9 Replies Latest reply on Apr 19, 2011 3:01 PM by spilon

    Cloud computing and PI


      Fellow vCampus members,


      'Cloud' computing is hot. Everyone is talking about it. Besides it being the gigantic 'buzzword' it is, in my opinion it is an actual and real technology that will determine how we will use computers and the internet today and in the future.


      A lot of us are developers, and OSIsoft seems determined to further improve their products and research how the latest trends and technologies can improve the overall usage and experience of the PI system.


      After the mainframe model, the client - server model came. This is how the internet and the applications we use on a daily basis are set up. Cloud computing seems a big paradigm shift towards a model that has some parallels with the mainframe model. The big difference (in my opinion) is that with cloud computing it is more on an 'on demand' basis.


      Cloud computing has different deployment models. There are public clouds, private clouds, community clouds and hybrid clouds. 


      The big Public Cloud providers at this moment are Microsoft Windows Azure, Amazon EC2 and Google AppEngine. As a Microsoft minded person, I have only explored Microsoft Windows Azure, and it offers great agility, scalability, lower costs and almost no maintenance. I'm sure the other cloud providers offer the same advantages as well.


      Next to that, there are the Private Clouds. This means that a company or enterprise providers their own (privately owned) computing cloud. Applications existing in the cloud have the same advantages of public cloud computing, but the enterprise itself must provide for the hardware and maintenance of the cloud. So, in my opinion this will have (far) greater startup and maintenance costs. The big advantage of such a setup is that the company has total control over the cloud, and that it can be secured to only be access from within the companies WAN (high privacy and security/compliancy).


      Community clouds are clouds that are shared between companies sharing similair interests and data requirements. This will provide higher privacy and security/policy compliance, but higher startup costs then a public cloud (but lower then a private cloud, since the investment will be shared).


      Hybrid clouds are interesting. In short, this could mean that the webservice and client applications live in a public cloud, but the data itself lives on a private cloud (or an on-premise datacenter).


      So, back to our line of bussiness... Imagine a PI server living in the cloud. This would automatically mean that it is has (extreme) high availability. You won't have to set up a collective or provide a failover mechanism: this is all done by the cloud's operating system. When an instance fails, others automatically take over. This would also mean high scalability: you can start with a simple instance (say, the specs of a 'nice' server with some gigs of ram). As you gain more users and more analytical rules, you would just have to select a 'bigger' instance, or have more instances running together. With Windows Azure, upgrading your instance, or having multiple instances running, is just a mather of clicking a button, and you will have an x-fold in performance (I kid you not!).


      So, I think that if there was a PI server for a 'private cloud provider', this would be a very real and viable option.


      I think we are in a bit of a tough spot concerning public clouds and PI data. I don't see PI customers very willing to have their precious data stored outside the companies WAN... With all the modern security techniques (encryption and authentication mechanisms), I still don't think that customers are willing to 'take that risk'.


      What about having some sort of hybrid cloud? Having your on-premise PI server connected to a public cloud (using all the fancy security techniques offcourse)? This could mean that OSIsoft or some company provides client software (visualisation, analytical, etc...) in a public cloud, which all users are connecting to. The data itself is stored and maintained in an on-premise server (and 'secured'). This would mean true Software As A Service. You would just pay for the usage of the software/the number of users, and never have to concern yourself with upgrades or roll-outs.


      What do we think of this? As I see it, for our line of bussiness, this technology could really benefit us. Altough, I don't see this comming in the very near future. I think we all, and the companies we work for, have to get used to this paradigm shift, and slowly get used to the idea that maybe having our data on our server in the basement's datacenter ( ) isn't really that more secure than having it in a big secured Microsoft or Amazon facility...


      I'm very curious about your opinion! I'm also curious if a OSIsoft Product Manager maybe can give his/her insight or vision regarding this new technology.







        • Re: Cloud computing and PI

          In the early days of mainframe computing, most data was not stored on the premises of the owner.  I worked in a bank computer "center" that used IBM360 room heaters and processed checks and installment loans for dozens of small banks that did not own their own computer (no timesharing or remote terminal access).


          I could envision Windows Azure as a location for "federated" PI, but I don't envision Cloud Computing to replace plant floor computing and storage resources.  It would be interesting to hear the vision of end users, rather than Product Managers.


          Back to the Future!

          • Re: Cloud computing and PI

            I think with the advancement of virtualization technologies, there would be more companies looking into virtualization to manage their backend IT resources in general, forming what Michael mentioned as Private Cloud for their own servers. 


            Being that PI system (server and interfaces) has to interact with the plant's instrumentation and control systems, it would really rare to see PI system move out of a private cloud in the near future. After all the idea of how reliable is hosting PI on a public server kicks in, as well as losing control of the physical system. It is not hard to imagine people asking things like "Where is the PI server?" in those situations.





              • Re: Cloud computing and PI

                The concept of a Private Cloud that Michael mentioned sounds compelling. In fact it looks almost as a logical step beyond the extensive use of virtualization.


                Coming back to Michaels suggestion on Clients living in a public cloud I can see the benefit for a large scale of users. Not for the high fidelity user that is depending on PI ProcessBook and PI DataLink like tools, but there could be a tremendous benefit for those users accessing only a small portion of the data.


                Let's say your personal meter data (AMI): The PI/AF/etc. would still reside on the companies network, only the millions of users would use a cloud based application to visualize the data. In this case a loss of Internet connection would not add an additional element as the end user is on the Internet anyway. I guess I will have to read more about clouds in the future...