Lew Tucker has contributed to several waves of technology innovation over the last 20 years. Currently VP and CTO of cloud computing at Sun Microsystems, Tucker started work on distributed computing in the mid-'80s as a research scientist and director of advanced development at Thinking Machines, working on machine vision and system architecture to create the massively parallel Connection Machine.During a previous tenure at Sun Microsystems, Lew was an early member of the JavaSoft executive team driving developer adoption of the Java platform, and later became VP of Internet services, with overall responsibility for Sun's Internet sites and services. He left Sun to become a VP at Salesforce.com, where he created AppExchange, a SaaS platform for business applications, and then went on to be CTO at Radar Networks, a semantic-Web-based Internet service for tracking interests, before returning to Sun to lead its cloud computing efforts. In an exclusive interview with InformationWeek, Tucker said that Sun as a company had evolved its platform from a Unix, Solaris, and Java infrastructure without losing sight of the company's original vision, which is "the network is the computer."
"In cloud computing, 'the data center is the computer.' We see a future where there are a bunch of clouds, both public and private clouds, and companies will be able to build scalable apps that are self-provisioning. These apps will be able to scale up automatically where requesting resources will be done in a self-service fashion."
Tucker cited the example of the Animoto FaceBook app that ramped from 25,000 users to 250,000 users in three days -- scaling from 50 instances of EC2 usage up to 3,500 instances -- as an example of the type of massively scalable app that's possible in the cloud.
Tucker said that this strategy was behind Sun's recent acquisition of Q-layer, a Belgium cloud computing company that automates the deployment and management of both public and private clouds. The Q-layer software supports instant provisioning of services such as servers, storage, bandwidth, and applications, enabling users to scale their own environments to meet their specific requirements. "It's the next step up from the Amazon Web Services model, which provides you with a LAMP (Linux OS, Apache Web server, MySql Database, PHP [or other] programming language) stack, Tucker explained. "With Q-layer technology, we can provide a self-service virtual data center, where you can manage virtual components via a management layer. Enterprises will be able to define system architecture at Web scale; Q-layer codifies that." Tucker further explained that as businesses continue to rely more on technology to drive mission-critical processes, the agility of the data center will become more important to the flexibility of the entire company.
Tucker reckoned that cloud computing is in its early stages and that the lack of cloud standards isn't holding anyone back. "There is a considerable amount of interoperability between all the cloud vendors (Force.com, AWS, etc.) due to their use of public APIs," he concluded.