Last week, I was at the CloudConnect Conference in Chicago, which is put on by UBM TechWeb, a sister company of Design News. The target audience is the people who manage and develop for the IT infrastructure. This is not the usual Design News audience, but there has been a lot of talk about support from CAD and CAE vendors for the cloud, so I thought this might be of interest. There were also some interesting presentations that meshed with the topics discussed here on Design News. One of them was from General Electric Intelligent Platforms. The other was from Google.
Bernie Anger, a general manager at GE Intelligent Platforms, spoke at one of the keynote sessions. His company makes automation control systems. As Anger points out, this industry has been very conservative, as it should be. These systems control large machines and generally are deployed for a long time. On the other hand, the imperatives of the Information Age are driving these systems toward a connected environment. As Anger said, if it can be measured, it will be connected. That connection will be through and to the cloud. GE's concept relies on high-performance computing in the edge devices. This requirement is driven by the need to collect data for use later.
He used the example of a water system integrator. Users engage in a community that allows sharing of information and expertise. Solutions can be tested through simulation before buying. The existence of large data stores -- big-data -- allows this simulation and opens up new ways to optimize systems. A common integrated development environment is used to create, configure, and manage systems. This is a good example of how control and industrial systems will be designed in the future. They will still need programming to perform specific functions, but putting together the elements of a system will be more integrated for the industrial designer.
Craig McLuckie, the lead product manager for Google Compute Engine, was also a keynote speaker. There was a lot of interest in what he had to say, so a specific breakout session on this material was held. I had a chance to talk to him after that additional session.
Google has had its App Engine, a platform for developing cloud-based applications, for a while. What is new is the Google Compute Engine, which is infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), as opposed to the App Engine platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering. With the Compute Engine, Google is making infrastructure available for customers to build very large and complex cloud applications. These are Linux virtual machines. You have persistent disk resources, local disks, and cloud storage available. There is access to the Internet and to private networks.
The Linux kernel is provided by Google, since it uses this to provide a number of very important services. Some of these services include business continuity, which is built in. Unlike some other IaaS vendors, Google does not let you upload your own. On the other hand, you provide your own business continuity solutions there. Google offers Centos and Ubuntu flavors. Of course, there is a lot you can customize around this, so it should be no problem. This service can be used to build very large parallel applications and can scale up to 10,000 cores, McLuckie said.
Since this is the infrastructure on which Google runs, the services it uses are available to Compute Engine customers.
What is probably of most interest to Design News readers is that McLuckie said his company already has users developing computational fluid dynamics codes in Compute Engine. I asked him if these were custom codes or if they were being done by ISVs. He indicated that they were generally custom codes, though there was interest from ISVs. This ties in with the many articles in which contributing editor Beth Stackpole mentions vendors moving toward cloud computing offerings.
We don't necessarily know what infrastructure a cloud-based application is on, but that's the point. It could be Google's. It could be Amazon, or it could be a private cloud solution. The idea is to put it into the cloud so that we don't have to set it up ourselves. Now that is progress.
Louis Giokas is an independent technology consultant with experience in a number of industries ranging from aerospace to database software and many points in between.