The Power of Cloud Computing – An Inside Story From Fedex

Sometimes it takes one person with their own story about how cloud computing works to make the wonder of the Cloud more evident.

Fedex’s Carter Has a Cloud Vision

Take Fedex CIO Rob Carter. In an InformationWeek story that I read, Carter explained cloud computing in very simple terms:  it transforms IT management to be more efficient because it allows connectivity between servers, networks and storage. Thus, the jobs they handle can be shuffled around among any of a company’s computers.

Call it general purpose computing, if you will.

To dramatize what he means, Carter cited how the company’s new data center in Colorado Springs works.  It’s a private cloud that uses commodity x86 servers, each with just a single 10-gig Ethernet cord enabling networking — eliminating the jungle of wires once used for host-bus adapters, NIC cards, and other things.  Before apps are migrated to the new center, Fedex’s IT pros “commonize” them, that is, enabled to use the same database and messaging technology, for example, so they can move easily among servers. While this infrastructure is indeed a private cloud, the workloads performed could easily be shifted to public clouds — if, down the road, that made sense.

Some purists might not agree that this is a true “cloud.” Carter doesn’t care. In the interview, he instead emphasized the highly virtualized computing going on today — such as at Fedex.

“…What’s happening now–for the first time, in my opinion–is there ‘s truly a general-purpose computing environment that’s workload agnostic,” he said, in the article. “You can throw different kinds of workloads on the same computing server infrastructure. There’s network convergence–all the networks are IP, there’s not a bunch of unique protocols. And there’s converged storage technology.” And Java software gives it portability across platforms.

But making computing pay off, reaping good ROI, is key for Carter.  Rather than devising a strategy to cut overlapping apps, for Fedex, it’s more about building the apps to run in a common framework or environment — making it easier for them to tap new services being set up, and making workloads more portable.

While Carter’s cloud is private, he sees big things for public clouds, too.  “…The whole notion of general-purpose computing that everyone refers to as cloud, be it public or private or hybrid, looks like this confluence of events that gives us common server, storage, and network technology.”

Great article. And key to the vision of the workability of a private or public cloud is the notion that there are options available to help companies — regardless of size — to feel more comfortable taking their data and apps from internal infrastructure.

For one, there’s the option of monitoring public cloud platforms — to ensure they’re up and running and performing. And just as important is the idea that if something goes wrong, say, an outage, sysadmins can be notified in numerous ways so that they can get busy fixing things.

There are a million stories by companies about their vision and use of the cloud, and each time one is told, it enriches all our visions of cloud computing.