I received a notice the other day about an upcoming webcast (April 21st) from Innovation INSIGHT titled: Disasters Happen: Is Your Enterprise Protected in the Cloud? It’s free, so check it out.
We tend not to think about it much but unpredictable and sometimes even unthinkable -- disasters happens. Mission critical IT systems require mission critical protection, no matter the platform or the supplier who may be operating the underlying hardware. It is not just a matter of the systems, but the network connections and the integrated applications that are important. No one cares if the lights are flashing and the disks are spinning if the end-to-end transactions can’t take place.
When moving to cloud this level of system interaction needs to be understood and failover or business continuity options tested. Cloud vendors will need to participate in these tests (at least to some degree).
No protection means no chance for quick recovery. The result? Your enterprise’s business will be deeply impacted and in unpredictable ways.
This webcast will likely look at some of these issues and assist those attending in understanding alternatives – before you need them. No one wants to go down with the ship!
Two of the other HP fellows contributed to an article about Technology Strategies Every Enterprise Needs. In it they focus on:
- On-line testing
- Master Data Management
- Cloud Computing Security
When I think of these three areas, I am surprised at how these are overlooked and what new opportunities are available that are not discussed. In the testing space, most organizations have a fully occupied testing organization and may not realize the extent of testing that needs to occur when moving to the cloud. Even if it is just a move to an IaaS service, performance and functionality testing is required, let alone if they want to actually take advantage of the clouds parallel processing capabilities to perform functions more quickly. Many times the in-house organization will need to supplement their testing capabilities during the transition period. These extra resources allow for higher quality testing and can help with understanding of the new environment as well.
The MDM space has always been an issue organizations need to address. Having systems of record and ensuring consistency between systems takes unnecessary confusion out of the organization – at a minimum. If an enterprise is moving to higher level of cloud capabilities like Software as a Service or even BPO, this linkage need can be easily overlooked in the planning process. Having live links with external systems will be difficult to maintain, but that is a price to pay for access to the SaaS Intellectual Property. If it doesn’t look like you can maintain the links, you’ll likely need to rethink your strategy – eventually. This kind of Enterprise Architecture activity is more important in the cloud than ever.
Cloud security is the one area that really worries organizations. In many cases it is because they have relied on the physical structures of the compute center to provide a (false) feeling of security. Although this is an important issue to everyone, some industries have their own set of rules and regulations (e.g., Hipaa, PCI) . Understanding those rules and what they are trying to address will strengthen everyone’s security understanding. Security thoughts need to be expanded to disaster recovery and business continuity as well. Just because a cloud provider has 99.99% availability within their data center, it doesn’t mean your service has that level of availability end-to-end.
The one area that I don’t think is getting adequate coverage in the cloud area is the user interface consistency needs. We can’t expect to put a hodgepodge of in-house and vendor provided interfaces in front of the user community and expect high productivity. There are cases when it can happen and the cost of consistency may be too high, but I rarely hear organizations plan for it as an issue.
Although cloud activities may have a great deal of similarities to the current IT environment, numerous active decisions will need to be made, don't expect a passive approach to cut it.
The August 2008 issue of Scientific American has an article entitled "Bracing for a Solar Superstorm". It describes the potentially devastating effects of a "Coronal Mass Ejection," a wave of charged particles streaming out from the sun, creating an electromagnetic wave that could alter the earth's magnetic field. Solar storms are observed as "sunspots".
The last solar superstorm occurred in 1859. "Scientific instruments around the world...suddenly shot off scale, and spurious electric currents surged into the world's telegraph systems". If such a superstorm were to occur today, "it could severely damage satellites, disable radio communications and cause continent-wide electrical blackouts that would require weeks or longer to recover from".
The number of occurrences of sunspots varies over an 11-year cycle. According to the article, ice cores suggest that a superstorm occurs about every 500 years. Storms that occur "every 50 years could still fry satellites, jam radios and cause coast-to-coast blackouts". NASA scientists have predicted that the next peak of the 50-year cycle will occur between 2010 and 2012.
The 1859 superstorm was disruptive, but the impact was in no way comparable to the devastation that could result from such a superstorm today. What might be the effects on computers and the Internet? Major power surges and outages would certainly affect computers and Internet communications. Would telecommunications facilities be fried along with electrical transformers?
In the last 10 years, we have become increasingly dependent on the Internet. Many commercial exchanges occur over the Internet. Our financial systems rely on global networks for monetary exchange, credit sales and payments. Enterprises have become globally distributed, depending on communications for daily business operations. Transportation and distribution systems depend on computing and communications for scheduling, coordination and operational controls.
While solar superstorms occur every 500 years on average, we should not assume that the next superstorm will not occur for another 350 years. When the next one occurs, will our computers be protected from the effects of an electromagnetic wave? Will our telecommunications facilities and the Internet survive?
Consider the demise of the ancient Mayan civilization. Between the 5th and 8th centuries, A.D., the Mayan civilization of Central and South America reached a peak. The evolution of Mayan civilization is described in The Ancient Maya by Philip Landmeier. There were cities larger, and with more people than cities in Europe. They had an advanced written language. "Astronomy and arithmetics advanced and the Mayans were able to measure the orbits of celestial bodies with unprecedented accuracy". They necessarily had extensive networks for supplies of food and water, and a sewage system. They had to have economic and political systems to exchange goods and maintain order on a large scale.
Then the civilization collapsed. The population dwindled and dispersed. Something happened that their civilization could not survive, drought, disease, political change; the cause is not known. The civilization was built on the state of their world as they knew it, and something went wrong.
As our global civilization evolves, we optimize our systems and our standard of living based on the current technology and the current state of our ecosystem. As we do so, our civilization is becoming more highly integrated, and our systems more interdependent and fragile.
Our free enterprise culture drives us to optimize based on current circumstances. An auto company cannot decide to significantly increase the cost of its cars to reduce emissions if other auto companies are not compelled to do the same. If a company significantly increases the cost of its products or services to survive a solar superstorm, will customers buy the products? Probably not. Unfortunately, our global civilization increasingly relies upon enterprises, products and networks of all kinds that are optimized for the way things are, and things will inevitably change.
While a solar storm is only one global threat, the severity of risk is directly related to the vulnerability of our computers and telecommunications networks and associated devices. This risk belongs to the information technology and communications industry. Our increasing dependence on computers and the Internet is making our civilization increasingly fragile. Are we ready for the next wave of solar storms predicted for 2010 to 2012?
If our systems fail to function on a massive scale, those of us in advanced societies can't just leave our cities and live off the land like the ancient Mayans. We depend on the continuous operation of our systems for survival.