Cloud Source Blog
In This HP Cloud Source Blog, HP Expert, Christian Verstraete will examine cloud computing challenges, discuss practical approaches to cloud computing and suggest realistic solutions.

I don't use Cloud and I don't care

ubiquitous cloud.jpgThe other day I tried to explain to somebody what I do for a living. I mentioned cloud, so the question came back, “What the heck is that?” I used the Nicholas Carr analogy with electricity to describe how you can consume information technology without owning computers and how you can scale up or down your consumption, and you only pay for what you consume. Frankly I didn’t dare talk about private cloud as I felt I could not make this tangible.

 

The person responded “I don’t use that type of stuff,” while looking at the screen of his iPhone. I explained to him that his iPhone was connected to the cloud and that he actually used cloud on a day-to-day basis. His answer, “I don’t care.”

 

Do you care? Or has it all just become natural and expected?

This got me thinking. Shouldn’t cloud computing become something so natural it’s part of our daily lives that we don’t care about it. I thought “Do I care about electricity?” Frankly no I don’t care about actual electricity. I care about a blackout, about the absence of electricity, but not about it when it’s there. Yes I try limiting my consumption to reduce my bill, but that’s about all. I don’t care where it’s coming from, who is producing it. I simply care that it works.

 

Could we end up with something similar in the cloud? Maybe. What is needed for that to happen? I believe three things:

  1. Access needs to become ubiquitous
  2. Usage needs to be standardized
  3. Security/compliance should be ensured

Ubiquitous access

You can find electricity nearly everywhere, can’t you? The only thing you need to find is a plug. Well the cloud “plug” is an end-point device, a computer, a tablet, a smartphone. It gives you access to the service, typically through a wireless connection (WiFi or 3/4 G). Unfortunately today these connections are expensive and there are many places without appropriate connectivity. That limits the usability of cloud services at the moment.

 

The remaining question is whether the current technologies form the information grid for cloud access, or whether we will be using a different technology moving forward. In my mind the jury is still out and will depend on how quickly the telcos will be able to make 3G or 4G available worldwide at an affordable price. The availability of multiple standards around the globe and the roaming costs are great inhibitors at the moment.  Either telcos get it right or a new technology is bound to appear.

 

What could that new technology be? I don’t know, but look at what Free is doing in the French market. They build a network of access points by enabling each Internet/TV set-top box as a Wi-Fi hotspot. The more customers they have, the better their network coverage. Is this the ultimate model? Probably not, but it’s an interesting alternative. And I’m sure others are under development as I write.

 

But the telcos are not the only ones that need to change. Electricity comes standard in hotel rooms; in many cases Internet does not. I would need access in the train, on the plane. As I write this on the Eurostar, I can tell you that it is not easy to gain access on mass transit. Some trains actually have Wi-Fi access, but it is expensive, difficult to subscribe and very unreliable. We can do better and still have a long way to go.

 

Standardization

If I want cloud to be usable by all, I need to standardize and simplify its use. Unsophisticated users do not want to have to care about the specific characteristics of multiple cloud providers. They want to get the service they are looking for anywhere, anytime. The actual technology needs to be shielded. Services need to be accessible from anywhere.

 

The concept of an appstore may be an ideal approach for this. It answers the question, “How do I provision a service?”  You provision the service by downloading an application from the appstore. That application is the front-end of the service on my device and it interacts with the cloud service in the back-end. I do not need to remember URLs, nor do I need to know passwords and logins for the services. I just click on the app and start consuming.

 

By the way, this is nothing new. We used to have client-server. This time the client is my front-end device and the server is my web-based service. Once I have downloaded the application, I shield myself from the actual service delivery architecture. In other words, this service may be delivered by one or many clouds, it’s completely transparent to me.

 

But this is only feasible once I have provisioned the service. So I need one place where that service can be provisioned from and that is the “enterprise cloud broker” I talked about in my previous blog post. I have used the term appstore above, because it describes the concept rather well.

 

We will only be able to create and scale this approach if we use standards. There are many cloud service providers out there. If we have a standard way to provision services, to receive billing information, to monitor SLAs and others, we will be able to quickly add services to the service catalog/appstore.

 

But we may want to go one step further, and have the ability to run the same service from multiple clouds. Why would that be necessary? I can see at least two reasons:

  • If one of the cloud service providers is not available, we could shift to another immediately.
  • To comply with local regulations, we may have to place the service in regional clouds, so will need to have the service running from multiple clouds.

Obviously, large service providers will ensure their cloud covers all geographies, but I also can see smaller players teaming up around the globe to provide similar capabilities. Developing cloud services on top of a standardized cloud stack, such as OpenStack, facilitates the running of a service on multiple clouds.

 

Security

And this brings me to the security aspect. Obviously my users would love to use their own device to access these services. In our wonderful IT jargon, we call that BYOD—bring your own device. BYOD is also a major contributor to CIO headaches. Indeed, these devices are now be used for both consumer and business applications. The user may play a game while looking at confidential enterprise information. Take these steps to protect your data from being compromised:

  • First, make sure the data is encrypted as soon as it leaves the datacenter and keep it encrypted on the device.
  • Second, you may want to ensure the data does not remain on the device, so wipe out any business data that is not needed.
  • Third, lock the device with user authentication before the device can be unlocked.
  • Fourth, in case the device is stolen or lost, ensure you have the possibility to wipe out the device remotely. There are complementary technologies existing that can enhance the security of the device, but these are the ones you need to make sure you implement.

It’s also important to understand the security processes and procedures used for the services that host your business data. Make sure you discuss that with your provider. Understand the services he is using and what the security levels are for his subcontractors. Begin with this principle: you know your customers/users and anybody else is your enemy. What I mean by that is to  make life easy for your users, but make it miserable for anybody else that tries to access your services. Start from that point of view when reviewing the security of what you deliver to your users.

 

Conclusion

Will we still talk about cloud in five years from now, or will cloud simply be the way we use information technology? Many people are using cloud today without even knowing it. That’s probably a good thing. From a business perspective, more education on what can happen with data and its implications of misuse may be required.

 

We’ve come a long way when it comes to making information technology easier and more intuitive to use. That’s the benefit. We have also made it more complex to manage and maintain. That’s the drawback. But it is our job as IT professionals to shield our users from that complexity and provide them with a simple user experience.

Cloud computing set apart as a separate class of computing, will probably disappear in the next couple of years.

It will just be the way we run IT. And users will probably take the access to IT resources, applications and services for granted. They won’t care what it is called, just so long as it works. 

Labels: cloud| CloudSource
Comments
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About the Author
Christian is responsible for building services focused on advising clients in their move to cloud, particularly from a business process and ...


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