|By Jon Shende||
|August 31, 2010 07:45 AM EDT||
[Adopted from my BLOG December 2009]
Lately in the IT community all the hype is on Cloud Computing. We have small start-ups offering several variations of Cloud services as well as some of the established big players (Google, Amazon, IBM, Novell (aimed at cloud service providers),Sun) stepping up their offerings of cloud services.
But what exactly is Cloud Computing? Is it Virtualization? Is it services that we accessed via a web browser over the years, something totally new, or is it all of these,but just rebranded?
The term Cloud Computing started gaining traction when Google and IBM launched a university initiative to address internet scale computing back in 2007.
These services has been evolving since the 90s and its previous incarnations can be said to be Grid and Utility computing and the Software as a Service offerings we saw around a decade ago.
Cloud Computing Journal - the Web's most widely Web resource on Cloud Computing
In a nutshell we can draw an analogy which can be stated as this: think of a utility service you use, say for example electricity. You get your meter read every few weeks and you receive a bill for energy consumed between readings.
The same underlying premise can be applied to a cloud service, an end user can subscribe for any of the offered cloud services and based on service usage from the provider be billed for consumption of that particular service or series of services for its specified time-frame.
Once can safely state that Cloud Computing as an on-demand, self-service, pay-as you go utility, evolved from a combination of grid computing, virtualization, and automation.
Experts estimate that this industry will grow to a 42 billion dollar industry by 2012, however the implementation and usage of cloud computing models and services is not without issues.
Most business managers will most likely consider the Capex and Opex aspects, especially in this economy. How much money an IT department can save yet still maintain operational efficiencies and security is a primary focus; by implementing one or more cloud computing services, an enterprise can obtain the scale and flexibility it needs and potentially save time as well with the concepts of dynamic provisioning of needed services.
One Cloud Computing claim is to lower costs, increase business agility and help increase the velocity at which applications can be deployed, however a good question to consider is can one expect its implementation to be disruptive and to what length?
In order to engage cloud computing services, business models will have to be adjusted or downright changed, in order to effectively and efficiently managing the utility aspect of computing power used in everyday operations and the manner in which management will be able to utilize resources.
As with any implementation, standards and regulation needs to be formulated and implemented in order to ensure that both vendor and the tenant are in compliance and within governance of an agreed format of policies.
As of now there are no formal standards directed solely toward cloud computing however NIST has proposed a potential framework standard called Standards Acceleration to Jumpstart Adoption of Cloud Computing (SAJAAC). With this, every effort should be made to ensure the confidentiality, availability and integrity of data held within a cloud computing environment going forward.
The National Institute for Science and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing as "a pay-per-use model for enabling available, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction." 
Cloud Computing Models: Cloud models can be one of the following three:
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) e.g. Tier 3, Amazon EC2,while the subscriber does not control the cloud infrastructure they do have control over select portions of network e.g. firewalls, operating system, deployed applications and storage.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) this goes back to the early 70's when it was referred to as Framework as a Service. What is does is simply to provide different combinations of services to a subscriber supporting an application development life-cycle e.g. Google's App Engine which will let a subscriber run web applications on Google's infrastructure or Azure. In essence the subscriber will use programming(.Net Java python) and tools supplied by the service provider with no underlying responsibility for the cloud deployed network, severs, operating system and storage etc.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) e.g. Facebook, Salesforce.com, applications running on a cloud infrastructure that can be accessed via a web browser interface.
Bear in mind that there can be dependencies and a relationship between the models as Infrastructure as a Service can be stated as the foundation of Cloud Computing services, upon which Platform as a Service and then Software as a Service is built upon.
these services can be implemented by the end user in four different manners :
1) Private Cloud aka a corporate cloud refers to proprietary computing architecture providing hosted services to a limited number of people which resides behind a corporate firewall, in other words a single tenant.
By using private clouds enterprises/tenants will receive the same economies of scale and bi-directional scaling as that of the public cloud user.
However being a single enterprise or division within that enterprise will ensure the additional benefit of more control and security for data held within the private cloud, as on-premise data centers can be converted into private clouds by implementing virtualization technologies from companies such as Microsoft, Citrix, VMware, Novell and Sun.
2) Public Cloud is the cloud that is provided for lease external to an entity's physical location e.g. Amazon's EC2.
This deployment facilitates rapid scaling via virtualization technologies (which enables cloud user resources an ability to rapidly start up and shut down,) and can be utilized by multiple tenants however; within this deployment users have no access to dedicated resources.
This results in users giving up a certain amount of control over the process, which in turn can raise security and compliance issues.
3) Hybrid Cloud is a mixture of the public and private. This can be appealing for a company that chose to store non confidential data externally say using Simple Storage Service (S3) whilst keeping private data in-house.
4) Managed Cloud -In this offering the physical infrastructure in operation is owned by the subscriber and can be housed within the physical premises of the subscriber.
However the service provider will control portions of management and security of the service utility.
Some Deployment Concerns
As with the deployment of any IT system there will be challenges and cause for concern. Certain scenarios will have to be anticipated and use cases as well as processes to mitigate these concerns need to be clarified. Some examples of concerns are as follows:
1) Software licenses: software is typically subscribed as those that are proprietary licensed or those that are free and open source licensed. Software licenses govern usage or redistribution of software which are in most cases copyright protected.
Something to consider is how software that you want to deploy into a cloud is licensed.
Is the software you want to deploy licensed on a per server basis or not and how will easy or difficult will deploying your software of choice into a cloud be?
Will proprietary software solutions need to be confined to dedicated hosting environments? Most likely yes, at least for now or until you can get a vendor who can securely provide the software you need on a pay as you go basis.
Because of how software licensing is structured early cloud users have been found to use more open source software.
2) Single point of failure: a mission critical application is deployed via a single vendor; issues at the vendor's site may severely impact the availability of resources for the tenant.
The vendor may claim to have multiple, remote backup locations completely powered However when it comes to ensuring that, in addition, redundant cloud administration and infrastructure software are in place, the vendor may fall short.
3) Portability: a cause for concern is that each vendor may utilize different applications APIs and formats for data. This in turn may limit application and data portability to other environments, as they are likely to be using proprietary APIs thus causing a "Lock In" situation where it will be easy to sign a contract and use a vendor service however transferring out to another vendor could have major issues.
Of course as the cloud computing environment evolves this may soon be remedied.
4) Security: the elephant in the cloud room. The most common fear with using a cloud deployment is a loss of control and security of data.
Granted this is still a system built on hard and software platforms and as such is still susceptible to the traditional security attacks (DOS, DDOS etc.), conversely a point for consideration should be that any security measure will be more cost effective when implemented on a larger scale.
Any good IT manager has voiced concerns over whether employees/administrators at the cloud provider can be trusted to not look at data or even modify it or, whether other customers sharing the cloud can hack data or access it without leaving an audit trail.
From this a tenant can ask about methods the vendor is employing to protect data such as high physical security as well as what types of monitoring, intrusion detection and firewall equipment are in place at their centers.
Even worse is whether competitors could find out sensitive information such as customer orders, pricing and cost information, and negatively impact business. And of course what about privacy concerns and government regulations?
Other issues of concern can be:
- What levels of protection in place to protect one customer from accessing another customer's data or application within a shared cloud space?
- Who will be liable for security breaches and how will the law regarding this in any one jurisdiction ensure compliance?
- How well will a vendor system integrate with a tenant's security systems?
5) Scalability: Every user/potential user of the cloud constantly hear of the substantial savings they will realize by utilizing cloud-based resources.
In order to take full advantage of the scalability of the cloud there should be a means of ensuring that there is some form of dynamic measurement and resource management for applications held within a cloud.
Scalability within the cloud can be had by composing the service from other scalable services as can be seen with Google App Engine.
6) Auditing: With the cloud one has to consider how compliance with ISO standards, Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA ,PCI-DSS etc. will impact certain data from being deployed. This more so when considering the attractiveness of data to unauthorized entities and the methods they could use to gain access to that data.
Any IT manager will also tell you that without proper planning the cost of an audit can be higher than expected.
As of this writing, I am not aware of any formulated standards for auditing within the cloud, however I must state that for a business, auditing within the cloud may be an attractive option as, this can be done live with no down time or interruption to business processes.
7) Compliance: There are no standards in place as of yet, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST )and others are working toward that end.
8) Other Data Access: what happens to my data if the vendor revokes my access or there is a system malfunction? This is a common question that anyone thinking of using the cloud should ask. Remember the data loss for T-mobile customers using the services of Microsoft subsidiary - Danger? "Microsoft said any data that users had on their devices and is no longer there has almost certainly been permanently lost" Here there was no revocation of access but an alleged system glitch.
A personal example occurred a few days ago when I tried to access a Gmail account I kept just for research and online backup.
The system message intimated that I had violated the "Terms of Agreement". What?! The Gmail account was hardly ever used to send email and the Google docs account was used as a second online backup for some of my documents and files. If this was not a secondary backup or not a backup at all, I would have lost access all my uploaded documents and files, with no recourse for resolution but filling out a form and hoping for contact from the support center.
In order to address and mitigate these issues the tenant should ensure that workarounds and backup plans are worked into their Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with the vendor.
Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
A service level agreement a part of a service contract where the level of service is formally defined. In practice, the term is sometimes used to refer to the contracted delivery time (of the service) or performance.  Whilst there may not be much flexibility with a vendor in defining an SLA, I am confident that the laws of supply and demand will shift this more toward the tenant in the near future.
Cloud computing vendors are getting into this business to affect their bottom line and shareholder value if publicly traded. At the end of the day their focus will be on making a profit on services offered.
In light of this most tenants may feel as though they are getting into an arrangement where it appears as though vendors create the SLAs for their own protection against litigation, with minimal assurances to a tenant.
That being said, this does not mean that an IT manager cannot make the SLA work as a tool to chose an appropriate service provider. An IT manager's main concern will be the security of data and of course, the traditional interpretation of the CIA triad (Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability) may not be applicable within their cloud service.
To start an IT manager can focus on the following when hammering out their SLA with a vendor:
1) Data Protection: where there is a clear definition as to who will have access to the data and the levels of protection in effect for their data.
Some questions that can be asked are:
- How will data be encrypted?
- How will compliance be addressed?
- What are the levels of access control?
- Will there be sub-contractors or third party providers processing the data?
- Where are backups stored?
- How is the data center secured?
- What happens to the data if service providers are switched?
- What processes are in place to mitigate legal inquiries about a customer's data?
- How often are audits done and what types of auditing tools are in place?
- What happens to my data if there is an investigation taking place on another tenant sharing services and how will you ensure my access to my data in the event of equipment seizure by federal entities?
- How is data deletion handled?
2) Continuity: one has to consider what happens in the event of an outage or another related event that causes data to become unavailable.
Some questions to consider here are
- How will the vendor define a services outage?
- Will there be scheduled vendor downtime for maintenance etc.?
- Will there be an alternative vendor hot site or vendor site prepped to take on load of access in the event of a vendor outage?
- Are there tools in motion which will determine the severity of a vendor outage?
- How will the tenant be compensated in the event of a vendor an outage?
- Define levels of redundancy in place to minimize vendor outages?
3) Costs: on cost to consider are:
- How is the vendor's fee structured and is taxes and external fees accounted for in a vendor quote?
- Will there be or are there current licensing fees above and beyond stated vendor service fees?
- Will there be any hidden or add on costs for vendor support?
- How does the vendor structure their charges? Is it based upon usage, traffic or storage limit
- Does the vendor offer price protection?
It is expected that Cloud Computing will the wave of the future in terms of computing, it is only logical that the cloud's economies of scale and flexibility will impact how technology evolves and how users of technologies implement these technologies.
However in terms of security the massive availability of resources and data within a cloud does present a very attractive target for attackers.
That being said, we can assume that cloud-based defences may be more robust, scalable and cost-effective, in an effort to mitigate security concerns regarding multiple tenants, encryption, trust and compliance.
Part of a cloud service is the API. However when it comes to integration between vendors this may pose a problem for tenants, given the fact that cloud APIs are not yet standardized. This means that each vendor has a specific APIs for managing its services that will lock customers to their vendors due to vendor proprietary technology.
The work around here would be to look for vendors that use standard APIs wherever possible. This is a viable option as standard APIs are already implemented for access to storage as well as deploying and scaling applications.
In terms of auditing and forensics, dedicated, pay-per-use forensic images of virtual machines can be obtained by an auditor without having to take infrastructure offline. This of course results in less down-time for auditing as well as it can provide cost-effective storage for logs without deterring system performance.
All of which will increase the return on investment as well as decrease operational costs normally involved with in house systems processing the same data as in the cloud.
Of course Cloud Computing is still in its infancy and whilst some proposals may look good in theory, only time will tell how we proceed and evolve with this system of computing.
 Cloud Connect
 Cloud Security Alliance
Cloud Computing journal
European Network and Information Security Agency.
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of robomq.io, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at robomq.io, discussed how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at th...
Jun. 29, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,727
"We provide a web application framework for building really sophisticated web applications that run on a browser without any installation need so we get used for biotech, defense, and banking applications," noted Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit (http://DevOpsSummit.SYS-CON.com), held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York
Jun. 29, 2015 04:16 PM EDT Reads: 553
"Plutora provides release and testing environment capabilities to the enterprise," explained Dalibor Siroky, Director and Co-founder of Plutora, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jun. 29, 2015 03:34 PM EDT Reads: 528
The time is ripe for high speed resilient software defined storage solutions with unlimited scalability. ISS has been working with the leading open source projects and developed a commercial high performance solution that is able to grow forever without performance limitations. In his session at Cloud Expo, Alex Gorbachev, President of Intelligent Systems Services Inc., shared foundation principles of Ceph architecture, as well as the design to deliver this storage to traditional SAN storage co...
Jun. 29, 2015 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,788
Public Cloud IaaS started its life in the developer and startup communities and has grown rapidly to a $20B+ industry, but it still pales in comparison to how much is spent worldwide on IT: $3.6 trillion. In fact, there are 8.6 million data centers worldwide, the reality is many small and medium sized business have server closets and colocation footprints filled with servers and storage gear. While on-premise environment virtualization may have peaked at 75%, the Public Cloud has lagged in adop...
Jun. 29, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,219
Discussions about cloud computing are evolving into discussions about enterprise IT in general. As enterprises increasingly migrate toward their own unique clouds, new issues such as the use of containers and microservices emerge to keep things interesting. In this Power Panel at 16th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the state of cloud computing today, and what enterprise IT professionals need to know about how the latest topics and trends affect t...
Jun. 29, 2015 01:19 PM EDT Reads: 764
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of pro...
Jun. 29, 2015 12:19 PM EDT Reads: 626
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BMC delivers software solutions that help IT transform digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive business advantage. BMC has worked with thousands of leading companies to create and deliver powerful IT management services. From mainframe to cloud to mobile, BMC pairs high-speed digital innovation with robust...
Jun. 29, 2015 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,530
Even as cloud and managed services grow increasingly central to business strategy and performance, challenges remain. The biggest sticking point for companies seeking to capitalize on the cloud is data security. Keeping data safe is an issue in any computing environment, and it has been a focus since the earliest days of the cloud revolution. Understandably so: a lot can go wrong when you allow valuable information to live outside the firewall. Recent revelations about government snooping, along...
Jun. 29, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,116
DevOps tends to focus on the relationship between Dev and Ops, putting an emphasis on the ops and application infrastructure. But that’s changing with microservices architectures. In her session at DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, Evangelist for F5 Networks, will focus on how microservices are changing the underlying architectures needed to scale, secure and deliver applications based on highly distributed (micro) services and why that means an expansion into “the network” for DevOps.
Jun. 29, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,247
Internet of Things is moving from being a hype to a reality. Experts estimate that internet connected cars will grow to 152 million, while over 100 million internet connected wireless light bulbs and lamps will be operational by 2020. These and many other intriguing statistics highlight the importance of Internet powered devices and how market penetration is going to multiply many times over in the next few years.
Jun. 29, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,854
There will be 150 billion connected devices by 2020. New digital businesses have already disrupted value chains across every industry. APIs are at the center of the digital business. You need to understand what assets you have that can be exposed digitally, what their digital value chain is, and how to create an effective business model around that value chain to compete in this economy. No enterprise can be complacent and not engage in the digital economy. Learn how to be the disruptor and not ...
Jun. 29, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,092
"We got started as search consultants. On the services side of the business we have help organizations save time and save money when they hit issues that everyone more or less hits when their data grows," noted Otis Gospodnetić, Founder of Sematext, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jun. 29, 2015 10:46 AM EDT Reads: 535
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society-changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jason Mondanaro, Director, Product Management at Metanga, discussed how you can plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the world...
Jun. 29, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,010
One of the hottest areas in cloud right now is DRaaS and related offerings. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Dale Levesque, Disaster Recovery Product Manager with Windstream's Cloud and Data Center Marketing team, will discuss the benefits of the cloud model, which far outweigh the traditional approach, and how enterprises need to ensure that their needs are properly being met.
Jun. 29, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,887
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and Containers together help companies to achieve their business goals faster and more effectively. In his session at DevOps Summit, Ruslan Synytsky, CEO and Co-founder of Jelastic, reviewed the current landscape of...
Jun. 29, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,968
Malicious agents are moving faster than the speed of business. Even more worrisome, most companies are relying on legacy approaches to security that are no longer capable of meeting current threats. In the modern cloud, threat diversity is rapidly expanding, necessitating more sophisticated security protocols than those used in the past or in desktop environments. Yet companies are falling for cloud security myths that were truths at one time but have evolved out of existence.
Jun. 29, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,944
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will addresses this very serious issue o...
Jun. 29, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,396
SYS-CON Events announced today that JFrog, maker of Artifactory, the popular Binary Repository Manager, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based in California, Israel and France, founded by longtime field-experts, JFrog, creator of Artifactory and Bintray, has provided the market with the first Binary Repository solution and a software distribution social platform.
Jun. 29, 2015 09:20 AM EDT Reads: 594
In the midst of the widespread popularity and adoption of cloud computing, it seems like everything is being offered “as a Service” these days: Infrastructure? Check. Platform? You bet. Software? Absolutely. Toaster? It’s only a matter of time. With service providers positioning vastly differing offerings under a generic “cloud” umbrella, it’s all too easy to get confused about what’s actually being offered. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Kevin Hazard, Director of Digital Content for SoftL...
Jun. 29, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,932