Is Less More? The Truth About Abstraction and Cloud

By Colin Devine, Technical Partner Development Manager, Red Hat


At its core, cloud software connects many different aspects of IT technology (Virtual Machines, Networks, Storage) and allows you to manage them in an intuitive, convenient way.  Well, that's the hope at least.


This of course is not a new way of thinking about IT. Adding a "management layer" to software is a tried and true way to add value that software companies have been using for decades. But least we forget one of the older truisms in software creation – "All problems in computer science can be solved by another level of indirection... Except for the problem of too many layers of indirection" (attributed to computer scientist David Wheeler). Some have replaced "indirection" with "abstraction," which makes the quote even more relevant today.


Abstraction makes things easier to manage, but it also hides the underlying technology. While IT managers like the ease of use that abstraction provides, they are never fully comfortable with being ignorant of the guts of the system. The GUI vs. command line debate has its roots here.


Beyond that, abstraction means you are really trusting your underlying technology to do its job flawlessly because the abstraction layer makes troubleshooting more difficult – and especially more time consuming – as you try to track down where the problem really lies.


So you'll want a rock solid base to build up your IT management software abstraction layer (aka cloud). The compute  side should be nearly as standardized as it can be without being one company, and the x86 blade reigns over all. On the networking side there is real interesting innovation within the SDN space, while on the storage space you have the classic storage vendors just starting to feel some competition from the software-defined storage technology. Competition breeds performance, so the storage companies are upping their products.


The FAS8000 from NetApp is a good example of this. NetApp – a company that is famous for its technology innovation – has added some cool features to this line up. With the new FlexArray virtualization software, the FAS8000 can virtualize and manage multi-vendor data storage platforms, paving the way for software-defined storage. The FAS8000 also runs the latest version of Data ONTAP 8.2.1, which offers superior flash acceleration to speed up IO tremendously; meaning you can spin up multiple VMs very quickly. And enhancements to nondisruptive operations (NDO) further minimize the potential for both planned and unplanned downtime.


David Wheeler was right – abstraction solves problems and can also create them. Investing in quality software and hardware can help do both.