionized the way you did X, Y or Z? No. Cloud computing’s strength is that the fundamentals are simple, measurable, benefits.

above. Benefits of cloud computing. Click to enlarge

More, Please, Martin

So, Martin’s a cloud computing fan. This needs to lead in to some technology leadership from TM Forum. Sorry, but despite Martin’s suggestions NGOSS, or any other SOA initiative, is not an enabler of cloud computing. SOA is architecture agnostic, that’s the point of it, so having SOA contracts does not make implementing a specific back-end architecture any easier.

The potential, revolutionary, use of clouds is, as Martin surmises, in building a scalable architecture for Telco 2.0-style upstream partners to ‘plug-in’ to the network and OSS/BSS infrastructure. Partners and service providers can then go mad and deliver the massive suck-it-and-see approach to products that Keith Willetts (TM Forum) has been talking about lately. With the economics and scalability of the cloud, entry costs for new products and partners is small. Scaling-up a surprise success is affordable and, most importantly, possible.

To make this a reality we need APIs, contracts, SLAs and processes that allow partners to run their businesses through service provider infrastructure, much like retail vendors do today on the Amazon platform.

TM Forum would be doing the industry a big favor, while restoring its reputation for innovation, if it delivered a specification for a model Telco 2.0 infrastructure.