Cloud catalog catalyst or cloud catalog cataclysm?

Like librarians, we IT wonks tend to like things cataloged. To date, the last instance of this has been SOA governance and its various registries and repositories. With UDDI limping along as some kind of organizing standard for the effort. One issue I have with UDDI¬† is that its technical awkwardness is preventing us from learning from its failure to realize its ambitious goals (“e-business heaven”). It would be too easy to attribute the UDDI disappointment to UDDI. Rather, it should be laid at the feet of unreasonable initial expectations.

The SOA governance saga is still ongoing, now away from the spotlight and mostly from an implementation perspective rather than a standard perspective (by the way, what’s up with GIF?). Instead, the spotlight has turned to Cloud computing and that’s what we are supposedly going to control through cataloging next.

Earlier this year, I commented on the release of an ITSM catalog product for Cloud computing (though I was addressing the convergence of ITSM and Cloud computing more than catalogs per se).

More recently, Lori MacVittie related SOA governance to the need for Cloud catalogs. She makes some good points, but I also see some familiar-looking “irrational exuberance”. The idea of dynamically discovering and invoking a Cloud service reminds me too much of the initial “yellow pages” scenarios for UDDI (which quickly got dropped in favor of a more modest internal governance focus).

I am not convinced by the reason Lori gives for why things are different this time around (“one of the interesting things virtualization brings to the table that SOA did not is the ability to abstract management of services”). She argues that SOA governance only gave you access to the operational WSDL of a Web service, while Cloud catalogs will give you access to their management API. But if your service is an IT service, then your so-called management API (launch/configure/control VMs) is really its operational interface. The real management interface is the one Amazon uses under the cover and they are not going to expose it to you anymore than your bank is going to expose its application server administration console to you (if they do, move your money somewhere else before someone does it for you).

After all, isn’t SOA governance pretty close to a SaaS catalog which is itself a small part of the overall Cloud (IaaS+PaaS+SaaS) catalog question? If we still haven’t succeeded in the smaller scope, what are the odds of striking gold quickly in the larger effort?

Some analysts take a more pragmatic view, involving active brokers rather than simply a new DNS record type. I am doubtful about these brokers (0.2 probability, as Gartner would put it) but at least this moves the question onto business terms (leverage, control) rather than technical terms. Which is where the battle will be fought.

When it comes to Cloud catalogs, I think they are needed (if only for the categorization of Cloud services that they require) but will only play a supporting role, if any, in any move towards dynamic Cloud provisioning. As with SOA governance it’s as an internal tool, supported by strong processes, that they will be most useful.

Throughout human history, catalogs have been substitutes for control more often than instruments of control. Think of astronomy, zoology and… nephology for example. What kind will IT Cloud catalogs be?

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Cloud catalog catalyst or cloud catalog cataclysm?

  1. Yes but those catalogs have always been used by educated/learned men rather than dynamically from some IT executing runtime which is were this all breaks down.

    Before we try to achieve this level of dynamism we should probably look to define & develop a suitable programming model and component/service architecture that reflects the nature of the cloud in terms of scalability and elasticity which will allow us to build blocks & layers on top of each other whilst ensuring such capabilities permeate up and down the stack and across service (cloud) interactions.

    We need to concentrate on building a good & maintainable marriage of scalability and elasticity revolving around resource management (metering, distribution, ….) and cost management (I assume there are limits to ones purse) at least to some degree.

  2. William L,

    I agree, especially the part about the “programming model and component/service architecture”. It’s fine to have these catalogs of services, but if you don’t know how they relate (and what rules apply to the composition) then you’re out of luck. Similar to how in SOA the focus seems to have moved from reg/rep to a component model like SCA.

    William V.