The Shift to Cloud, Archimedes, and Twark Main

Allon Cohen February 21, 2017 blog

Since you are reading this blog you have probably heard of the shift to cloud, and everybody has heard of Archimedes, so I will start with Twark Main.

Twark Main, was the author of a short article, titled “Archimedes” that appeared in the “Australian Standard” in 1889.  He used Archimedes’ famous lever quote “Give me whereon to stand and I can move the earth” (Papus of Alexandria, Synagoge, Book VIII) to illustrate a point on land ownership.   The article went mostly unnoticed, and the true identity of Twark Main remained a mystery, until some 70 years later, when quite accidentally, a Mr. Noah D. Alper, found what turned out to be an earlier version of the article among some files stored in the Henry George School of Social Sciences.  This earlier version was signed by no other than Mark Twain.  Thus, by this chance discovery, what was intended to be a very easily solvable riddle, was at last deciphered.

Using Archimedes in the title of that article did not help in getting it noticed, and that is not the reason I quote Mark Twain’s rediscovered article here.  In fact, the point Mark Twain made in the article was closely related to our subject, the Cloud, but before shifting to that, a few words on Archimedes’ famous lever quote.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the quote is that the lever does not appear in it at all.  Instead it focuses on “the place to stand”, the fixed point that doesn’t change, without which the lever becomes useless.  Or as Thomas Jefferson, noted some 2000 years later, “…the lever of Archimedes, with the given fulcrum, moves the world.”

And why is this lesson from history so relevant to CIOs and IT managers?

Because, quite frankly, they are changing the world (or at the least, being tasked to do so).  And this is the point where the shift to cloud enters our story.

The cloud offers agility, nearly endless resources, and the flexibility of a consumption-based cost structure.   In contrast, on-premises enterprise applications continue to consume a significant amount of on-premises resources and represent a consistent CapEx and OpEx drain on IT budgets. CIOs would like to leverage cloud for these applications, but current cloud paradigms require them to re-architect or refactor these applications at a cost that is simply too high.  If only we could lift and shift applications to the cloud without changing, them the task would become much simpler.

Eureka! Moving the world to the cloud can happen, but requires a different approach.   What we really need is a lever and a fixed point.

For applications, the fixed point, the place to stand on, is their underlying data structures.  If you could keep data access the same for the applications regardless of whether they are running on-premises or in the cloud, you have removed the key barrier to shifting them over.

This is what Elastifile has set out to do…enable frictionless movement of legacy apps to the cloud by delivering access to their data, in an identical manner, regardless of whether they are running on-premises or in the cloud.

The Elastifile Cloud File System (ECFS) provides a scalable, high performance, POSIX-compliant distributed file system delivered within a public cloud environment such as the Google Cloud. ECFS is deployed through standardized node images that run natively in the cloud. Each node is assigned flash storage resources in the cloud, and together, the collection of Elastifile storage nodes dynamically aggregates all assigned resources for linear performance and capacity pooling. This is then presented through NFS as a distributed file system encompassing the provisioned resources as a unified file system.  Any application can then access its data in the cloud in the same way it does so on-premises.  We fixed the point on which to stand on, so no refactoring is now required.

Now that you have a fixed point, you need a lever.

For Elastifile this lever comes in the form of our CloudConnect functionality that enables the smooth transport of data from on-premises file systems into public clouds. CloudConnect mounts any legacy file system on the source side, and efficiently sends compressed and deduplicated data to cloud object storage. Such “checked-in” data can be kept in the cloud in object format or “checked out” into ECFS for use in the cloud, retaining the original file structure. As shown below, together, CloudConnect and ECFS enable lifting enterprise application data from any on-premises storage solution and shifting for flexible use in the public cloud.



But before you leave to check this out.  I did promise to connect Mark Twain’s point on land ownership to this blog.  For you see Mark Twain “Archimedes” article was really a stark warning.  He argued against the 19th century danger that one large land owner would take control of all land resources.  Luring people in he would then be able to raise the rent at his pleasure, without a way for anyone to get out.  See the resemblance to cloud?  Make sure the fulcrum and lever you are using, don’t tie you in to one provider.   That’s the beauty of a fixed-point approach such as Elastifile’s no-app-change-required solution.  Your fixed point makes sure going out is just as easy as getting in.

Enable this in your IT department, and your CEO is likely to proclaim of you what King Hiero proclaimed of Archimedes when he used his lever.  “From this day forth we must believe everything [you] say!”

For more on how Elastifile enables the “lift and shift” of legacy apps to the cloud, check out this solution brief.