Ensuring that clouds are carrier-grade

Ensuring that clouds are carrier-grade

Michael Murphy  |   March 14, 2012
Asia Cloud Computing Association
Cloud computing is increasingly being used for applications that have high availability and performance demands. Telecommunications, with its infamous 'Carrier-Grade' tag for describing such requirements, is one example.
 
To facilitate the dialog between applications and cloud providers, the Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA) is developing an Index, that defines Carrier-Grade in a cloud computing context, in a structured tabular form. This establishes a normalized baseline and language with which to discuss needs and capabilities. By doing so, the ACCA hopes to stimulate usage of clouds for demanding applications, like telecom, and others as well.
 
As global operators start to use cloud computing solutions for both internal and external services, the question that arises is: 'Are clouds reliable enough?'
 
Certainly, by virtue of existence and usage, we can say cloud computing is 'good enough' for a very large and growing number of service types. However, cloud-based telephony services bring new demands. The infamous five 9's reliability that has been the hallmark of telephony cannot be achieved easily, if at all, using typical cloud computing hardware and software systems.
 
Why? The fundamental principles of implementation are different. Telephony often relies on highly customized, costly redundant hardware implementations combined with sophisticated software know-how to meet the demanding five 9's requirement. Cloud computing typically takes an opposite approach and uses off-the-shelf hardware, without redundancy, to save costs, and relies almost entirely on applications to implement recovery strategies when failures inevitably occur. The shift in ownership of reliability is significant which raises the question: Can such systems ever meet the resilience needed by telephony?
 
The answer of course, is, it depends. While the discussion has so far been about telephony, one can certainly imagine other industries having similar needs. Banking and stock trading come to mind, as do government, military and health services. In practice, each industry has unique demands to be met.
 
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