This week I am presenting at the International DB2 User Group (IDUG) conference in Denver Colorado. I am presenting sessions on DB2 and Cloud Computing and sessions on building Ruby on Rails applications with DB2. I am also meeting with a number of customers. Yesterday during a meeting with one of the customers I wanted to demonstrate how DB2 customers can leverage Cloud Computing to quickly create development and test environments.

In this demo I have a production application that comprises an application server and a  DB2 database server. The entire “deployment” (this is what RightScale call this collection of servers)  running on Amazon EC2 and it is managed by RightScale.  Using RightScale Control Panel I am able with just a few mouse clicks create a complete replica of my production environment. This includes web and application servers as well as the DB2 database server and all of the data.

Deployment view in RightScale

Click to see the Deployment view in RightScale

The demo is very simple but extremely effective at demonstrating the benefits of cloud computing. In takes about about 10-15  minutes and at the end I have a fully working dev and QA environment that is an exact replica of my production application. For most large enterprises this would take weeks if not months do and would require very significant capital expenditure to get the equipment. People love the self-service aspect of it. Not having to go to follow the seemingly never ending cycle of justification and approvals and then spending countless hours in project meetings is a huge draw for many.

Having done this demo just the day before in my session and then a few times after that, I am very confident. So, we sit down and I show my production application working. Then the moment of truth, I click on the “Clone” button to create a new Dev and QA deployment and in about a minute I get both the application server and DB2 database server provisioned for me. Great, no Purchase Orders, no finance approvals, no “we can’t get you your servers till July” from the hardware procurement people. Now I need to make a copy of my data. No problem, I just take an EBS volume snapshot. One more minute and I have a copy of my production data saved. Next, I need to get some storage (disk space) for my test database. So, I click on “Create and Attach a Volume” button. Typically, this operation takes a couple of minutes as RightScale submits a request to Amazon to allocate an EBS volume and then fill this volume with data from the snapshot I’ve taken earlier. Amazon has supposedly an endless supply of storage to provision my EBS volumes from. After all, “virtually unlimited capacity on demand” is the key promise of Cloud Computing. Well, this time I am in for a surprise. It seems that the availability zone my servers are in (us-east-1a) has run out of storage capacity and I can’t get the disk space that I need. I guess I should have paid more attention to “virtually” in “virtually unlimited capacity”. Now, there is a saving grace to this. I could have relocated my servers to another zone that still has resources but that is not something that you want to do during a 15 minute demonstration.

To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement but, in a way, I am glad that I got this dose of reality. There hype guage on Cloud Computing has been off-scale for the last few months. I will be the first one to admit that I have been taken by some of that hype and have done my share to propagate some of it as well. This experience resets my “hype gauge”. Don’t take me wrong, I am still very excited about the promise of the cloud but I think that there are going to be a few bumps on the way to cloud nirvana.

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