Resource-as-a-Service an Up-and-Coming Cloud Platform?

By | Jun 19, 2012

Cloud computing is revolutionizing how businesses operate. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and software-as-a-service (SaaS) enable organizations to rent resources required to perform specific tasks, thus reducing operational and support costs. And according to researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, the cloud market is about to give birth to a new more efficient cloud platform.

In a position paper presented at USENIX HotCloud '12 in Boston, researchers Orna Agmon Ben-Yehuda, Muli Ben-Yehuda, Assaf Schuster, and Dan Tsafrir postulate that IaaS is on the path to evolving into a more practical model, one that enables customers to purchase individual resources for a few seconds at a time. The researchers have dubbed this new cloud platform "resource-as-a-service" (RaaS).

Before cloud computing became popular, organizations could rent servers on a month-to-month basis from a Web-hosting provider. But, according to Computerworld, that all changed when Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) hit the scene. Clients could rent EC2 instances for as little as one hour, a new trend that the researchers say "is driven by economic forces that keep pushing clients to improve efficiency and minimize waste."

Orna Agmon Ben-Yehuda and her research team don't think that current models are sustainable, arguing that pressure from the market will cause cloud providers to charge for resources in smaller and smaller increments, following the same path as phone providers. The authors of the paper use vendors like CloudSigma as an example. CloudSigma enables customers to purchase resources in rolling five-minute segments.

RaaS would also enable businesses to have more control over what resources to allocate towards a virtual machine. "Renting a fixed combination of cloud resources cannot and does not reflect the interests of clients," states the paper. With RaaS, clients would purchase "seed virtual machines" that contain a baseline of resources.

This service would include an "economic agent" that would determine what resources the virtual machine would or would not need based on "the current prices of those resources, the changing load the machine should handle, and the client's subjective valuation of those different resources at different points in time," said the researchers.

RaaS will require more advanced software, of course; virtual machines (VM) and the applications contained within them will have to be adaptable, as the VM won't know the precise amount of resources available to it while it's running. But this shouldn't be too much of an obstacle; cloud computing and virtualization are two of the leading technologies in the enterprise market, and as such, there's a lot of pressure on vendors to improve functionality to meet business needs.

Whether or not the researchers are correct in their assessment remains to be seen, but their proposal makes sense. Not all business operations need that full hour; midsize companies that need to execute a task that can be completed in just a few minutes will end up wasting valuable resources. It's also counterintuitive to force customers to buy fixed resources that might not even be used. But the future of cloud computing looks bright and enterprises should continue to look forward to new developments in virtualization and IaaS.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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