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Friday
Feb062009

Application Delivery Networks, Cloud Interop and Metadata Ownership

Lori McVittie lobs in a great post about (cloud) interoperability and the pragmatics of application delivery networks.  [Note to reader: It's important to get past the obligatory marketing bumph for F5's products.] 

In considering interoperation of clouds (even between private clouds or within a single, highly dispersed organization), the meta-data associated with an application or content managed & processed by the application needs to be considered from a number of viewpoints:
- who "owns" the meta-data?
- on what basis might it be intentionally and "legally" exposed, shared, used by other participants?
- in which jurisdiction, at what point in time, must meta-data be processed/treated with respect to privacy, compliance, etc.?

I saw Alistair Croll's interview at Data Center Knowledge (run by the OTHER Rich Miller!!) earlier in the week, and had been thinking about the implications.  But Lori's already done the heavy lifting.  I like her treatment of the problem, based initially on security and delivery policies.  I consider it a start on a list of additional types of policies which will either suffer or be worked so as to accomodate the mobility of application workloads across the InterCloud.

The part I'm itching to ask her about ... or start a more open conversation: the possibility of "a specification regarding application network delivery metadata" which, if properly (??) abstracted and generic, could "allow the meta-data policies to be transported and applied across
different cloud implementations while preserving the specific details
of implementation within the cloud computing infrastructure."  Whoa!! Tall order, isn't it?  What does it imply we've done with respect to a standardized representation / standard semantics of peripatetic workload computing? (Sorry... couldn't bring myself to say "cloud" again.)

Update:  Lori's started a very cogent, readable response to the questions raised above.  I recommend you check out her post.

Who owns application delivery meta-data in the cloud?

Once the application delivery network is tuned to deliver an application it essentially becomes a part of the implementation; it becomes a necessary component of the application without which security and performance can degrade. If the application is to be moved from one cloud to another, the security and delivery policies need to move with the application in order to ensure that neither security nor performance of the application is compromised.

But as Alistair Croll points out in this interview at Data Center Knowledge, the question of who owns meta-data may prevent this from becoming reality. Like the popularity of a picture on Flickr, the ownership of application network infrastructure meta-data (the security and delivery policies) is highly in question.

...

So if the application delivery network is such an integral piece of a cloud computing provider's infrastructure, it seems unlikely they'll be willing to share the relevant meta-data with other cloud computing providers, driving complete interoperability and portability efforts to concentrate simply on application infrastructure.

...

It is possible that if a specification regarding application network delivery metadata were abstracted and could be applied across application delivery network implementations, that the "secret sauce" of a cloud computing provider's offering could be maintained while still allowing portability across cloud implementations. Such a generic specification would allow the meta-data policies to be transported and applied across different cloud implementations while preserving the specific details of implementation within the cloud computing infrastructure. The choice of application delivery infrastructure would remain an integral differentiation for cloud computing providers as each implementation of the metadata would remain specific to the infrastructure provider and therefore be better or worse depending on the implementation.

But as Alistair pointed out, the real question right now is who owns the meta-data? If the answer is the cloud computing provider, then even attempting to formulate such an interoperability specification that bridges application delivery infrastructure implementations seems as though it would be a wasted effort.

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