As I was reading about Microsoft Azure recently, a military analogy came to my mind. Hypervisors are tanks. Application development and runtime platforms compose the air force.
Tanks (and more generally the mechanization of ground forces) transformed war in the 20th century. They multiplied the fighting capabilities of individuals and changed the way war was fought. A traditional army didn’t stand a chance against a mechanized one. More importantly, a mechanized army that used the new tools with the old mindset didn’t stand a chance against a similarly equipped army that had rethought its strategy to take advantage of the new capabilities. Consider France at the beginning of WWII, where tanks were just canons on wheels, spread evenly along the front line to support ground troops. Contrast this with how Germany, as part of the Blitzkrieg, used tanks and radios to create highly mobile – and yet coordinated – units that caused havoc in the linear French defense.
Exercise for the reader who wants to push the analogy further:
- Describe how Blitzkrieg-style mobility of troops (based on tanks and motorized troop transports) compares to Live Migration of virtual machines.
- Describe how the use of radios by these troops compares to the use of monitoring and control protocols to frame IT management actions.
Tanks (hypervisor) were a game-changer in a world of foot soldiers (dedicated servers).
But no matter how good your tanks are, you are at a disadvantage if the other party achieves air superiority. A less sophisticated/numerous ground force that benefits from strong air support is likely to prevail over a stronger ground force with no such support. That’s what came to my mind as I read about how Azure plans to cover the IaaS layer, but in the context of an application-and-data-centric approach. Where hypervisors are not left to fend for themselves based on the limited view of the horizion from the periscope of their turrets but rather orchestrated, supported (and even deployed) from the air, from the application platform.
(Yes, I am referring to the Azure vision as it was presented at PDC09, not necessarily the currently available bits.)
Does your Cloud vendor/provider need an air force?
Exercise for the reader who wants to push the analogy to the stratosphere:
- Describe how business logic/process, business transaction management and business intelligence are equivalent to satellites, surveying the battlefield and providing actionable intelligence.
The new Cloud stack (“military-cloud complex” version):
[Note: I have no expertise in military history (or strategy) beyond high school classes about WWI and WWII, plus a couple of history books and a few war movies. My goal here is less to be accurate on military concerns (though I hope to be) than to draw an analogy which may be meaningful to fellow IT management geeks who share my level of (in)expertise in military matters. This is just yet another way in which I try to explain that, for Clouds as for plain old IT management, “it’s the application, stupid”.]