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Cloud Pilots? Anyone can drive a car, pilots fly planes. Clouds?

Created: 21 Jun 2011 • 4 comments
SeanRegan's picture
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I noticed an interesting tweet today from Rachel Dines @Forester. It quoted Carl Meadows @SungardAS. 

"Common misconception: cloud solves our sys admin problems. Wrong! Cloud requires more skilled sys admins." 

I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I drive down 101 to Mountain View from SF.  Each day someone gets in a fender bender and traffic continues around them. Sure, life is disrupted but it's par for the course. Sometimes car accidents happen. As I drive south I also pass under SFO. Each day 100s of planes take off. The expectation is that these planes will almost never have an accident. They are piloted by highly trained pilot while the car on 101 is piloted by someone like you and me. 

Cars are like servers.  Planes are like Clouds. 

  • When a plane crashes the media shows up at the scene, the bloggers speculate. Investigators start to look for the cause. Lawyers start to look for liability. Business is fully disrupted and some consumers will totally stop flying for a period of time. 
  • When a car crashes, we pay little attention even though this happens far more frequently than plane crashes. Generally these accidents are lower stakes and involve minor property damage. Life goes on and getting where you need to go is a risk we are willing to take on a daily basis. 

Does this sound like the way the world treats your common run of the mill server recovery vs. cloud outage? 


Cloud Pilots Needed 

Given the stakes it seems like a new breed of sysadmin, backup admin, IT professional is developing as well.  When protecting a cloud the stakes are much higher. A cloud outage (cloutage?) could bring massive volumes of data down for many many customers creating a scenario similar to a plane crash. The operators of private clouds and public clouds have a lower tolerance for outage than our typical server and application.  A cloutage could be catastrophic when it impact the operations of the businesses that rely on it. I saw another tweet recently that mentioned CASH RESERVES are a significant component of a disaster recovery strategy for a customer who has been impacted by a cloud outage.  With the stakes increasing the IT profession is being asked to send it's best and brightest to flight school. 

I'm curious, how does the community feel preparedness is for these larger private cloud and public cloud environments?  

Are organizations taking the proper data protection steps and high availability steps needed to protect mission critical apps in the cloud? As the cloud? itself?

Are folks rolling their own?  AKA replicating the data and hoping they don't ever need to recover it? Or, building other recovery models?

Regardless, I think that the data protection profession will grow in importance as more and more of our worlds resources take the form of information.  The only questions is what will this new breed of professions be called?   Cloud Pilots?

Let's get a good discussion going. The industry needs great people and great technology working together if we want the cloud to fly confidently.

- Sean 

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AbdulRasheed's picture

Well said, Sean. Thought provoking indeed. Traditional pilots have air traffic controllers (of course, let us forget about those who were asleep! scary stories in the news recently) who expedite and maintain a safe and orderly flow of air traffic in the global air traffic control system. Cloud pilots may not have that level of support, the customers/passengers are trusting your infrastructre and skills for end to end protection of their business. The stakes are high, the responsibility is more.

Warm regards,


Warm regards,

Abdul "Rasheed" Rasheed

Tweet me @AbdulRasheed127

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James McKey's picture

I especially appreciate the fact that this analogy leaves room for the fact that the cloud is not going to replace local servers, simply supplement it and perhaps eventually shift the role of servers to a lesser role but not an obsolete one (e.g. Planes did not make cars/trains/boats obsolete). Media and systems that support it rarely go away due to something new but are instead shifted in a different, perhaps slightly lesser role.

As an example, radio was originally predicted to be made obsolete by the TV. Obviously that did not happen; instead it changed the focus and role of radio; decades later it shows no sign of "dying out" any time soon. Shoot, look at the telegram, that was JUST ended as a service by Western Union in 2006.

James McKey
Social Media Support Manager
Support Services

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SeanRegan's picture

Thanks for jumping in James. 

You are right. I hit on this a bit in an earlier blog. A lot of people lose sight of this with the hype around cloud and virtualization (redundant?)  They forget that infrastructure is, well, infrastructure and some level of it is necessary even if it is just to run VMware or HyperV. 

Regardless, the business requirements will dictate some element of this evolution. Just because you can do something  doesn't guarantee it will. I had one customer tell me that the widget he had on the table in front of us took 25 years to develop and that never, under any circumstance would the IP related to that product be stored on any system that was not fully owned and managed by them. At the same time they were likely running Concur, Success factors or some other service that made sense for them to use.  A hybrid model is going to be very common going forward whether is it related to IT operations or  the management of the information itself. 

That creates a whole new set of challenges around the control and management of information. Many companies struggle with knowing and managing what they have on their systems today.  Tomorrow when that data is shared across multiple different cloud providers that onus of management will be more significant. A legal hold or retention policy in the past might be focused on a couple of systems managed in the datacenter. Today or tomorrow that same hold or policy might have to touch multiple internal and external systems in a consistent way. 

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Michael Herkens's picture

Hello Sean,

From my point of view "Cloud Pilots" is a suitable term for this new breed of professions!

Best regards,

Michael Herkens,

MD at CLOUDPILOTS Software & Consulting GmbH

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