Reliving Client Server Through the “Cloud” of Promises

Recently conferences were all abuzz with demonstrations of cloud computing and wonderful vendors touting its spectacular functions and features. While I was impressed by the technology, the flexibility of resources, the unlimited performance potential and the pay for what you use ideas, the cloud solution is surrounded by incredible hype and alerts the cynic in me. All the hype sounds a lot like the client server hype that the industry experienced in the 1990s. When the internet and client server were coming of age, the salesperson’s glossy brochures made their way to IT management who were sold an architecture and many products that were not right for every situation.

It is also interesting to hear all the hype about cloud computing at this particular time. The timing is perfect because IT management has finally realized the number of personnel, maintenance, hardware and software costs of distributed Windows and UNIX systems is larger than centralized mainframe costs. This cost realization is being leveraged by salesmen for the cloud computing agenda and the replacing of the IT department with a cloud computing environment is already being heard.

It is also interesting to hear the virtues of cloud computing just as development, security, performance and reliability standards are truly being implemented and enforced across all the Windows and UNIX systems just like their mainframe partners. Change control, security, naming standards and performance have a way of exposing the platform’s true reliability features. Studies continue to show that the mainframe is still the ultimate gold standard. Yes, the mainframe still has the lowest costs because it serves so many systems and so many people so reliably. So much so that some of the old client server systems now run within the mainframe environment that they were supposed to replace. Emphasize and talk about the total cost per transaction for every application and examine the numbers to see the true IT platform costs.

Back in the 1990s while learning the new DB2 for OS/2, which matured into DB2 LUW, implementing these client server systems, my company and this once young and naïve IT professional learned many lessons.

Cloud Computing Lessons

The first lesson was to not completely believe the salesperson or magazine article. Test their claims and products—first prove that it works before the critical project fails because of its problems.

Second, evaluate the technology with your standard project criteria. Any shortcuts for the new cloud will lead to problems. Involve governance, security and capacity planning and use a previous standard project plan because it forces the discussion of all the project aspects in relation to the new cloud platform. Also, involve the budget and accounting people so the true costs are captured for the platform. Track the total personnel, hardware and software costs per transaction. Cloud will work nicely for the right situation, but not for all situations.

Third, get involved with the new cloud technology. While the scars of these client server projects were deep and nasty, they taught me about a new database (DB2 LUW) and new skills that complimented my mainframe background and experience. Like my Java programming hobby for the last nine years, learning Java complements all the architecture, systems and DBA skills and helps you understand the newest OO languages and the Java performance problems and considerations. Learning something new always gives you a new perspective and adds to your overall skills.

So next time you hear someone say they are going to replace the mainframe or all these distributed systems with cloud computing smile, find the salesperson, and let them take you out to lunch. Learn the promises and terms because you’re the one that will have to make these new solutions work. There are no new problems only old ones with new names. Welcome to cloud computing.

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