Astute readers might have noticed that my job-hunt post is no longer being forced to the top of the page, and guessed at the reason. I’ll cut right to the chase: as of today, I’ve accepted a job at Red Hat to work on a cloud filesystem. What is a cloud filesystem? Well, that’s the fun part. I have some ideas, other people have some ideas, and part of what Red Hat will be paying me to do is to collect those ideas into a coherent definition. As I see it, the approximate order of priorities is going to be something like this.

  1. Bring the cloud down to earth. “Cloud” is a much-used but ill-defined term, and is often used in ways that range from the overenthusiastic to the downright misleading. Before I can do anything effective in the cloud space, I need to distance myself from some of the hype. I’m not going to push “cloud” as a brand for its own sake. I’m going to do things that provide concrete and measurable value, for which “cloud” just happens to be an apt and concise label.
  2. Gather a “community of interest” consisting of both users and developers, both within and outside of Red Hat, to define some of the possible things that a “cloud filesystem” might mean. There are probably many correct answers, which is fine, but the set can’t be unbounded.
  3. Refine the definition(s) into a loose set of requirements.
  4. Pick a technology base, decide what existing widgets can be used and which need to be developed.
  5. Implement, integrate, test, hammer everything into product quality.
  6. Profit!

Sorry, couldn’t resist that last one. If you don’t recognize the meme, don’t worry about it. Obviously, even though this will be a collaborative process, I already have some opinions about definitions and appropriate technologies and I might as well share them. Obviously, anything that calls itself a cloud filesystem will be part of a more general cloud ecosystem. It must also exhibit the key cloud characteristics of distribution, elasticity, and multi-tenancy. Does this mean a storage cloud within a data center, across data centers, on a user’s desktop, or any combination of these? I don’t know, I don’t pretend to know, and I hope other people will be willing to engage in a dialogue on the issue. I sort of suspect the answer will be all of the above, and I have a picture in my head of an infrastructure that will support all simultaneously, but it’s still gelling so I’ll keep most of it to myself for now. The one thing I will say is that I think one important technological base for a cloud filesystem will be a current parallel filesystem (or other data store, but it’s only a piece and that’s a provisional opinion anyway based on the thought that there will be enough work to do without having to reinvent that particularly challenging wheel.

I’m sure some people think that all sounds pretty exciting, and others think it’s mind-numbingly boring. If you’re in the first category, I invite you to share your thoughts and/or to join me at Red Hat’s upcoming Open Source Cloud Computing Forum on July 22. I won’t even have started yet, technically, but I plan to attend anyway because I’m pretty excited about all of this and it seems like a good way to get a head start.

On a more personal note, before I go, I’d like to say something else. This has been my first all-out job hunt in almost twenty years. I’ve been extremely lucky – and I don’t for a moment pretend that it’s anything but luck – that I know people who are much better at networking than I am, and who have been able to help in my search. To all of the people who brought me in for interviews, acted as references, or even just shared tips and encouragement: thank you. I know I’m lousy at following up on these sorts of things, I know at least two groups of people will be disappointed or even offended by how I’ve handled things and/or how they’ve turned out, so where appropriate I offer apologies as well, but mostly I offer my thanks. Computing is a much more social profession than most people think, and it’s the people that matter. If there’s any way I can share some of my good fortune with others, just let me know.