CLOUD COMPUTING MADE EASY by Cary Landis and Dan Blacharski

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by Cary Landis and Dan Blacharski
Version 0.3
Cloud Computing Made Easy
Virtual Global, Inc.
Table of Contents
I. Introduction .............................................................. 6
II. What is cloud computing? ....................................... 8
What is "as a service"? ................................................................. 10
III. Why Cloud Computing? ......................................... 11
Cloud computing for end-users ..................................................... 11
Cloud computing for system administrators .................................. 12
Cloud computing for software developers ..................................... 12
Cloud computing for IT buyers, corporate and federal .................. 12
IV. Cloud Computing Up Close ................................... 14
A. Cloud Infrastructure (Infrastructure-as-a-Service, or IaaS) . 14
So where is all this infrastructure? ........................................................ 16
Virtualization ........................................................................................ 16
B. Cloud Platforms (Platform-as-a-Service, or PaaS) ............. 17
Cloud Platforms as Middleware ............................................................ 20
C. Cloud Software (Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS) ............. 22
V. Other cloud offerings ............................................. 23
What are "Web services"? ............................................................ 23
Supercomputing-as-a-Service ....................................................... 23
High Performance Computing as-a-service (HPCaaS) ................. 24
VI. Cloud as-a-Necessity ............................................ 25
The evolution of cloud computing ................................................. 27
Why cloud computing is already becoming mainstream ............... 28
What does cloud computing mean to me? .................................... 29
SOHO and small business ............................................................ 30
VII. Misconceptions ...................................................... 30
Top Ten Misconceptions about Cloud Computing ........................ 30
1. The cloud is just a return to centralized computing. ........................ 30
2. The cloud is not secure. ................................................................ 31
3. The cloud isn’t ready for enterprise users. ..................................... 31
4. You lose control with the cloud. ..................................................... 34
5. It’s the same thing as utility computing or grid computing. .............. 34
6. It’s only for low-end consumer applications. ................................... 35
7. It’s too isolated from my other data and applications. ..................... 35
8. We won’t need PCs any more with cloud computing. ..................... 36
9. Reliability will be a problem. .......................................................... 36
10. The cloud will give you performance problems. ............................ 36
VIII. The “People Cloud” ............................................... 37
Job 1.0 .......................................................................................... 37
Job 2.0 .......................................................................................... 38
Job 3.0 .......................................................................................... 39
The end of the company as we know it ............................... 40
The Virtual Company .................................................................... 41
"Jobs for Americans" ..................................................................... 43
The next wave of collaboration ........................................... 44
IX. Groundbreaking cloud applications ....................... 46
Healthcare applications (Health-IT) ............................................... 46
Government: NASA and Nebula ................................................... 49
X. The Open Cloud .................................................... 50
Is open software free software? .................................................... 51
XI. Security and risks .................................................. 52
Security improvement through common security models in the
cloud platform ............................................................................... 53
Cloud computing provides superior physical security.................... 54
The fallacy of direct control ................................................. 55
Alternative Delivery Models ........................................................... 57
Accessing the cloud ...................................................................... 58
XII. The Future of Cloud ............................................... 59
Top ten predictions: The future of cloud computing ...................... 62
What’s Next? ................................................................................. 65
About the Authors ......................................................................... 66
Index................................................................................ 67
I. Introduction
PCs were a 30-year ride.
Are you ready for what’s next?
e are entering into a new era of computing, and it's all about the
This immediately brings up several important questions, which
deserve thoughtful answers: “What is cloud computing?” “Is it real, or just
another buzzword?” And most important, “How does it affect me?”
In short, cloud computing is completely real and will affect almost
everyone. In this day and age, we have all become stakeholders in the
computing movement, and we are all affected when major changes occur.
Remember how things changed when the Internet came along? Changes in
computer technology seem to move at lightning speeds. It wasn't that long
ago that desktop computers had 20MB hard drives and people relied on
floppy disks for storage. For that matter, it wasn't that long ago that there
were no desktop computers, and computing involved cardboard
punchcards fed into a hopper.
It should be no surprise that another evolution is upon us once again, as
there have been several since the dawn of the information age. In this
book, we choose the term “era” because cloud computing is more than an
evolution. Rather, we’re entering the type of radical shakeup that only
comes around once every 20 to 30 years: a disruptive shift in the
underlying computing platform-of-choice. Remember when we moved
from host computers to PCs? Now, cloud computing is shifting that
computing power back to hosts again. Only this time things are different,
because those hosts have become abstract, and are scattered all over the
Internet… all over the world. That is to say that computing power is being
shifted to the “cloud”. Such a shift to cloud computing would not have
been possible until now, because the enabling technology did not yet exist.
Broadband connectivity now makes cloud computing a realistic possibility
for not just larger companies, but for small businesses, SOHO operations,
and individual consumers. These users now have the fat pipes they need to
access the cloud, and they also have access now to applications and
services that they couldn't begin to access or afford just a few years ago.
The possibilities are growing even faster as the US government undertakes
its rural broadband initiatives, which in turn will push the potential of the
cloud further to the masses.
Why put applications and data in the cloud? Lots of reasons, depending on
who you are: If you’re just writing a document or working from home,
then you can probably find online apps to do the trick without buying
expensive office software. If you’re an IT guy, even better—the cloud
makes computing easier to manage, drives down costs (as compared to
PCs and dedicated servers), and allows end-users to gain access to a
broader range of applications and services. Sure, PCs and dedicated servers
have served us well, but not without problems: They crash; they require us
to buy, manually install, upgrade and uninstall expensive software; they
become bloated, slow and loaded with viruses. Wouldn’t it be so much
better if someone else could take care of all the hassles? With cloud
computing, we “rent” only what we need and somebody else manages the
dirty work. Ask any IT person about their work schedule, and you'll find
out quickly that expectations and workload often exceed the reasonable
amount of time anybody really wants to work. And more importantly, ask
the CFO who signs the paychecks. Do they want to cut costs? Absolutely.
And cloud computing will do it—cutting costs while giving the IT staff a
break at the same time.
An even greater impact in the emergence of cloud computing may be that
it inspires a new wave of entrepreneurship. Nowadays, thanks to the cloud,
nearly anyone can launch a genuine global business for mere pocket
change. Venture funding has given way to back-pocket funding, and
startup entrepreneurs no longer need $100,000 to hire a system
administrator, or to buy new business software and servers. Today’s
emerging entrepreneurs can do everything over the Internet, and without
the burden of huge up-front capital expenditures. With cloud computing,
they can do more than collaborate. They can participate.
This isn’t to say that cloud computing is perfect. It’s not. In fact, it’s not
even close. It’s new, and there are thousands of kinks to still be worked
out. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) Computer Security Division, the cloud model still suffers from
significant security challenges. For example, Software as a Service (SaaS)
vendors are implementing disparate security approaches, raising critical
questions about where data is hosted, international privacy laws, exposure
of data to foreign entities, nonstandard authentication and leaks in multitenant
architectures. These security concerns are putting mission critical
data at risk, while slowing the adoption of cloud computing technologies.
That’s why NIST is such an important contributor to the future of cloud
Whatever the case, cloud computing
is here to stay. There is a popular
quote attributed to Thomas Watson,
founder of IBM: "I think there is a
world market for maybe five computers."
That quote assumed that computers
were only for the very largest
customers. We've come a long way
since that speculation, and the
general trend has been to move computing into the hands of everybody
from big business users, all the way down to preschool children. Cloud
computing continues that trend by bringing greater levels of access to
high-end applications and data storage, as well as new techniques for
collaboration, to even the smallest mom 'n pop businesses, telecommuters,
and independent work-at-home contractors.
Mr. Watson got many things right and to his credit once again, what if his
quote was saner than it once sounded? The term "cloud" refers to the
computing power that is available across the Internet. In a sense, the cloud
is rapidly transforming a worldwide network of computers into the largest
single, "virtual" computer in the world.
II. What is cloud computing?
If the term “cloud computing” sounds confusing, then you’re not alone.
Cloud computing sounds like a very fuzzy term, and like a literal cloud in
the sky, you can't really put your finger on it. It may help to understand
WHY cloud computing is so hard to understand:
• First, cloud computing is an extremely broad term. It’s as
broad as saying “desktop computing” (i.e. the PC), which
encompasses everything from the microchip to the Windows
operating system to the software. As we will learn in this eBook,
cloud computing encompasses all the same elements as the
• Second, you can’t touch the cloud. Desktop computing is easy
to understand because you can see, touch and feel your PC. The
cloud is real, but it is abstracted to the point where you cannot see
it, so it’s harder to imagine.
• And third, the term is tainted by the “me too” marketing
buzz. The term "cloud computing", for a variety of very good
reasons, has become very popular, and there are plenty of new and
established IT companies that want to jump on the bandwagon,
“Everything we think of as a
computer today is really just a device
that connects to the big computer that
we are all collectively building”
- Tim O’Reilly, CEO,
O’Reilly Media
often incorrectly labeling anything to do with remote computing as
the "cloud".
This book is entitled “Cloud Computing Made Easy”, so let’s start with a
simple working definition:
“Cloud computing refers to computing on the Internet, as opposed to computing on a
Hmmm, so cloud computing just means Web-based software, right? Well,
no. Truth be told, a lot of major software vendors are saying “We do cloud
computing too!” simply because their software works over the Internet.
Far be it from the authors of this book to disagree with some of the
biggest technology companies in the world, however we will disagree
nonetheless. Web-enabled software is wonderful and very useful - but it
has also been around for a long time. It’s nothing new in itself.
In reality, cloud computing encompasses other forms of computing
beyond software, including the underlying hardware (infrastructure) and
platforms. In many ways, cloud computing is strikingly similar to desktop
computing in that it encompasses the same three basic elements: hardware
(infrastructure), operating systems (platforms), and software. The main
difference is that, with cloud computing, all three elements are "rented"
over the Internet, rather than being managed locally.
Let’s take a closer look at the definition above:
“…computing on the Internet, as opposed to computing on a desktop.”
What does it mean to say "computing on the Internet"? We simply mean
that you can log onto a website to do whatever you might normally do on
a PC or local server. For example, you can “rent” and manage all your
hardware over the Internet, configure computing environments and/or
run software. Cloud computing lets us do all of our computing on the
Internet as a viable alternative to buying, installing, upgrading, uploading,
downloading, backing up and otherwise managing physical hardware,
operating systems and software. It doesn’t require a big upfront
investment, because you “rent” only what you need, and as much as you
need. With cloud computing, your PC is mainly used as a way to run a
Web browser. The actual processing and computing is done by remote
servers (or virtual servers) and software that may be scattered across the
Internet, thus the word “cloud.”
In cloud terminology, the term “as a service” loosely refers to the ability to
use something over the Internet on as-needed basis. The terms software,
operating systems and hardware are confusingly described as Cloud Software
(or Software-as-a-Service), Cloud Platforms (or Platform-as-a-Service) and
Cloud Infrastructure (Infrastructure-as-a-Service). To make matters worse,
the acronyms SaaS, PaaS and IaaS are often used. Since this is Cloud
Computing Made Easy, we’ve adopted the lesser confusing terms: Cloud
Software, Cloud Platforms and Cloud Infrastructure, though we will
occasionally reference the other terms.
What is "as a service"?
In cloud terminology, the phrase “as-a-service” is extensively used, which
simply means that a given cloud product (whether infrastructure, platforms
or software) is offered in a way that it can be “rented” by consumers over
the Internet. By “rented,” we are implying that you pay only for whatever
you use. It is often described as an “on demand” service because it is
available whenever you need it. There are two immediate advantages to the
as-a-service model; first, up-front costs tend to be substantially less; and
second, it affords a greater level of easy scalability. For example, if you
store large amounts of data on premises, you’ll probably buy extra servers
and storage (over-provision) to make sure that a shortage does not occur;
and then when you do reach capacity, you must spend time purchasing
and installing more. If you use storage-as-a-service, on the other hand, the
need for over-provisioning is eliminated, and you simply purchase as much
as you need on an ongoing basis, and the actual provisioning of it is
There are several methods of offering a cloud product as-a-service:
The most familiar model used by cloud software is a per user/month
subscription. For example, a software provider may offer its collaboration
product over the Internet for $30 per month for each user. Another
approach is the advertising supported model, in which the offering is free,
but you need to stare at advertisements. In such cases, the vendor receives
revenues from the advertiser, rather than from the end-users. Facebook is
a popular example of the seemingly free, but ad supported model.
Likewise, cloud platforms employ both the per user/month and ad
supported models, as well as more creative models, such as assessing a fee
per record.
Cloud infrastructure is a bit different, in that it employs the most creative
as-a-service models of all, such as offering CPU time on a per hour basis,
assessing for storage usage, as well as assessing for data transfers per
gigabyte, often with differing rates for uploads versus downloads.
Amazon’s Elastic Computing Cloud (EC2) is a great example. Amazon
EC2 offers a console for creating virtual machines on a per hour basis,
with additional fees assessed for data transfers and storage.
NIST takes it a step further by asserting that true cloud offerings provide
certain expected characteristics, which may not have been present in earlier
Web-based software. These include such things as on-demand selfservice,
resource pooling and rapid elasticity. Naturally, on-demand simply
implies that the service is available to turn on or off as needed. Resource
pooling means that multiple users share a bank of servers (including
storage devices and other computing resources) over the Internet, as an
alternative to using dedicated servers. And lastly, rapid elasticity means the
cloud offering can be dramatically scaled up and down as needed. As an
example, let’s pretend that a guy launches his own dotcom, and next week
he is scheduled to appear on the Oprah show. Should he buy ten new
servers just in case? No! If he takes advantage of cloud infrastructure, he
can offer his software as-a-service, and scale it up and down as needed.
With as-a-service, you only pay for what you use, and you can use as much
as you want.
III. Why Cloud Computing?
To the casual end user who is just trying to get some work done there may
seem to be little difference between cloud computing, desktop computing,
and any other type of computing model that has been floated around over
the past few decades. He or she may even use the same types of software
applications to do the exact same types of things. That’s the point! Cloud
computing offers a better way to do the same types of things.
So then, why is cloud computing any better than ordinary desktop
The answer depends on who you are.
Cloud computing for end-users
As an end user, cloud computing lets you run software applications and
access data from any place and time, and from any computer; without the
need to ever install, upgrade, troubleshoot software applications physically
on a local desktop or server. This is one of the most important elements of
cloud computing, and why it has become so popular today. In a sense,
cloud computing outsources the technical hassles to someone else.
Cloud computing also makes it easier to do work anytime and from
anywhere, often referred to as “ubiquitous.” The old model of working
involved going to the office from 8:00 to 5:00, and getting on a plane and
taking a business trip or two every year. If we did work from a location
outside of the office, then when we returned to the office, time had to be
spent synchronizing the ad hoc work done at home with the in-office
systems. Today's model of working is different. We can get just as much
done at home or on the road as we can in the office. We can connect
instantly to the office from anywhere in the world, gain secure access to
our applications and data, and in short, get things done in a way that was
never before possible.
Cloud computing for system administrators
Keep in mind that almost all PC owners have become system
administrators in a way, unless we’re fortunate enough to have access to a
teenager to install and manage things for us. If your PC has ever crashed
and wasted your day, then you’ll understand the benefits of somebody else
doing the dirty work. The problems can get out of control inside big
companies, which manage thousands of software configurations, and pay
employees whether their PCs work or not. The superiority of the cloud
model comes in when we start to realize that desktop applications are
more or less static, and cloud applications can be continuously refined.
Desktop applications must be physically installed on a PC, upgraded
periodically, have patches applied when they become available, and reinstalled
when the user moves to a new desktop or when the old one
crashes. The cloud model eliminates those inconveniences. Need a new
PC? Just buy one. You can still access your cloud applications without
having to re-install anything. System administrators, who may need to
manage hundreds, or even thousands of desktops, remote devices, servers,
storage arrays and other equipment, quickly get bogged down—and the
cloud model makes their lives easier.
Cloud computing for software developers
There is an even bigger advantage on the development end. Because the
applications are delivered from a common code base from a central
location, upgrades to the application, patches and fixes can be pushed out
to the user transparently. Desktop applications require the user to actively
install a patch, or at least, allow for an auto-connection to take place.
Microsoft Windows uses the auto-update feature, which has become very
useful and convenient, for example. However, it still requires patience on
the part of the end user, who must wait for the upgrade to come in over
the Internet, and then must re-boot the system for it to take effect. A
cloud application, since it does not exist on the desktop, does not have
that requirement. All upgrades take place on the back end, requiring no
intervention, action, attention or patience from the end-user. This makes it
much easier for developers to continuously upgrade their applications, and
to push those upgrades out to users on a real-time basis. Going a level
deeper to the platform stage, cloud computing gives developers another
critical advantage. Since the platform provides developers with a common
set of cloud services that have already proven to be robust, all applications
are that much more stable—and quicker to completion, as well.
Cloud computing for IT buyers, corporate and federal
The critical advantages listed above have not been lost to corporate users.
The ability to lessen the workload on system administrators and
developers alike lets companies save dollars spent on manpower. In short,
your company can do more with less, and with greater efficiency. Besides
the manpower advantage, companies will also gain an advantage in terms
of reduced capital expenditures. Why? The cloud not only reduces time
spent on admin duties and development, it also addresses the physical
infrastructure itself. Companies taking full advantage of cloud computing
will enjoy a reduced need for servers and storage arrays—providing
another source of savings (and in turn, reducing the system admin
overhead even further).
In the corporate world, one of the most important parts of business is
improving the bottom line. That's done either through increasing revenue,
or by decreasing costs. When decreasing costs, the ideal scenario is to do
so while still maintaining the same or better level of efficiency the
company enjoyed before the decrease in costs; cloud computing provides
the answer to that need. Let's take a look at a few of the dollars-and-cents
Enterprise software represents an enormous expense, as some $800 billion
a year is spent on purchasing and maintaining software. The bulk of that—
or about 80 percent of the $800 billion—is spent not on the actual
purchase of software, but on installing and maintaining it.1 The federal
government alone spends $70 billion a year on IT systems, much of which
goes toward enterprise systems. Most servers operate at only about 15
percent capacity at most times, and over-provisioning is regrettably
common. Virtualization, an important element of cloud computing, allows
the data center operator to make
full use of server capacity.
Enterprise cloud platforms can
save even more.
The advantage to individuals,
small businesses and large
enterprises which buy software is
obvious. The cost of software represents a major expense for businesses
of all sizes. The presence of cloud computing options has allowed many
small and midsize businesses to gain access to important features of highend,
enterprise-class software that would not otherwise be available. As a
result, a major barrier to success has been dissolved, and the saga of
million-dollar price tags for enterprise software is nearing an end. Large
corporations will save money; and smaller companies will gain the
advantage of being able to access more software resources, which were
previously unavailable due to either high cost, or the software simply being
unavailable for smaller implementations.
1 Peter Mell and Tim Grance. "Effectively and securely using the cloud
computing paradigm." National Institute for Standards and Technology, 10-7-09.
"If you move your data center to a
cloud provider, it will cost a tenth of the
- Brian Gammage, Gartner Fellow
IV. Cloud Computing Up
We’ve informally defined cloud computing as “computing on the Internet, as
opposed to computing on a desktop.” A more purist definition of cloud
computing is one that differentiates true cloud computing from mere
software on the Web. After all, Web software has been around for more
than a decade and cloud computing is relatively new, so how can they
possibly be the same things, right?
Rather, true cloud computing takes advantage of new enabling
technologies and cloud constructs, which are making the movement
possible. In essence, Web software has been around for years, but until
recently it has been prohibitively costly for the masses to develop and host
– often costing millions of dollars and taking years to develop and
implement. Cloud computing changes all that by incorporating
virtualization technology that allows the physical infrastructure to be
rented for mere pennies compared to the old ways to engineer Web
software. It further changes the equation by providing cloud-specific
platform toolkits to accelerate development.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) puts it this
"Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a
shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage,
applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal
management effort or service provider interaction."2
NIST also categorizes cloud computing into three “as a service” offerings,
namely infrastructure, platforms and software, which are broken down in
more detail here:
A. Cloud Infrastructure (Infrastructure-as-a-Service, or
In the old days, if you needed a server, you might spend between five and
ten thousand dollars or more upfront and then you’d pay a techie $30K a
year plus benefits to manage it. Nowadays, with cloud infrastructures, you
can actually buy a “virtual server” over the Internet almost as easy as
signing up for an email account. The server never arrives at your doorstep.
2 Peter Mell and Tim Grance. The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing.
Version 15, October 7, 2009.
Instead it stays out on the cloud where you can log on and manage it
anywhere and anytime over the Internet. For the techies amongst us, that
means that you can buy and manage processing time (CPU time), storage,
network capacity, and other fundamental computing resources without
shelling out big bucks upfront. You only pay for what you use.
If you’ve never used cloud infrastructure, then the very notion of using a
server over the Internet may sound crazy. You’re probably asking the
question, “How can I do that?” Well, actually, it’s easy to rent computers
over the Internet. The easiest way to learn is to actually do it. If you go to’s EC2 website, you can launch and manage a real live server
(well, actually a small virtual server) for an hour for about 20 cents. What a
bargain! You will specify a server name, the type of operating system and
other details to create your server instance. Then, you can log on using
remote desktop or visit the website, just as if it were a real live server.
How it Works
We use the term “virtual server”, because you’re not really renting a
physical box. That is, you can’t actually walk into a room and touch your
dedicated machine. Instead, it’s all managed by “virtualization” software,
such as VMware.
In the old days, one operating system would run on one physical box. For
example, you would buy a Windows server that contained a copy of
Windows, or a Linux server that
contained a copy of Linux. It was
one-to-one. Virtualization, on the
other hand, lets you run multiple
operating systems on the same box.
In the early days of virtualization,
this was a handy trick. For example,
virtualization made it easy to test
new software on multiple operating
systems without needing multiple
physical boxes. Virtualization also
made it easy to run Windows and UNIX programs on the same physical
box, such as when a program was only available for one operating system.
Then, one day, somebody realized an even bigger trick. With virtualization,
it’s possible to sell the same physical machine multiple times. That is, a
data center can run 10 copies of Linux on one box, and then sell it over
the Internet like different servers? Voila, the basic concept behind cloud
infrastructure (infrastructure-as-a-service).
In reality, cloud infrastructure is not limited to a single server, but rather
relies on a shared pool of servers, whereby any one user can scale up to
take advantage of extra computing power when needed. It works because
servers are mostly unused anyway, so there’s always some extra computing
power available if the pool is large enough. It works somewhat like a bank
that loans the same money 10 times over. In theory, it wouldn’t work if
everyone demanded their money (or computing power) at the same time.
So where is all this infrastructure?
The cloud's infrastructure consists of actual, physical hardware that is
complemented by a delivery mechanism. The main difference is that it
exists outside of the user's immediate grasp, and its existence has been
abstracted to the point where its exact location is both unknown and
irrelevant to the users. When you work in the old way, you know that your
application is located on the PC in front of you, and the data is held on the
data server in the room across the hall. With cloud computing, you don't
know whether your applications and data are in a data center in Des
Moines or Delhi, and what's more, it doesn't make any difference.
This is an important point. One of the biggest objections to cloud
infrastructure is that you can't put your finger on it. There is a certain
satisfaction to walking into your server room, and being able to point to a
rack of servers and storage arrays with a glorious mass of cables coming
out of the back, and saying "that's where our data and applications are."
But that satisfaction is an illusion; in reality, there is no inherent advantage
in being able to reach out and touch your own hardware infrastructure. If
it works, it works; it doesn't really matter where it lives. In fact, if your
infrastructure is elsewhere at a hosted facility, then you are gaining a
strategic advantage of having somebody else who specializes in such things
manage it for you.
An ordinary computing infrastructure may consist of several physical
pieces of hardware and cables that you must maintain and allocate. A
cloud infrastructure consists of a pool of highly abstracted and scalable
infrastructure devices existing in multiple provider data centers, connected
over virtual private Internet connections; where a trusted third party is
charged with maintenance and allocation.
Virtualization is the behind-the-scenes enabling technology that makes
cloud infrastructure possible. Just as you can drive a car without
understanding how the engine works, so too is virtualization. You don't
need to know how virtualization works to use it, since it involves the
infrastructure—which the end user no longer has to worry about with a
cloud implementation. The concept of server virtualization allows many
"virtual servers" to run on a single physical server as if each one were a
separate device. Storage virtualization works the same way. Both types of
virtualization essentially decouple the function from the underlying
hardware, and virtualization has become a common enterprise technology
for saving money and making better use of existing resources. It's not
uncommon for a large enterprise to employ this technique in its own data
center, and the technology is also in common use by cloud providers—
delivering an efficient method for them to service the needs of multiple
clients on a cost-effective and secure basis.
Why does virtualization make better use of resources? Because of
technologies like thin provisioning. In storage for example, traditionally a
volume was created for each application. This storage volume was always
over-provisioned, to ensure that adequate storage would always be
available; as a result, it was common for storage environments to be
making use of only 30 percent or so of available storage. Virtualization
uses thin provisioning to allocate storage virtually, instead of absolutely;
freeing all of that previously trapped storage space. Server virtualization
also makes better use of resources by not requiring separate, dedicated
hardware servers for each application. In virtualizing servers, it allows for a
single physical server to act as multiple virtual servers, each one separated
absolutely by a virtual division that isolates each one. The "walling off" of
the virtual servers within the single physical server addresses the obvious
concern that there would be some potential for somebody else on the
same physical server to access your data.
This is an important concept for cloud computing, since cloud computing
is all about abstraction. For the end user again, the concept of applications
and storage is abstracted to the highest degree—and in many cases the
user will not even be aware of where the actual application or data is
located. And it doesn't matter. Virtualization works hand in hand with
cloud computing to provide the abstraction that is necessary for both.
Virtualization provides a type of technology that allows applications to be
moved around freely onto different devices that exist in the cloud,
transparently to the end user.
B. Cloud Platforms (Platform-as-a-Service, or PaaS)
For most people, the term "cloud platform" is even fuzzier than cloud
computing as a whole. Yet, when cloud platforms are properly understood
and embraced, they potentially offer the greatest impact over any other
aspect of cloud computing.
Cloud platforms can drive down software engineering costs tenfold,
reduce time to market, improve profit margins, and lower risks. They can
promote higher levels of security and system interoperability, and can
allow system integrators to enter into new markets within days, instead of
years. They can dramatically lower the skill requirements needed to create
new software applications, so that entrepreneurs are empowered to serve
their customers, and customers are empowered to serve themselves. In a
nutshell, cloud platforms takes cloud computing to the masses.
Let’s start with a simplistic understanding of the term “platform” for
computing, and then we will expand our definition to the realm of cloud
A platform generally refers to a “prefab” software architecture upon which
you can build computing solutions. It provides core software functionality,
which would otherwise need to be engineered from the ground up. Can
you imagine building an oven every time you wanted to cook dinner?
Probably not. Fortunately, the oven is already built; otherwise your meals
would cost $500 each.
Likewise, the cloud needs platforms to do a lot of the grunt work, which
otherwise needs to be engineered into every software application from the
ground up at great expense. Cloud platforms serve as a launch pad for
cloud software, providing “prefab” functionality such as a user interface,
user sign up and administration, role-based security, federated search,
multi-tenant data management and so on. If you’re asking the question,
“What the heck is multi-tenant data management?” then exactly! You’re
seeing the point. It’s complicated stuff, and you wouldn’t want to program
it to every app. Unfortunately, most cloud developers are not talking full
advantage of platforms.
By their very definition, cloud platforms are offered “as a service”,
meaning that you can use them over the Internet with no need to ever
install, upgrade or host. Cloud platforms are readily distinguished from
other platforms, which require installations, uploads, downloads and
managed hosting. As-a-service means that cloud platforms are easy to use.
More important, if you build cloud software on top of a cloud platform,
then your solution is inherently cloud-enabled, taking advantage of
underlying cloud infrastructure, elasticity and as-a-service models.
Cloud platforms also may include online tools and APIs that make it easier
for developers to build on top of the platform. When choosing a cloud
platform, it’s important to make sure that the API is open, allowing for
integration with 3rd-party, open source and legacy software and web
services, otherwise, you could become overly locked into the platform
provider for all your needs. This is referred to as an “open platform”
versus “proprietary vendor lock-in.”
Major Benefits of Cloud Platforms
On the surface, it’s easy to think that cloud platforms are for software
developers, but it’s the IT buyers who are suffering the most from
astronomical software engineering costs and delays.
For IT buyers, investors and developers, the advantages of cloud
platforms are tremendous. Creating a cloud application from the ground
up is a complex process, involving not just ordinary coding, but also
adding a layer of abstraction, and incorporating a far-flung
communications layer as well as security protocols. If every SaaS provider
had to create each of these things from scratch, then cloud-based
application development would be hindered, and limited to only the larger
software companies. Cloud platforms address this problem by allowing
developers to build cloud applications on top of an existing architecture
that includes core functionality. In essence, developers can use platforms
to get their software to “80-yard line” without programming, and avoid
reinventing the wheel.
The benefits are many:
• Lower costs – In some cases, a cloud platform can reduce costs
by 80% or more, because non-core code is already engineered;
• Lower risks – Likewise, a cloud platform can reduce risks by as
much, because common functions are already tested, sometimes
over a period of years;
• Faster time-to-market – Cloud platforms dramatically reduce
time-to-market, because they serve as a launch pad for software
engineering efforts;
• Higher profit margins – Software developers and system
integration firms can deliver more for substantially less, thus higher
margins on fixed price contracts;
• Rapid prototyping – Create and deploy concept applications
without writing code;
• Higher security and interoperability – NIST indicates that the
cloud suffers from major security issues, largely because vendors
are implementing disparate and unproven security models. Cloud
platforms provide a common, proven security model. If cloud
software uses the platform, then it is inherently secure.
As an added advantage, cloud platforms shield both software engineers
and end-users from the behind-the-scenes complexities of the entire cloud.
Dan Tapscott, the author of Wikinomics, talks about the growing
complexity problem this way: “the Web look[s] increasingly like a
traditional librarian’s nightmare --- a noisy library full of chatty
components that interact and communicate with one another.” He is
referring to the cloud as a cluttered hodgepodge of Web apps and services,
each with their own logins, data sources and security/resource functions.
In the absence of cloud platforms, we are recreating the wheel millions of
times over. In a few years, the redundancies will drive up costs by billions
within federal IT systems, health-IT systems and other enterprise IT
systems that rely on cloud services. All these IT systems will struggle with
disparate security models and interoperability concerns.
Unfortunately, cloud platforms remain vastly underutilized. That’s why
some enterprise software systems unnecessarily cost millions of dollars and
take years to implement, only to eventually fail! The resistance to platforms
is sometimes baffling. It’s almost as if the logic is to stick with what we
know, even though it doesn’t work. Ironically, some software integrators
are creating totally proprietary stovepipes from the ground-up, just to
avoid platforms. As a result, IT buyers are paying more than twice as much
for their systems, and being locked into developers. Instead, they should
be taking advantage of open APIs that are available with some of the more
open cloud platforms.
Cloud Platforms as Middleware
It may also help to think of a cloud platform as the middle layer of a threelayer
cake, in that it rests between the hardware and the software. Sure,
you can remove the middle layer, but in doing so you’re also removing a
lot of important “cake” that somebody needs to bake from scratch. In the
case of software engineering, that’s some expensive cake. That is to say
that software can be built without using cloud platforms, but the costs of
doing so can be detrimental; and creates a barrier to entry for all but the
largest development shops. You see – platforms actually do a lot more
than just provide core functionality for software. They also lower the time
and risks of engineering software dramatically because the platform
engineers have already worked out the devils in the details on their own
Platforms also reduce the
software footprint and
maintenance costs, because
the responsibility for
maintaining platform code
is essentially outsourced to
a platform provider, who
achieves economies of scale
by maintaining one system.
Web software that is created without platforms is considerably more costly. On the other
hand, cloud platforms provide core functionality that dramatically reduces time, risk and
development costs.
Types of Platforms
Cloud platforms come in many shapes and sizes, depending on the
application at hand. Arguably, Google is currently dominating the
consumer app platform, whereas Facebook is dominating the social
networking platform, and is trying to make a footprint as
an enterprise software platform. Several other players, Yahoo included,
offer ecommerce platforms, which have driven down the time, risk and
cost of ecommerce solutions.
The term "platform" as it relates to cloud computing is often misused to
refer to customizable software. Software that can be customized is simply
that: customizable software. Similarly, cloud infrastructure vendors
sometimes promote their products inaccurately as platforms. A platform,
on the other hand, is something entirely different. A cloud platform rests
between the physical infrastructure and customizable software.
Enterprise Platforms
Of all types of platforms, enterprise business platforms may provide the
greatest value in the near future, simply because enterprise business
systems are extremely expensive – sometimes costing $10s of millions to
engineer. By enterprise business system, we’re referring to the types of
scalable multi-user / multi-tenant cloud-enabled software that government
agencies and Fortune 500 companies spend millions on, sometimes
without blinking an eye. For enterprise business systems, platforms offer
such great benefit only because the engineering costs are otherwise so
high, sometimes representing more than 95% of the total cost of
Significance of Platforms
In the future, cloud platforms will make the cloud easier to use. To fully
understand the significance of cloud platforms, we need simply look at the
evolution of earlier computing models. Can you imagine a world without
desktop operating systems? We, the authors of this book, don’t need to
imagine. We were there.
In the early days, PCs were hard to use; and security was terrible because
every software program implemented its own way of doing the same
things. The early PCs were only usable by an elite community of hacker
geeks or well-funded NASA engineers. They were expensive to program,
because old-time developers would author hundreds of lines of source
code just to move a mouse or paint lines on a screen.
Then came operating systems like
Microsoft Windows and toolkits
like VisiCalc. All of a sudden,
anyone could use a PC. Secretaries
were creating spreadsheets for their
bosses. The mouse moved
automatically, as if by magic.
Inasmuch as some techies might
knock Microsoft, their Windows
platform indisputably changed personal computing. Think about it – for
about $100, you get tens of millions of lines of code, which handle
thousands of things that we take for granted, and which would otherwise
need to be painstakingly engineered the into every software application at
the cost of millions of dollars and years of development time. These days,
no one in their right mind would remotely consider writing a software
application directly to a PC without using some sort of platform, yet that’s
exactly what Web developers are doing each and every day!
The cloud platform is evolving in many of the same ways as desktop
computing. Cloud platforms are helping to bring cloud software to the
masses. As the cloud increases in its complexity, the role of platforms is
becoming more important.
Cloud Platforms are like Operating Systems for the Cloud
We tend to think of an operating system as a behind-the-scenes
technology that manages resources, and that’s true. But in fact, they do
much more than that. There is a major user-facing element to an operating
system. Windows, for example, makes the underlying infrastructure easier
to use. It provides a common user interface, a common security model,
and shields users from all of those behind-the-scenes complexities.
A cloud platform works the same
way. The platform implements a
virtual instance of a core set of
functionality, with common
features such as user signup,
security, reporting, and so forth.
The platform will then allow
developers to build on top of that
instance to customize it for their
specific needs, and to additionally build features on top of the platform
without programming, such as creation of forms, data entry collection,
report writing, etc. As a result, users can log into one place and experience
an integrated solution, where they do whatever they do.
C. Cloud Software (Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS)
The most important, and most visible of the three elements is Cloud
Software, without which there is no need for Platforms or Infrastructure.
Again to stress, cloud computing and cloud software, i.e. software-as-aservice
(SaaS), are not the same things. The two terms are often used
interchangeably, but it would be incorrect to do so. Rather, cloud software
is just the software part of the cloud computing triad. It is without a doubt
though, the most visible part, since it faces the end user. In a purist sense,
true cloud-enabled software refers only to that software which
intentionally takes advantage of the of other cloud computing
technologies: namely cloud infrastructure and cloud platforms.
The overall market for SaaS subscriptions, compared to on-premises
software, is still young, though it is a rapidly growing niche. Because it is
the most visible part of cloud computing though, it will be SaaS that drives
the growth of cloud computing. Already we are seeing this growth, driven
both by startups moving into SaaS offerings from the ground up, as well as
established IT giants like Google and Microsoft moving into the SaaS
market. Almost every major software vendor today has at least a test SaaS
program in the works, and many have them in the market already.
When we talk about software-as-a-service, it usually means that the
software being delivered has a common code base that is delivered to
multiple users. This however, does not preclude customization. Using a
common code base for SaaS applications has a big advantage, in that it
allows the SaaS provider to continuously refine the program, and push
those refinements out to each user on a timely basis. This not only makes
for a more robust piece of software, it also allows the cost to be shared
between many users. Customization however, is still allowed. Each end
user may for example, be able to choose from multiple software
components to create a SaaS application that very specifically meets their
own precise needs; and of course, just like most types of on-premises
software; SaaS applications allow each end user to apply their own user
preferences and custom configuration.
V. Other cloud offerings
This section addresses other considerations of cloud computing, which
didn’t fit nicely into a category, and which are too important to overlook.
What are "Web services"?
The term "web services" is a bit oversimplified, and it implies that it is just
a service that you access over the web. In reality, as a formal definition,
web services are usually considered to be the domain of web
programmers, not end users. It is a programming technique that involves
use of remote subroutines, which can be called over the cloud, such s
making a calculation or authenticating users. In the case of cloud
computing, web services allow programmers creating cloud programs
(SaaS) with ways to manage the cloud infrastructure, or integrate with
other cloud programs. Using technologies such as SOAP, XML or WSDL,
web services simply provide an ability to allow programmers to use other
peoples' offerings over the Internet.
Typically thought of as the domain of wild-eyed scientists working on
large-scale projects that are far beyond the scope of ordinary business,
supercomputing occupies a mysterious place in the computer business. But
let's draw a comparison—as recently as the 1970s, computing in general
was thought to be the exclusive domain of a handful of extremely large
companies and government agencies. Computers weren't for ordinary
people, or even for small companies. But look where we are today. The
room-sized computers of the '60s aren't even as powerful as a simple
netbook. Supercomputing today is in the same place that general
computing was fifty years ago.
When supercomputing meets the cloud, then its power becomes available
to a much broader audience. And that's what is already happening. Maybe
you can't have a supercomputer in your home—at least not yet—but you
can access one over the cloud. Companies like Exa sell their
supercomputing processing power over the cloud, and companies that
don't necessarily have big budgets can harness the power of
supercomputing environments. There are already a small number of
companies that offer supercomputing as a cloud option, including the
venerable Amazon, whose MapReduce offers supercomputer-like
capabilities to crunch large data sets in Amazon Web Services.
High Performance Computing as-a-service (HPCaaS)
Along with supercomputing, cloud is also changing the face of high
performance computing (HPC).
Supercomputing has always been expensive, often costing tens of millions
of dollars. Nonetheless, they’re viewed as a necessary evil by many
members of the scientific community. In recent years, grid computing has
gained attention as a possible alternative. The notion with grids is to take
advantage of otherwise idle CPU time that’s available on millions of
computers. With grids, special software divvies up and “outsources”
calculations to several computers in parallel, such as to PCs that act
somewhat as mini-servers. Historically, grids were manually orchestrated
and relied on other people’s computers, which raises questions about
security and privacy.
With cloud infrastructure, we have already learned that servers can be
allocated dynamically as needed (as in "thin provisioning"), rather than
paying for unused computing power. Then, this begs the ten million dollar
question: Why can’t I just harness the power of 100 servers when I need it,
run a calculation and then shut them down? That way, I wouldn’t need to
buy a supercomputer, right?
That’s exactly what HPC as-a-service does. Special HPC cloud software,
including open source software like Univa UD, makes it possible to turn
computing nodes on and off as needed, while orchestrating intensive
calculations on those nodes. With cloud HPC, the concept is that a
supercomputer never rests idle, doesn’t becomes comparatively outdated
in a few years, and has no hard limits on scale. The future of cloud HPC is
yet to be determined. In the meantime, it will be fun to keep an eye on
how the technologies mature for adoption by the serious scientific
Self-healing nature of cloud computing
A true cloud computing architecture is self-healing, which promotes higher
uptime and less likelihood of failure. Self-healing is really nothing new; it is
based on technologies that are often used in large enterprises and data
centers. It simply means that should a failure occur, technology and
protocols are in place to automatically correct that failure in real time. This
is the heart of disaster recovery, and is part of the cloud computing model.
For the provider of the cloud architecture, this means having redundant
data centers and automatic failover. For the user of cloud services, it
means having constant access and guaranteed uptime to applications and
data, without having to worry about recovering from data loss or disaster
VI. Cloud as-a-Necessity
Technologies become essential when they become a part of the very fabric
of society. They become essential when they become disruptive. There are a
great many new technologies that appear every year, and many of them are
technologies designed to make things simpler, cheaper, and more
convenient. Yet, most of them do not fall into the category of disruptive
technology—or a technology that results in far-reaching and important
changes in the way people work, think, do business, and communicate.
Cloud computing is one of those disruptive technologies.
• Cloud computing changes the way we work. The very nature
of what a "job" is, is changing. We work from home. We work as
contractors. We telecommute, work from on the road, and
increasingly, pay no attention to the physical boundaries of the
corporate brick and mortar walls.
• Cloud computing changes the way we think. Old barriers are
being broken down. We're no longer afraid to think outside the
box, because the box no longer exists.
• Cloud computing changes the way we do business. The
collaborative technologies that are enabled by the cloud let us take
advantage of outsourcing, focusing on our core goals while letting
other experts take care of what they do best on our behalf.
• Cloud computing changes the way we communicate. Is it
necessary to get on a plane, or drive across town for a meeting?
Increasingly, the answer is no. New types of communication allow
us to work closely with partners, remote employees, and suppliers
around the world as if they were right there in our office.
There are objections, to be sure. There are objections to any disruptive
technology. People resisted graphical operating systems. They resisted
cellular phones, the Internet, and even computers as a whole, but each of
these disruptive technologies won out, and our lives are better for it.
Cloud computing is fast becoming recognized as the fastest growing
technology. Gartner's "Top 10 Strategic Technology Areas for 2010" lists
the ten most important technologies that must not be ignored—and cloud
computing is number one on the list.3
Cloud computing is destined to become part of our everyday lives, because
it is more than technology. It's not just software that is delivered from a
remote server over the Internet. Cloud computing represents a new way of
thinking and doing that has become essential to stay competitive and
efficient in today's economy. Here are just a few of the drivers that
highlight why cloud computing has grown in importance so quickly:
• Explosion of data. We are truly in the "information age" today.
That means we rely on information more than we ever have in the
past, but it also means that there's a lot of it.
• Renewed focus on collaboration. So what do we do with all of
that data? Information is usually more valuable if it is strategically
shared, not only within the company, but also with partners,
suppliers, outsourcers and other stakeholders all around the world.
• Economic necessity. Companies face the continual need to cut
costs, especially during the worst economic recession since the
'30s. But even apart from the recession, global competition and
other factors have led companies to embark on major cost-cutting
initiatives. This involves both implementing new methods, and
cutting staff.
• Entrepreneurial activity. The economic recession has a positive
impact on entrepreneurial activity. The result is that there are more
small companies today than ever before, and those small
companies need access to resources at low cost. Cloud computing
allows those small entrepreneurial ventures to gain access to the
services they need and flourish.
• Outsourcing. Outsourcing and cloud computing go hand-inhand.
The outsourcing trend is driven by economic necessity
described above, and it flourishes because of the intense amount
of entrepreneurial activity that we're seeing, from two perspectives.
Many of the small entrepreneurs that are launching their
companies today are outsourcing providers. And the demand on
the part of larger existing companies for cost-cutting further drives
3 Stephen Shankland. "Gartner: Brace yourself for cloud computing." Cnet,
October 20, 2009.
the need for outsourcing. Cloud computing provides the
framework for outsourcing to exist.
• Teleworking and telecommuting. Yes, people are working at
home, and companies are allowing it, in part out of the effort to
keep costs in check. Cloud computing has provided the framework
to allow a new era of working at home to become reality.
With so many factors coming into play at once, we're seeing a "perfect
storm" that can have only one end result: Cloud computing becomes
pervasive. In every one of the above drivers, cloud computing is what
makes it happen.
The evolution of cloud computing
If you’d like to see where cloud computing is going, you simply look at the
evolution of earlier computing platforms. In the 1996 documentary
“Triumph of the Nerds”, Steve Jobs described his early vision to take the
desktop to the masses: "It was very clear to me that while there were a
bunch of hardware hobbyists that could assemble their own computers, or
at least take our board and add the transformers for the power supply and
the case the keyboard and go get, you know, et cetera, go get the rest of
the stuff. For every one of those, there were a thousand people that
couldn't do that, but wanted to mess around with programming - software
Interestingly, today’s cloud infrastructure is similar to the desktops of the
'80s in several respects. Although it ultimately benefits the ordinary end
user, it's mostly the techies that get excited about it and that continue to
refine it. The result will be the same. Just as PCs were once seen as
something "with potential" but nonetheless only used by a handful of
"hobbyists" as Jobs puts it—or "geeks", to not put so fine a point on it;
cloud computing is seeing the same evolution. In the future, cloud toolkits
and platforms will make the cloud as easy to use as today’s desktop
computer; and will become as ordinary and accepted as the desktop or
laptop PC.
So where did the concept of
"cloud computing" come
from? It goes all the way
back to the origins of the
Internet itself. The Internet
was always seen in diagrams
as a cloud, even before the
term "cloud computing"
came into use. The idea was
that, as described by
Google's Kevin Marks, it
"comes from the early days of the Internet where we drew the network as
“We are at the beginning of the age of
planetary computing. Billions of people will be
wirelessly interconnected, and the only way to
achieve that kind of massive scale usage is by
massive scale, brutally efficient cloud-based
--Dan Farber, Editor-in-Chief, CNET News
a cloud . . . we didn't care where the messages went . . . the cloud hid it
from us."4 The internet therefore gave us the first cloud, which centered
around networking. Later, data abstraction added another layer to it.
Today, the cloud abstracts the entire environment: infrastructure,
platforms, and data and applications.
Why cloud computing is already becoming mainstream
Why do people use cloud computing? The Pew Internet & American Life
Project5 noted several reasons: 51 percent of users who take advantage of
cloud computing do so because it is easy and convenient; 41 percent do so
because of the advantage of being able to access data from any location
and any computer; and 39 percent do so because it promotes easy sharing
of information. The advantages below all point to mainstreaming of the
• Collaboration
• Scalability
• Better performance
• Reliability
• Simplicity
The last point, simplicity, is perhaps one of the greatest driving forces of
the cloud. Let's face it, there is an element of laziness involved, and that's
okay. Workers everywhere want their jobs to be easier. Cloud computing
provides that. Working at home in the past, may have required a user (or
the user's admin) to pre-load software into the user's home computer, and
install special logins for accessing the corporate server. More often than
not, that burden just led people to inaction, which resulted in fewer
telecommuting opportunities. Cloud computing simplifies the entire
process by removing the need for client software and by abstracting the
data and application servers. Simply put, if it's easy, workers will go for it.
And in the end, that helps the corporation get things done.
Business users, consumers, and software developers ignore cloud
computing at their own peril. Remember when Windows first came out,
and there was still a large contingent of people who insisted on sticking
with the command-line interface? Those who resist the cloud model are in
the same category today. Cloud computing and SaaS is increasingly
impossible to ignore.
Why? Everything in computing has led to this moment. Web 2.0
technology first gave us a little taste of what true interactivity and
collaboration over the Internet could do for us. While earlier Internet sites
gave us information on static web sites, Web 2.0 raised the bar with blogs,
4 Dan Farber. "Defining the cloud." Video interview, May 7, 2008.
5 Pew/Internet & American Life Project, Op. cit.
social networking, instant connectivity, and a new level of interactivity
over the web. Instead of just reading a web site, we could interact with it.
We could send feedback. Take polls. Search for products we like, compare
prices, and see what other people thought. We could hold web
conferences and use things like shared whiteboards. These Web 2.0
innovations put us all in the mindset of free collaboration, unfettered by
physical boundaries. Web 2.0 made it possible for the first time to hold a
productive conference for example, between people in Chicago, Delhi, and
London. We have gotten accustomed to Web 2.0 innovations and cannot
go back to the way it was, and we want more. Cloud computing was the
next logical step.
Cloud computing has gone mainstream also because of the presence of a
robust infrastructure. Virtualization technology has come to the fore, and
this too serves a major role in letting vendors deliver SaaS services and in
letting companies gain access to infrastructure services without large
capital expenditures.
What does cloud computing mean to me?
Cloud computing doesn't work unless every stakeholder has something in
it for them. Every party involved can benefit, if it is implemented correctly,
from the end user, to the entrepreneur, the CEO who wants to cut costs,
the project manager, IT people, and third party providers.
If you think that cloud computing doesn't affect you, think again. A recent
study by the Pew/Internet and American life Project reported that 69
percent of all Internet users6 make use of some sort of cloud computing
service, and that number is growing. Do you use one of the free public
email platforms like Hotmail or Gmail? Take advantage of one of the
many online file storage services? Store your vacation photos online? Then
you use cloud computing. The applications go far beyond those three
simple examples, but the trend is noteworthy. Most people use cloud
computing, even if they have never heard of the term.
These simple consumer applications of cloud computing also highlight an
interesting trend. The most successful technologies are those that have
penetrated both the consumer and the business markets. Cell phones, once
tools of the rich and famous, are now used by everybody and can be had at
any department store for fifteen dollars for a basic model. Social
networking tools started out as consumer-based applications used for fun
and friendship, but are now widely used as vital tools for business
marketing and project collaboration. And now, cloud computing also
6 Pew/Internet & American Life Project. "'Cloud Computing' takes hold as 69%
of all internet users have either stored data online or used a web-based software
application." September, 2008.
carries equal weight in the consumer and business realms. If cloud
computing hasn't touched you yet, chances are, it will in the near future.
SOHO and small business
There has been an interesting trend in software applications, which may
well be coming to an end. That trend is to deliver larger and more featurerich
productivity applications, with every feature that can be imagined. In
the early days of software, this was a good approach, but today, it's rapidly
reaching the status of bloatware. After a point, software in general reaches
a point where it contains everything users need to function, and anything
else is just fluff. But yet, traditional software vendors thrive on that fluff to
give them a marketing advantage.
But is it necessary? Not always. Word processing and spreadsheet
programs for example, contain far more features than most ordinary users
take advantage of. We may even apply the 80/20 rule here as a casual
observation: 80 percent of users only take advantage of 20 percent of the
The existing office applications delivered on a SaaS basis by Google,
Microsoft and others are less feature-rich than shrink-wrapped offerings,
but they contain enough features to be perfectly serviceable by most users.
And the advantages of easy maintenance and low cost will drive more
users to adopt it.
VII. Misconceptions
Now that we've decided what it is, let's look at how cloud computing has
become misunderstood. Now that we've decided what it is, let's look at
how cloud computing has become misunderstood. The very word “cloud”
gives way to a lot of fuzzy definitions. In reality, cloud computing is just as
solid and reliable as any other type of computing, the technology just
refers to a mechanism to connect infrastructure, applications, and
platforms over a remote network, typically on virtualized off-site servers,
over a secure IP connection.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the cloud is . . . and what it
Top Ten Misconceptions about Cloud Computing
1. The cloud is just a return to centralized computing.
The old days of dumb terminals connected to a centralized mainframe
limited our computing power to one provider. With cloud computing, we
can access the computing power of millions of providers from anywhere at
any time, and for a fraction of the cost of host computing.
In the pre-desktop days, computing, applications, and data storage was
centralized. People used dumb terminals attached to mainframes. The
terminals themselves didn't hold the applications or data. Cloud
computing does have that in common with the old mainframe model, in
that the individual endpoints, in this case PCs or laptops, also do not hold
applications or data. But there are some crucial differences. The dumb
terminal used in centralized mainframe computing had no processing
power; the PC does. Centralized mainframe computing connects to a
central computer and storage device; cloud computing may connect to
several computers and storage devices in a "virtualized" fashion.
In addition, the level of access is much broader. The centralized model
required you to log in from one of the dumb terminals on the network.
Today, users enjoy the unique ability to log onto their applications from
any location, anywhere in the world, from a wide variety of devices,
including desktops, laptops, or even smartphones; to access applications
"in the cloud" and data that may reside in a remote data center.
2. The cloud is not secure.
Truth-be-told, in-house systems are often less secure, because they use
unproven home-grown security models. Cloud applications developed
with cloud platforms use a common security model, which lends additional
security from the ground up; and cloud providers will often pay more
attention to issues such as physical security and access controls.
In fact, the cloud does have several security advantages. According to
NIST, these cloud computing security advantages include:
• Shifting public data to a external cloud reduces the exposure of the
internal sensitive data
• Cloud homogeneity makes security auditing/testing simpler
• Clouds enable automated security management
• Redundancy / Disaster Recovery
All four points are well taken. Cloud providers naturally tend to include
rigorous cloud computing security as part of their business models, often
more than an individual user would do. In this respect, it's not just a
matter of cloud computing providers deploying better security, the point is,
rather, that they deploy the precautions that individual companies should,
but often don't.
3. The cloud isn’t ready for enterprise users.
Enterprise software need not cost millions of dollars, or take years to
implement. CIOs are increasingly demanding more affordable alternatives.
Some of today’s popular cloud systems host tens of millions of users. The
biggest concerns of enterprises rolling out mission-critical apps are
flexibility, scalability and availability. The cloud has resolved those
The very term “enterprise software” is yet another one of those fuzzy
techie terms that is usually glossed over. Therefore, let’s break tradition
and start with a working explanation: As the name implies, an enterprise
software system is one that is engineered in such as way as to
accommodate a very large, nationally dispersed and/or global business or
organization (an enterprise). As such, enterprise software must be able to
efficiently scale to handle tens of thousands, or even millions of users, and
very large data sets that often exceed several terabytes.
We seem to have accepted as a painful truth that enterprise software
systems are supposed to cost millions of dollars and require years to
implement. Without seemingly batting an eye, Fortune 500 companies and
federal agencies alike are laying out tens of millions of dollars for
enterprise software systems. The federal government alone spends $70
billion a year on IT systems, many of which includes enterprise solutions.
If you’d like to see examples, simply visit any day of the
week and look at some the awards that are being made to IT companies.
For good reason, many people still believe that enterprise software should
cost a lot of money and time: After all, as compared to small business
software applications (think of QuickBooks), enterprise software systems
are much more complex, with sophisticated architectures that make it
possible to accommodate such large numbers of users and scalable data
sets. Buyer beware that a lot of software vendors will promote their
solutions as “enterprise-enabled” simply because they use a scalable SQL
backend database engine, however this is a misuse of the word. A true
enterprise software system is engineered in every respect to accommodate
massive scalability, by accounting for multi-tenancy, front-end scalability,
dynamic provisioning and backend SQL databases with load balancing
thoughtful indexing. This is not an eBook about enterprise engineering, so
we won’t go into any detail, except to explain by examples of the problem
being solved. Example #1: What if Facebook bogged down and was too
slow after the first 1000 users had signed up? Example #2: What if you
needed to select from a pick-list of a million users every time you wanted
to send an email to someone? Example #3: What if the human resource
team could look at the finance team’s data? Needless to say, all of these
things would be problems, and all of these problems need to be solved.
However, the shocking truth is this: Enterprise software need NOT
cost millions of dollars! In many cases, buyers are unnecessarily
investing millions into enterprise software systems that could have easily
been implemented for less than a tenth the time, risk and cost as compared
to a few years ago. How can this be, right? Well, cloud platforms are
driving down the costs of engineering by offering robust enterprise
architectures as-a-service. At the same time, cloud infrastructure is driving
down the costs of scalable storage and computing power by providing
those things as a service.
Together, cloud platforms and cloud infrastructure are leveling the playing
field. Today, approximately 80 percent of enterprise software revenues go
to IBM, Oracle or SAP. What will happen when millions of entrepreneurs
are suddenly able to enter the same software markets with their credit
cards? In a few years, we will soon see.
The appeal to small businesses, SOHO businesses, and individual users is
obvious, and this is where the early adopters are for the most part. The
most obvious successes are the office suites delivered over the Web, such
as Microsoft's line of subscription-based software offerings, as well as
Google's Google Apps collection. Cloud computing, and the Software-asa-
Service applications that run on top of it, give these smaller users a quick
and easy way to get up and running, access high-end applications, and
avoid up-front costs that are typically associated with software.
But when it comes to enterprise businesses—typically defined as
companies with over 1,000 employees—those cost concerns weigh less
heavily than they do for smaller, cash-strapped businesses and individual
consumers. Nonetheless, cloud computing applications are starting to
target the mid-size and enterprise market. Traditional enterprise vendors,
whose installations often run into multiple millions of dollars, are now
starting to offer SaaS versions of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
software and other mission-critical applications.
For these larger companies, although the cost factor isn't the only
consideration, it does nonetheless weigh in. A SaaS implementation of
what would otherwise be a massively expensive project allows these large
companies to move more gradually into ERP software, without having to
implement a full-fledged "forklift" installation all at once. The risks of
failure are therefore much lower. Oracle, SAP, BEA, and other wellestablished
enterprise software vendors are all experimenting with this type
of implementation.
Large-scale enterprise applications tend to be all-encompassing. Enterprise
Resource Planning (ERP) systems attempt to be everything to everybody
within the company, and if it's done right, it succeeds. But by trying to do
so much, there is a great deal of complexity that comes with it. It's usually
not possible to put in an ERP system "off the shelf." It requires
customization and integration, and that's where the big costs come in. And
besides big costs, the extreme amount of customization also can lead to
very long rollout times, errors, or even complete failure of the
In fact, although an ERP application is large and complex, the bulk of the
cost is seen in the customized development that each implementation
requires. Here's where cloud computing lends a major advantage to
enterprise users.
As described earlier, cloud computing is made up of three components:
Infrastructure, platform, and software. The infrastructure costs (physical
servers, networking and connection) are minimized with a cloud project,
since the enterprise company no longer has to host their own servers for
their massive applications. The platform portion of the cloud makes
development easier and more robust; and the software portion of the
cloud means the enterprise user no longer has to pay for continued
maintenance and upgrades, and still gets to enjoy robust software
4. You lose control with the cloud.
The very word “cloud” implies outsourcing to an unknown vendor;
however this is a misnomer rather than reality. You can use cloud
technologies internally, or outsource to a well-established vendor who has
been offering reliable service for years. With the cloud, you can gain more
control through a web-based control panel, while letting go of day-to-day
maintenance. “The fallacy of direct control” (see section XI in this book)
posits that it is more efficient to retain control over those things that
matter, while freeing up your time by leaving the details to a third party
expert provider.
5. It’s the same thing as utility computing or grid computing.
Grid computing was an early predecessor that virtually clustered
computing resources to serve a single purpose. Cloud computing has
matured to serve multiple clients and multiple tasks simultaneously. Utility
computing, by the same token, has evolved. Today’s cloud delivers all
three major elements as a service: architecture, platform, and software.
Utility computing is another term that's been widely used to describe
shared access, but this buzzword also serves to muddy the waters. "Utility
computing" is a term that actually predates "cloud computing," and there
is some debate on whether the two are actually one and the same. In
general, as we have described here, "cloud computing" refers to a broader
set of services (architecture, platform, and software); while "utility
computing" is generally thought of as "as a service" computing, or only the
last of those three elements. Utility computing is not "the cloud", but it
runs on the cloud. In that light, utility computing can be defined as the
same thing as Software-as-a-Service.
One common argument that explains the difference is to say that cloud
computing affords a much greater level of abstraction, while utility
computing allows users to retain a greater degree of control over the
physical infrastructure.
In that regard, is it necessary to retain that control? Do you need to know
where the servers are located, and be able to tweak and fine-tune the
applications? For most purposes, usually not. That is the greatest
advantage of cloud computing, that the end user need not worry about the
infrastructure, or indeed, even be aware of where it is located.
Cloud computing may also be confused with "grid computing," but there
is a fundamental difference there. Grid computing is typically thought of
as a collection of resources, such as computer servers, which may be in
different locations but are virtually clustered together to address a single
problem or serve a single client or single purpose. Cloud computing on the
other hand, while organized in more or less the same way, serves multiple
clients and multiple purposes simultaneously.
6. It’s only for low-end consumer applications.
Cloud computing has gained popularity in many consumer areas, but has
also gained widespread acceptance in business applications, including
productivity suites, online backup and storage, and collaborative
environments; with applications of enterprise-class software already being
delivered over the cloud.
Cloud computing is in fact used in many consumer-facing applications,
such as free email (Hotmail, Gmail), Instant Messaging, and online file and
photo storage. But at the same time, it has gained widespread acceptance
in many business applications, ranging from productivity applications
(business application suites), to online backup and storage, and
collaborative environments.
Small businesses especially have been early adopters to the cloud model,
since the economic advantage allows these smaller businesses to take
advantage of applications and Software-as-a-Service offerings that would
otherwise be too costly for an on-premises installation.
The advantage has not been lost to larger enterprise users, however, and
this represents the next wave of cloud users. Having been proven in the
consumer and the small business realm, the natural progression is to larger
corporate users.
7. It’s too isolated from my other data and applications.
Cloud computing applications are easy to integrate with the rest of the
enterprise, and already there are several integration tools on the market to
make it happen.
This is another misconception, based on early cloud projects that have
long since evolved. In fact, since a great many networks run over an IP
backbone to begin with, cloud computing is natural to integrate with the
rest of the enterprise. And since cloud-based "virtual storage" is rapidly
becoming the standard as well, using an application in the cloud need not
isolate the application and the data from the rest of the business.
Integrating and sharing the data is straightforward.
Integrating the cloud applications themselves with existing applications
running within the business however, may be a bit more difficult—but this
too, is being done already. Can you run a cloud-based application that has
hooks into an on-premises application? Sure. While in some cases it may
take some custom integration work, already, there are several tools on the
market that specifically meet this need. SaaS integration tools have already
proven to be quite useful and robust in this regard.
8. We won’t need PCs any more with cloud computing.
Cloud computing is a broad concept with many elements, and powerful
desktops are a central part of the cloud model.
"But what about my PC?" you ask. Desktops and laptops continue to
evolve year after year, becoming ever more powerful, able to hold more,
do more, and connect faster. You can run some pretty powerful apps on a
standard desktop computer, so why do we even need to move those apps
somewhere else? Nobody wants to work on a dumb terminal any more,
but don't worry. Nobody's going to take away your PC and replace it with
a dumb terminal.
For many users, desktop computing may be just fine for years to come.
PCs continue to serve a valuable role, having become the basis of a very
large industry. Many desktop computers, desktop operating systems
(which we equate to a "platform" in the cloud computing paradigm), and
desktop applications, are quite productive, useful, and robust. Cloud
applications will become another powerful tool in your toolbox, but the
difference between today's cloud computing and yesterday's old "dumb
terminal" model is that the apps are running on a more powerful client,
which has multiple capabilities.
9. Reliability will be a problem.
Virtualization and platform technologies are almost as old as computing
itself. What’s new is the ability to market the capabilities. Cloud
technologies can provide superior reliability with service level guarantees.
10. The cloud will give you performance problems.
Performance is seldom a problem with cloud computing. Latency can be
minimized by selecting a provider with a data center in your own region,
and by reviewing the provider’s upstream carriers and service level
VIII. The “People Cloud”
Jobs 3.0 and Decentralization of the Workplace
Cloud computing is more than a technology - it's also a game-changing
business process. The reason it has gained so much traction is because of
what it enables for entrepreneurs. A complete discussion of cloud
computing must go beyond the technology that underlies the cloud
process, to include a discussion of the greater question of what drives
cloud computing, and what the social and macroeconomic impact of it
may be.
In this book, we choose the term “people cloud” to illustrate how our
workforce is scattering in many of the same ways that computing
resources have scattered across the cloud. Even more, we are managing
people resources over the Internet in many of the same ways that are
managing computing resources. As a result of cloud computing as an
enabling technology, we are seeing an explosion in entrepreneurship and a
decentralization of larger companies.
The workplace has evolved from everyone in one place, to a scattered workplace, and
finally to one in which the physical roof is replaced by a virtual roof. The virtual
workplace is again reconnected.
We've already seen major changes in the workplace. Companies have
embraced a model of decentralization in favor of outsourcing and
offshoring. Web 2.0 technologies have enabled a greater level of
collaboration, which means two things: First, people no longer need to be
physically present at the office, and can instead work from home, or
anywhere else in the world. Second, this new level of collaboration allows
companies to partner with smaller providers anywhere in the world to get
the job done.
Job 1.0
The 1950's mindset of the corporation as a sort of benevolent father is
obsolete. That older (and short-lived) way of doing business was what we
refer to as "Job 1.0". During that time, we saw the corporation as a
benevolent institution, which looked out after our own well-being. We had
an expectation of a 30-plus year career with a single company, an
opportunity to rise from within the ranks, and a relative amount of job
security. The prevailing philosophy was that company growth was
equivalent to the company's apparent physical size. A company, during this
time, that had 1,000 employees was considered to be more successful than
one with 100 employees. Companies embraced the in-house strategy with
a vengeance, and larger firms did everything from running their own
internal print shops, to hosting their own cafeterias for workers.
This is in some ways reminiscent of the old-fashioned "company town,"
which went so far as to even provide rental housing for its workers
(usually substandard), a company grocery store, and so forth, and in the
process, keeping employees beholden to the company, and usually in debt
to it.
Job 1.0 came with three illusions: That physical growth of a company's
mass was equivalent to success, and that the "everything in-house"
business model was beneficial to employees, and that it created a
heightened sense of job security and loyalty.
Job 2.0
The "dotcom boom" broke down the illusions of Job 1.0. During this
incredible time of entrepreneurism, the notion that a company with 1,000
employees is better and more successful than one with 100, or even one
with 10, started to break down. New technologies allowed companies to
do more with less. One clerk with spreadsheet software could do the work
of ten people in the pre-desktop days.
What's more relevant is that Job 2.0 started to break down the illusion of a
single-company career as being beneficial. The desire for a 30-plus year
career with a single company became less desirable, and employees became
freer to move from job to job in search of greater opportunity. The
dotcom boom ushered in a new era of mobility in the workplace, and at
the same time, made it more acceptable and possible for someone to go
out on their own and start an entrepreneurial venture.
Still, "Job 2.0" operated under the concentrated model of corporate
communities. Silicon Valley flourished, and contained an incredible
concentration of talent, and more high-tech companies in one small region
than anybody could imagine. That's because while the concept of "job"
had evolved, the concept of "company" had not yet shifted.
Many high-tech companies during this time were short-lived, but
nonetheless contributed to the collective wisdom by creating new
technologies that are still used today in the latest iteration of "Job 3.0". Job
2.0 re-set the tone, breaking down the expectation of a 30-year singlecompany
career, providing the technology for a dramatic change in how
business processes are accomplished, and overcoming the '50s mindset
that prevented people from switching jobs or leaving a job to go out on
their own entrepreneurial venture.
Job 3.0
And so we come to the latest version of what a job really means. Today,
two factors are driving a permanent shift in employment patterns:
• Modern communications technologies and cloud computing
• High unemployment and a huge recession
These new technologies mean that we now have the technological
wherewithal to move away permanently from the centralized model of
work and employment. Collaboration no longer requires a physical
presence, and this means companies can do more with less. It means that
companies are keen to outsource many of the functions that were once
done in-house. This means in turn that those functions are being done by
people working at home, or for small companies that specialize in specific
When we speak of the macroeconomic realities and how they too have
enabled the cloud computing shift, we mean that the recession has made
companies take a long, hard look at how they get things done. Companies
are looking for new ways to become more efficient, and they are looking
for technologies that enable them to do more with less. It's not just a
matter of getting new features or capabilities—it's a matter of economic
survival. The economic downturn transformed cloud computing from a
"nice to have" into a "must have."
The age of the cubicle is over. There are naturally some jobs that must be
maintained on-premises, but increasingly, it is just as feasible to
accomplish many tasks off-site, either through telecommuting or
teleworking arrangements, or outsourcing to a third party provider. Today,
the link between corporate size and corporate success is upside down. It is
possible for a ten-person company to be more successful and productive
than a 1,000 person company. And taking that to the logical conclusion,
the possibility of a successful one-person company is now much more
realistic than it has ever been.
The notion of working at one's own home has gone through a lot of
iterations over the centuries. In the Middle Ages, it was the standard, as
craftspeople and tradesmen plied their trades out of their own workshops
behind their homes, but the Industrial Age brought us a new normal.
Working outside the home became the standard, and people started to see
working at home as less desirable. Today, the pendulum shifts once again,
as new technology makes it possible to conduct business from anyplace in
the world.
The idea of working from a lounge chair on the beach in a tropical island
isn't that far-fetched. Or for those who don't have a tropical island handy,
at least, working from home. When you call into any large company's
Customer Service department for example, more often than not, you are
either speaking to someone on the other side of the world, or someone
who is wearing a bathrobe, sitting in their own kitchen with a laptop and
broadband connection.
Ultimately, Job 3.0 has led to decentralization not only of the workplace
itself, but of the workplace community. We no longer need Silicon Valley.
It is no longer necessary for all those high-tech companies to be physically
present in the same little section of central California. Silicon Valley has
made itself obsolete. And what's more fascinating is that it has made the
very idea of what a "company" is, obsolete as well.
The end of the company as we know it
Cloud computing technology and outsourcing have an obvious symbiotic
relationship, and one cannot exist without the other in the real world.
Outsourcing becomes much easier and more realistic when there is cloud
computing; and cloud computing becomes much more than just a
theoretical technology when outsourcing functions as a practical
application of it.
What is a job, and what is a company? Those questions seem simple to
answer, but the answer isn't always evident. Today, the answers are
changing rapidly. In the last chapter, we talked about what a "job" really is
and what it is becoming, now let's talk about what a "company" is. Sure, in
business school they taught you all about corporate structures, and how a
corporation is an entity unto itself, but that's no what we're talking about.
A "company" has always been traditionally seen as an entity engaged in
commerce, which has members (owners and employees) which carry out
the tasks related to the company's commercial endeavor. A larger company
has "divisions" of employees, which may carry out tasks such as
accounting, human resources, information technology, customer service,
sales, and marketing. Seen in this way, a company is a very defined sort of
organization that is self-contained. In a limited sense, every company had
some interactions with other companies, as the company took on
suppliers, vendors, customers, and partners, but still, it stood on its own as
an island.
A company today, or "Company 2.0", operates a little differently. It is still
an entity engaged in commerce, but it is no longer dependent on its
internal departments and employees to carry out those tasks. Instead, a
company's set of tasks is condensed down to its core mission, with all
others being carried out by other companies. As such, the "corporate
walls" have broken down and collaboration has built up. When a manager
gets his or her weekly reports, they may not come from inside. Customer
service may be taken care of by a company in Mumbai. IT is taken care of
by a managed service provider in San Francisco, and marketing functions
are handled by a handful of small and creative companies that collaborate
with each other even further to accomplish the goals of the main
Web 2.0 technology, outsourcing trends, cloud computing, competitive
pressure and other macroeconomic realities all have converged to make
these major changes. Is a company with 1,000 employees more successful
than a company with ten employees? The answer is no longer obvious. In
many cases, the company with ten employees may be able to accomplish
the same thing, reach the same sales goals, and carry out the same tasks as
a much larger firm with many more employees.
The Virtual Company
Taking the concepts described in the previous section a step further, we
can easily see the shift that has occurred from a workplace organizational
structure that was several layers deep, to one that is leaner in nature, but
incorporates a "cloud" of virtual extensions. In the past for example, a
hierarchical business would include internal departments for data entry,
payroll, public relations, IT programming, and so forth. In addition, the
same business would retain functions like data storage,
telecommunications, web hosting, and server farms internally as well.
The inherent inefficiencies of this hierarchical model are obvious.
The boundaries of the actual "company" have become permeable to the
point of being nearly invisible. As a result, we are already seeing the
emergence of the "virtual company." These companies exist in reality
today all over the world. A "virtual company" has no corporate walls at all.
It may be organized to formally have only one or two employees, yet it
may have dozens, or hundreds of people working towards its main
commercial goal. The CEO's office may be a spare room in her house; the
"Marketing Department" is actually a virtual group of creatives working in
spare rooms of their own, servicing not only the primary virtual company,
but several others as well. The entire network of people—we can no
longer call them "employees"—are connected in real time through modern
collaborative technology, and the entire IT infrastructure exists in the
cloud. Virtual private networks (VPNs) ensure that every party can
connect to the applications and data they need on a secure basis, from any
location and from any machine. At any given time, the Public Relations
manager may be working out of a Starbucks, the tech support guy is sitting
in his kitchen wearing a headset and nibbling on leftover pizza as he doles
out advice, and the Vice President of Operations is keeping everything
flowing smoothly from a bungalow on the beach in Thailand. Indeed, it is
very possible that most of the members of this "virtual company" have
never even met face-to-face. And they don't need to.
Why does a company outsource?
A company engages in outsourcing because it brings cost savings and
efficiencies, and because it has the technological framework to do so
efficiently through innovations in cloud computing.
But the bigger question is, does it really make a company more costeffective
and efficient? Since traditionally, we think of achieving gains as
something that is done through control, but this is not always correct.
Outsourcing actually serves the broader goal of efficiency by breaking
down those artificial corporate barriers, exposing processes so that they
are more transparent and responsive to the corporate entity, and
eliminating unnecessary layers of corporate bureaucracy.
A highly vertical company, which tends to do all functions in-house, will
out of necessity have enormous layers of bureaucracy. Processes get
bogged down. Reporting may not be responsive enough. Individual
fiefdoms within the corporation may have conflicting goals, and may be so
caught up in their own domain that they neglect the greater goal of the
corporate entity. When a company is so large and organized vertically in
this way, it may very easily lose focus and lose its ability to respond to the
market quickly and efficiently. As such, the economic advantage is not the
only advantage—a less integrated company will simply be able to respond
better, maintain its core focus better, and spend its money better.
What makes a good company to begin with? A company that specializes in
something; a company that does something or produces something better
than anybody else. When a company starts devoting large amounts of
energy and resources to tasks that are not related to that thing it does
better than everybody else, then that company's energy starts to dissipate.
And more importantly, those peripheral tasks aren't getting done as well.
For example, a company that makes pizza may make the best pizza in
town. They're good at it. That's their "thing." But there are other things
they're not as good at. Good pizza makers aren't necessarily good
marketers, and so that pizza company outsources the marketing function
to another company, which is very good at what they do.
"I've been outsourced!"
That's become a common cry of the working person in today's world. And
yes, it's real, and it happens every day. A company decides to outsource a
particular function, and the internal staff are let go. Opponents of
outsourcing incorrectly assume that when a job is outsourced, it is lost,
and therefore contributes to the overall rise in unemployment and
contributes to the overall detriment of the economy.
This is not the case. Outsourcing does not necessarily result in job loss. It
results in job shifts. A programmer today for example, will gain greater job
security and higher pay by working for a programming job shop, rather
than an internal corporate IT department.
The proven benefits of outsourcing are undeniable, and the market reality
is that it is here to stay. The appropriate response is to see it not as a
challenge from a work perspective, but as an opportunity, as indeed it has
proven to be so. Opportunities exist as a direct result of outsourcing—
opportunities for employment at outsourcing service bureaus, and
opportunities for individuals to work independently, or to start their own
entrepreneurial service bureaus.
"Jobs for Americans"
Another common battle cry of opponents of outsourcing, this complaint
assumes incorrectly that when a job is outsourced, it is outsourced
overseas. And while many tasks do indeed go to India, Vietnam, Russia,
and other third world and emerging nations, plenty of those tasks do stay
at home.
Why they do stay at home is simple supply and demand. Because we are in
the era of Job 3.0, there are more former employees who have moved
towards being independent contractors, freelancers and consultants,
telecommuters, teleworkers, and work-at-homers. The supply of domestic
third-party businesses offering services to other companies that wish to
outsource has increased, making it very easy indeed for companies to take
advantage of outsourcing (through cloud computing technology), while
still keeping jobs within the geographical boundaries they call home.
There is no question that some of the tasks go offshore, but that is one
cloud that has a silver lining. Here's why.
India has built much of its economy on IT outsourcing to US and
European companies. Manufacturing is now frequently sourced to
companies in China, and more recently, Vietnam. When this occurs, the
immediate result is the loss of an American job. Those who do not favor
outsourcing because of social and political reasons fail to look beyond that
immediate impact, however. Yes, there is an immediate job loss, but what
is the net result?
• First, the company doing the outsourcing can cut costs, which is
important to its long-term survival. The company's outsourcing
strategy will help it to remain profitable, and therefore able to stay
in business and keep in place the jobs that still exist. In other
words, outsourcing certain processes and jobs allows for the
retention of other jobs.
• The third-world or emerging nation raises its own standard and
increases the ranks of its own middle class. That country then
becomes a more viable trading partner for the United States and
Europe. The citizens and workers of those emerging nations,
having raised their own standards of living due in large part to the
presence of outsourcing, gain an appetite for consumer goods—
and more often than not, consumer goods that are made, sold and
distributed by Western companies. Walk into any shopping mall in
downtown Bangkok, Beijing, or Moscow, and you'll see aisles full
of Western chains, Western brands and Western products. Raising
the standard of living of emerging nations therefore creates a
positive feedback, giving greater opportunities for Western
companies to supply and trade with emerging nations, and creating
more jobs in the process.
Strategies of isolationism have always been popular with a certain subset of
the citizenry, but they have always been a failure. Is it really necessary to
keep opportunities from third world countries and keep them
impoverished, in order to promote our own success and wealth?
Absolutely not. Free trade and outsourcing benefits everybody.
The next wave of collaboration
Cloud computing isn't just about delivering software-as-a-service. Cloud
computing has given us a whole new way of collaborating.
What did collaboration mean in the 1950s? It meant walking over to the
conference room and chatting about a project with your colleagues over
coffee. Maybe it meant picking up the phone and calling your supplier to
discuss your needs, or getting on an airplane and flying across the country
for a face-to-face meeting.
But collaboration means more than talking, it means sharing information
and data. In the 1950s, sharing information and data was a very physical,
and labor-intensive process. Shared data may have come in the form of
reams and reams of printed reports that were sent via special courier, but
still, collaborating on a project required a lot of face-to-face interaction.
The only way for two people in different offices to work on a design, a
spreadsheet, or a document together, was to sit down in front of the same
document at the same time, in the same room.
The information age has given us a lot of things, but chief among those is
a whole lot more information. That translates to enormous amounts of
data. Now office politics is a strange thing, and people tend to be
protective of their own work areas, their own projects, and their own
information. This tendency, along with a lack of collaborative technology,
led to "data silos", or independent areas of data that were useful for
specific purposes and in specific areas, but were inaccessible outside of a
very narrow scope. The existence of data silos meant that there was a lot
of redundant effort going on in a big company.
Two things have happened to break through that data silo mentality. First,
the sheer explosion of data has made it impractical; and second, cloud
computing and collaborative technology has made it possible to open up
those silos and allow for data sharing to take place. Data that was
previously held in independent silos in corporate fiefdoms throughout the
enterprise must be shared and constantly revised and updated by many
different people in different locations. This sharing isn't possible without
some sort of collaborative technology that exists "in the cloud," which
allows for instant and easy communication regardless of location, easy
sharing of data, and easy collaboration on projects.
Progressive collaboration
As we have progressed from "Job 1.0" to "Job 2.0" and "Job 3.0",
collaborative technology has progressed in the same way. Those ERP
applications we talked about earlier represented some of the first attempts
at large-scale collaboration. And while they did provide for some
collaboration, data sharing, and a unified view of information, the costs
were enormous.
Middleware offered another approach to collaboration, although this too
had limitations that were based on each proprietary middleware platform.
Integration afforded through middleware platforms is often limited to
certain applications or data types.
Other types of Web 2.0 collaboration overcame the data formatting
limitations of middleware, and tools like wikis portals or mashups stepped
in to allow for greater access through a common Web-based interface.
Cloud computing moves collaboration a step further, and brings together
the benefits of all three. Like Web 2.0 mechanisms, access can be nearly
universal. Participants can collaborate from virtually anywhere, and
depending on the cloud application and the interface, may not even have
to have any special client-side software installed. Like middleware, cloud
computing creates an environment where applications and data can be
more easily integrated. And like ERP applications, it can be used to
present a unified view of information.
The New Openness
The reality of corporate life, for anybody that has ever worked in an office,
is that any large company tends to develop "islands" over time. Fiefdoms.
Independent areas of domain into which others dare not tread. As
corporate people, we tend to be protective over our own areas of work.
But although this seems to be human nature, it is counter-productive to
the corporate goal.
This tendency results in a lack of cooperation, and it results in redundancy
of work. Early on, redundancy was often necessary simply because of
technological limitations. The Operations Department, Customer Service
Department, and Accounting Department all need information on
customers, and all three probably had their own databases of customer
information, which were completely stovepiped and inaccessible to anyone
outside of that specific department. Relational database technology and
simple networking made that model unnecessary, yet it still exists.
Companies that have overcome this mentality operate more successfully.
Simply put, it's often efficient to share data. Of course, all the usual
security precautions, authentication and authorization are in place, but the
data gets shared with who needs to see it.
Let's extend that to a broader view. We've seen that companies are no
longer constrained by physical boundaries, and a company's mission is
better carried out by an interacting subset of many different companies,
individuals, teleworkers and partners. This too can present an information
bottleneck. Yes, we have networks for sharing information within the
corporate boundaries, but what about outside the corporate boundaries?
This too, is starting to melt down. For example, some of the country's
largest retailers have supplier networks that allow vendors to connect
securely and directly into the retailer's inventory database. The vendor can
see when a particular product is low, and trigger a replenishment order
automatically. A cloud-based approach to data and applications allows for
data and applications to be shared whenever appropriate, with whomever
IX. Groundbreaking cloud
Cloud computing is a classic "disruptive technology" that is destined to
change long-standing processes across all industries. Two of the most
groundbreaking cloud-based applications that will occur over the next few
years are in healthcare, specifically in electronic health records and
healthcare informatics; and in government applications.
Healthcare applications (Health-IT)
The current administration continues to be aggressive in pursuing
healthcare reform. Aside from the issue of universal health insurance
coverage, which has gained the greatest coverage in the media, the reforms
include much more under the hood. Most notably, this means
implementation of electronic health records, and the creation of a
nationwide health care infrastructure that would make it easier for
healthcare providers to share and access patient records.
Part of this plan would create a National Health Information Network
(NHIN), which is a broad, interoperable platform for sharing electronic
health information. The NHIN would connect providers, insurers, and
emergency responders.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the
government's health care informatics plan's goals include:7
“Medical information will follow consumers so that they are at the center
of their own care
Consumers will be able to choose physicians and hospitals based on
clinical performance results made available to them
Clinicians will have a patient’s complete medical history, computerized
ordering systems, and electronic reminders
Quality incentives will measure performance and drive quality-based
competition in the industry
Public health and bioterrorism surveillance will be seamlessly integrated
into care
Clinical research will be accelerated and post-marketing surveillance will be
The concept of electronic medical records (EMR) and patient health
records (PHR) is one that has long been discussed, and is already in use in
other countries. There is no doubt that it will be part of the current
administration's broad health care reform initiative, and there are already
legislative incentives in place to encourage health care providers to get
with the program. EMR doesn't just mean that the hospital puts your
patient records in their computer—it means a new level of sharing. This of
course, is within the HIPAA regulation framework and assumes a rigorous
level of security, but it allows for a cloud-based infrastructure to exist for
EMR. The benefits are obvious. A patient's medical records would be
available to any authorized health care provider, anywhere in the country.
You could travel anywhere you want, and your records go with you. Any
authorized provider could access your records in case of an emergency.
Already, there is a common but limited version which has shown great
benefit—many of the large drugstore chains keep customer records in a
secure database, so that you can go to any branch, anywhere in the
country, and receive your prescription. The database also includes relevant
information such as drug interactions and allergies. This is only the tip of
7 US Department of Health and Human Services.
the iceberg. Ultimately, this limited drugstore application will be integrated
with all other healthcare providers. What's the result? It could save lives.
Error rates would be reduced, and caregivers will have more information
at their disposal when making critical decisions about your care.
This technology, based strongly in cloud computing technologies, is
rapidly gaining momentum. The RAND Corporation, in testimony
presented to the Senate Finance Committee, highlighted just a few of the
potential benefits of a cloud-based healthcare IT (HIT) system rolled out
on a national scale:
"The hope of many is that the broad adoption of HIT systems with the
aforementioned functionality in the United States will transform health
care in terms of making it more efficient and effective simultaneously.
Efficiency would be enhanced by reduced test duplication, improved drug
utilization, better scheduling, reduced paper record handling, and
improved claims processing and billing. Effectiveness would be enhanced
by reduced errors (reduced handwriting-based errors, for example),
reminders to improve preventative care, decision support for better
evidence-based practice, improved management of chronic illness, and
improved continuity of care for those patients seeking care away from
their primary provider (such as was needed to support the mass evacuation
that occurred after Hurricane Katrina). Effectiveness would also be
enhanced by the quality of care assessment such systems would make
possible and by improvements in the evidence base for best practices
derived from the analysis of large electronic medical record databases."8
The potential social benefit is clear. Not only would individual hospitals
benefit by moving to a more technology-based patient record system,
society as a whole would benefit by integrating those systems together in a
national database that relies on secure cloud computing technologies.
Besides the advantage of better patient care, cost savings would be
enormous. In this day and age when the health care debate is often framed
in terms of dollars and sense, a cloud-based national patient record system
is an obvious element that should be included. RAND Corporation claims
that savings that could be achieved would reach $80 billion per year,
assuming a 90 percent adoption rate by hospitals and physicians. To put
that figure in perspective, it's a full four percent of the $2 trillion spent
annually on health care in the United States.
The benefits can also be seen just looking narrowly at adverse drug events.
Every year, there are errors in medication that result from lack of allergy or
8 RAND Corporation. "The potential benefits and costs of increased adoption of
health information technology." Richard Hillestad, July, 2008. Testimony
presented before the Senate Finance Committee on July 17, 2008.
drug interaction warnings, handwriting errors, and poor dosage
monitoring. The RAND study further estimates that the safety benefit
would be enormous, avoiding as many as 2.2 million such adverse drug
events per year, saving nearly $4 billion per year.
Could these savings be achieved without a cloud computing infrastructure?
Not likely. The great benefits illustrated by RAND cannot be achieved if
those electronic records are stovepiped, retained only by each individual
provider. The cloud-based infrastructure suggested by the DHHS brings
the scope of the proposal into greater perspective, delivering the benefit
on a much wider scale, and allowing for the greater level of benefits that
result only from data sharing to exist.
Government: NASA and Nebula
Much as we all like to complain about government inefficiency, hulking
bureaucracies and outdated procedures, there are a few areas where
government really does excel in setting the standard for the rest of the
country. In the area of public access to documents over the Internet for
example, the Feds have done quite well. It's no longer necessary to drive
downtown to a government office, or make a phone call and wait a week
for a clerk to mail a form to us—we can just download it over the
Internet. Even state Departments of Motor Vehicles—well known and
maligned for hour-long waits and grumpy employees—have gotten onto
the bandwagon of technology, and in most states it's now possible to
renew your license plate online or at an automated machine in the office
lobby. And once again, it may well be the government that sets the pace
for embracing the cloud computing model.
It's not surprising that the biggest cloud project in government comes
from NASA, an agency that always tends to be out in front of the pack
with new technology. A cloud computing pilot called Nebula, being
developed at the NASA Ames Research Center, "integrates a set of opensource
components into a seamless, self-service platform, providing highcapacity
computing, storage and network connectivity using a virtualized,
scalable approach to achieve cost and energy efficiencies." NASA says that
Nebula provides for rapid development of applications that are both
policy-compliant and secure, promotes collaboration, and encourages
reuse of code.
Nebula is a wonderful example of cloud computing done right. It is open
source, which means it is transparent and highly interoperable. It is a full,
true cloud system that incorporates infrastructure, platform, and software;
all three of the main components of cloud computing. Nebula is already in
use for educational and public outreach uses, collaboration, and mission
support. Amateur astronomers use it to upload high resolution
photographs, and the LCROSS participation site, where amateur
astronomers work with NASA scientists to get a better view of the moon,
is built on the Nebula platform.
Two useful elements of Nebula elegantly illustrate the benefits of cloud
computing. It automatically increases computing power and storage as the
web application needs it. This is a central benefit of cloud computing in
general—the user need not worry about compute power and storage, since
that's all automatically and transparently taken care of on the back end.
When more storage space is needed, it's allocated. If more compute power
is needed, you get it transparently. Second, Nebula addresses the security
worry. It was built to be secure, as well as compliant with government
policies (of which there are many).
The Federal CIO Vivek Kundra, who was formerly the District of
Columbia technology chief, has been a strong proponent of use of cloud
computing in government as a way to gain efficiency and save taxpayer
dollars. In Washington DC, he was able to eliminate a $4 million initiative
to create an intranet for the DC government, and instead, shift the district
government to Google Apps—accomplishing the same goal, and saving a
huge amount of money. Kundra's move to the cloud enabled DC to save
money and improve efficiency. For example, now the district's training
information can be obtained through online videos on Google Apps; the
same Google Apps is also used to add more transparency to government
by making procurement data available to the public. Kundra claims that
"The cloud will do for government what the Internet did in the '90s. It's a
fundamental change to the way our government operates by moving to the
cloud. Rather than owning the infrastructure, we can save millions."9
X. The Open Cloud
Open source software has in general been on the rise, and there's no doubt
that it delivers many benefits to developers and end users alike. There are
numerous cloud computing services that are either written entirely in open
source code, or at least incorporating open source into the final
application. Two of the biggest advantages of open source are lower cost,
and greater flexibility, and these benefits fit well into the entire cloud
computing paradigm, which delivers the same. Open source in short,
enhances cloud computing's promise to deliver greater cost savings and
flexibility to those who use it. It does this through two means: First, by
streamlining the development end by allowing developers the use of
existing open source code rather than "reinventing the wheel." This model
9 Gautham Nagesh. "Local technology czar could be headed to Obama
administration." Nextgov, November 26, 2008.
correlates closely with the use of a cloud platform, which also allows cloud
applications developers to build applications on top of an existing
application infrastructure, so that routine functions need not be built from
scratch. Doing so not only provides an advantage in terms of reduced
development cost, it also has the advantage of allowing the developer to
access code that has already been proven. In this respect, cloud computing
applications, particularly cloud computing applications that have been built
using open source components, is more likely to be robust and possess
fewer flaws than an application built entirely from scratch from the ground
Second, the open source paradigm answers the question, "What happens
to my cloud application if the provider goes out of business?" If cloudbased
applications are based on open software models, then if and when a
cloud provider goes out of business, an individual client could easily take
over their own applications if necessary, or transfer them to another
Is open software free software?
Here's a quick answer to that question: No. Casual observers often
confuse these two very separate software movements. The "free software"
movement is an ideological platform that suggests that all software should
be free, and it is only practical in a very limited sense. The "open source"
movement is a technological platform that espouses open development,
because it allows for advantages such as continuous improvement of the
code base, and easier customization for individual users. The latter is
practical in almost all cases of software development.
Here's a useful description from GNU:
" The two terms describe almost the same category of software, but they
stand for views based on fundamentally different values. Open source is a
development methodology; free software is a social movement. For the
free software movement, free software is an ethical imperative, because
only free software respects the users' freedom. By contrast, the philosophy
of open source considers issues in terms of how to make software
'better'—in a practical sense only. It says that nonfree software is an
inferior solution to the practical problem at hand. For the free software
movement, however, nonfree software is a social problem, and the
solution is to stop using it and move to free software."10
This is an interesting concept, and fascinating fodder for ivory tower
discussions in university seminar rooms and coffee houses, but ultimately
an impractical one. Ultimately, it is true that open software is indeed a
10 Richard Stallman. "Why open source misses the point of free software." Free
Software Foundation.
methodology used to make software technologically superior, but the
above argument of course eliminates incentive to make the software in the
first place.
Open source delivers the advantages of:
• Flexibility to adapt and customize software to suit individual needs
• Lower cost of development
• More robust development due to continuous revision
Free software, on the other hand, constrains development by limiting that
development only to academics, hobbyists and people with too much time
on their hands, and would eliminate an entire class of development
professionals who create software for a living.
We advocate the use of open source in cloud-based platforms as well as
cloud-based applications for the above advantages, and most importantly,
to overcome the potential drawback of cloud providers going out of
business and leaving proprietary applications, which companies may have
come to depend on, inaccessible.
XI. Security and risks
Security is incredibly important in today's environment. Cyber-attackers
and other types of black hat folk want to infiltrate your network, often for
personal gain, and the losses every year due to cyber-attack are enormous.
We take great measures to protect our data and our networks with
firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware software, physical protections such as
locked data centers, and sophisticated authentication and authorization
Any good IT security manager is paranoid, and the belief that "everybody
is out to get me" is one that serves the IT security mission well. "Trust no
one" is the watchword. The poor IT security manager is as a result often
resented by end users, who must comply with regular password changes,
policy items that may be annoying or inconvenient, and procedures that
may make access more difficult. And the payoff isn't always obvious, since
the most ideal outcome for the security manager is that "nothing
It is only by looking at what happens to other people, and statistics related
to loss and frequency of attack, that we realize that the security investment
is a good one. The 2008 CSI Computer Crime and Security Survey shows
that there is an average reported annual cost of nearly half a million dollars
for financial fraud, $350,000 for dealing with "bot" computers in the
network; and an overall average annual loss of just under $300,000.
Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they had detected at least one
targeted attack.11
It's interesting to note though, that the security issue has its own cloudbased
solution that is growing in popularity. Security is increasingly
delivered as a managed service by a third party provider, a factor that gives
weight to the relevance of cloud computing and "as a service" offerings in
respect to the security question.
There are several obvious reasons why security is being delivered, quite
successfully, on an outsourced basis through the cloud. Like many other
types of services that are delivered over the cloud, security is a specialized
field. Many smaller companies especially lack the high-end expertise
required to run security in-house, and having access to the best security
experts in the business from a third-party provider will afford those
companies better security, more expertise and knowledge, and access to
higher-end security applications and equipment than they could provide on
their own.
What happens when data and applications are put into the cloud? Do we
lose control over the security precautions? What happens to security?
Those are fair questions that must be addressed. The word "cloud" implies
by its very nature that the exact physical location of data and applications
may not even be known. The abstraction provided by the virtualization
technology used by cloud providers makes physical location even harder to
pin down.
Security improvement through common security models
in the cloud platform
One unnecessary limitation to cloud computing is that at present, cloud
application providers tend to implement their own proprietary security
approaches. This gives rise to a number of concerns and questions
concerning international privacy laws, exposure of data to foreign entities,
stovepipe approaches to authentication and role-based access, and "leaks"
in multi-tenant architectures. These security concerns have slowed the
adoption of cloud computing technology, although it need not pose a
The very nature of a cloud platform is that it imposes an instance of
common software elements that can be used by developers to "bolt on" to
their applications without having to write them from scratch. This
advantage is especially useful in the area of security. The cloud "platform
as a service" brings an elegant solution to the security problem by
implementing a standard security model to manage user authentication and
11 2008 CSI Computer Crime and Security Survey.
authorization, role-based access, secure storage, multi-tenancy, and privacy
policies. Consequently, any SaaS application that runs on the common
platform would immediately benefit from the platform's standardized and
robust security model.
Understanding how operating systems work can provide a good point of
reference. An operating system, such as Windows, OS X, or UNIX, has
security features built in. The operating system vendor constantly makes
refinements to their own security model, which are issued in regular
updates and patches. Individual applications therefore, need not worry
about addressing those security issues. Now of course, relying solely on
the operating system's security features is poor practice; most users will
add in firewalls, anti-virus software, encryption, or one or more methods
of authentication and authorization. But, the basics are already taken care
Cloud platforms work the same way. When a developer builds a cloud
application on top of a cloud platform, they benefit from the platform's
existing common security model.
Cloud computing provides superior physical security
This may seem to be a counter-intuitive argument. Yet lack of physical
security is the cause of an enormous amount of loss. In a GAO report on
NASA cybersecurity, it was noted that a stolen laptop had data on it that
was subject to arms traffic regulations.12 This is by no means an isolated
incident, and stolen laptops are a surprisingly common source of data loss.
And it may surprise the reader to know that loss is often the result of
internal attack. Yes, insiders account for much of the losses that occur.
Industrial espionage is a reality. And while the specter of black hats
hacking into your network from a third world country is very much real,
very often, the "black hat" is in reality a trusted employee. It's the guy from
the Accounting department who you have lunch with. It's the lady who
brings you coffee in the morning and always remembers that you like two
sugars. It's the recent college grad with so much potential, who did such a
great job on that last report.
A survey by The Strategic Counsel sponsored by CA actually showed that
internal threats are a bigger threat than attacks from outside.13 The survey
showed that internal security breaches are increasing, even while other
12 Michael Cooney. "NASA network security torched." NetworkWorld, October
15, 2009.
13 "Survey: Internal security threats outpace attacks from external sources."
Contingency Planning, July 17, 2008.
threats are decreasing. Forty four percent of respondents indicated that
internal breaches were a major challenge.
Of course, insiders can attack your network and data regardless of where it
is located, given enough incentive and information, but physical proximity
of the actual hardware and data makes it much easier to gain access.
There are several security advantages to the cloud. NIST defines these
advantages as follows:
• Shifting public data to a external cloud reduces the exposure of the
internal sensitive data
• Cloud homogeneity makes security auditing/testing simpler
• Clouds enable automated security management
• Redundancy / Disaster Recovery
All four points are well taken. Cloud providers naturally tend to include
rigorous security as part of their business models, often more than an
individual user would do. Most IT directors and CIOs understand that
disaster recovery should be a part of their environment, but still, other
things get in the way and disaster planning gets put aside. Or worse, a
company implements a minimal disaster plan policy, which is then shelved
and forgotten until it is out of date.
According to a recent British survey, 52 percent of organizations had
specific business continuity plans. But, despite increasing awareness,
companies remain complacent about it, and only 64 percent of managers
say that business continuity is seen as important to their organizations.14
But while many businesses neglect business continuity and disaster
planning on their own, they surely expect it to be provided when a third
party is handling their data, and cloud providers as a rule will incorporate
disaster planning far more than will an individual company, also including
specifics of it in their service level agreements.
In this respect, it's not just a matter of cloud computing providers
deploying better security, the point is, rather, that they deploy the
precautions that individual companies should, but often don't.
The fallacy of direct control
In looking at the security of cloud computing, it is necessary to look at the
alternative, and the inherent risks of non-cloud computing. It's a natural
human tendency to want to have control over everything. And if
somebody else is controlling something, we want to look over their
14 Chartered Management Institute and the Cabinet Office. "A decade of living
dangerously: The business continuity management report of 2009." By Patrick
Woodman and Dr. Vidal Kumar, March, 2009.
shoulders while they're doing it. When the plumber comes to fix our pipes,
do we sit in the living room and watch television and let the poor guy just
do his job? No, of course not. We follow him to the bathroom and watch.
It doesn't make the pipes get fixed any faster or any better, but by
watching, we have regained that sense of control that we lost when we
called the plumber in the first place. It's almost as if by watching the
plumber, we're doing the work ourselves. We are no longer in control, but
we feel as though we are.
In the case of the busted water pipe for example, is it better to maintain
direct control over the situation? Probably not. Most of us who are not
plumbers have better things to do with our time. And while it's true that
we could probably fix that broken pipe ourselves if we had enough time,
how-to manuals, and pipe dope, the plumber (who's done it many times
before) could probably do it faster and better.
We can see in this simple scenario that there are circumstances where it is
better to not have direct control.
For those who resist using the cloud, the alternative is to remain in control
by running your own data center, your own servers, your own storage
farm, and your own applications. Doing so leaves you in complete control,
but there is an opportunity cost involved.
The guy who fixes his own plumbing suffers an opportunity cost, because
he must make multiple trips to the hardware store, invest time and money,
purchase hundreds of dollars' worth of tools, and miss his favorite
television show. And just like the guy who fixes his own plumbing, the
company that insists on hosting absolutely everything in-house is losing
Little or no capital investment Large up-front capital investment
IT staff free to attend to other
Requires IT staff to attend to servers,
applications, etc.
Service level guarantee Nobody to blame but yourself
Physical security included Extra physical security required
Security built into cloud platform Additional security tools must be deployed
and maintained
Backup and disaster recovery
Must deploy backup and disaster recovery
The most immediate advantages of the cloud is the lack of an up-front
capital investment, and freeing the internal IT staff to attend to more
pressing concerns. But beyond that, there are advantages that relate
directly to security. A cloud computing service provider will typically offer
a service level guarantee to protect against data loss, outage, failure, and
cyberattack. Typically, this SLA is backed up by specific terms that lay out
performance levels, as well as penalties that the provider may be liable for
if those levels are not met.
The physical security element is important and often overlooked. All the
firewalls and passwords in the world are useless if somebody in a lab coat
carrying a clipboard can bluff his way into your office and walk out with a
pocketful of thumb drives and the CEO's laptop under his arms. And
make no mistake, this does happen, and often. Industrial espionage is alive
and well. If you are hosting your own data center, is your data safe? Sure,
it's firewalled. But is it in a locked room? Is access to that room regulated,
with entry by keycard only? Probably not. Service providers offering cloud
services, collocation centers and hosting providers typically adhere to
rigorous physical security protocols to protect against physical theft or
Besides physical security, the technical security is of the utmost
importance. Hosting your own servers and applications requires extra
measures. A larger organization may need to deploy dedicated IT staff to
security only. Cloud computing, on the other hand, builds security directly
into the cloud platform. While the company still must maintain in-house
security in any case, the provider ensures that the applications and data are
safe from attack.
And lastly, the issue of disaster recovery is vital, and one that is often
ignored. We may tend to think that simple backup is equivalent to disaster
recovery, but it is not. Disaster recovery calls for redundant, off-site
backup, as well as procedures and technology for recovering data and
applications at a moment's notice in case of disaster. It can be costly—but
a cloud provider will already have these measures in place.
Of course, when considering cloud providers, these considerations are
always a factor, and it should be determined ahead of time that the cloud
• Offers a detailed, specific SLA
• Offers physical security at their data center
• Offers superior technical security to protect data and applications
• Offers a detailed backup and disaster recovery plan
With these things taken into account, it becomes very evident that
maintaining direct control over everything comes at a high cost, and in
most cases, those necessary elements are not met.
Alternative Delivery Models
Many customers remain concerned about control for good reasons.
Consider national defense data, which must be carefully guarded with the
absolute greatest security measures. You may think that national defense
data isn't a good candidate for cloud computing, but it could be used
effectively here too. It’s actually possible to employ cloud computing
technologies, such as virtualization and platforms on internal networks
within a firewall. In doing so, customers can enjoy many of the benefits of
cloud computing while minimizing the risks. Along those lines, NIST has
suggested the term “public cloud” for a traditional Internet cloud, and
suggests three alternative deployment models described below:
• Private cloud (enterprise owned or managed) - Private cloud
(also called internal cloud or corporate cloud) is a term for an inhouse
cloud computing architecture that provides services to a
limited number of people behind a corporate firewall. Private
clouds are marketed to organizations that want more control over
their data than they can get by using a third-party hosted service
such as Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) or Simple Storage
Service (S3).
• Community cloud (shared infrastructure for specific
community) – Similar to a private cloud, except shared by several
organizations with overlapping concerns. For example, NASA’s
Nebula offering may be considered as a federal community cloud.
• Hybrid cloud (composition of two or more clouds) – Refers to
a cloud infrastructure that consists of two or more clouds (private,
community, or public) that remain unique entities but are bound
together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables
data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for loadbalancing
between clouds).
Accessing the cloud
Making the move from on-premises applications and data storage to
cloud-based applications and data storage is a big step, and one of the first
things that comes to mind is access. "Can I get to my data and apps?" "Will
there be latency and delay?" These are important questions. In the old days
of centralized mainframe computing, and in the early days of networking,
latency was common. Data entry people suffered productivity loss because
they had to wait for processing on the back end before they could enter
more data; applications were less responsive; and web surfing when the
web was new could be a frustrating experience. Remember the first time
you tried to access a graphical web site over a dial-up line? We think of
those experiences and imagine cloud computing to be more of the same.
But the fact is, broadband access and gigabit-speed networking has
changed all that, and the widespread access of broadband is the natural
precursor of widespread cloud computing.
The details: How to buy it
We've painted a broad picture now of cloud computing, what it is, what it
does, and how it helps us. But once you've made the decision to deploy
cloud technology, then all of a sudden you're faced with the details. RFPs,
needs analyses, sorting through the different vendors, watching their
presentations and making a decision.
The process is the same as with any other type of technology. Determine
what you need, put out an RFP, create a short list, and look at the offers.
But one of the most important elements of purchasing cloud services is
the service level agreement (SLA). An SLA has long been an important
aspect of any sort of IT service, but in the era of the cloud, it becomes
even more vital since so much more depends on the service.
The first thing to evaluate is whether the cloud service provider offers an
SLA, and what the details of it may be. There are performance promises
that are nothing more than marketing fluff: "Great service or your money
back!" And then there are performance promises that have teeth. The SLA
should include in specific language, at least the following:
• Expected performance levels should be laid out in specific terms.
• Uptime percentage must also be stated in specific numeric values.
• Response time should also be stated in specific terms.
• The provider should also provide for consequences if the terms are
not met; for example, a penalty, free service for a period of time,
• The SLA may also set out specific tasks and deliverables, such as
reports or other functions.
Most cloud providers will offer a boilerplate SLA, and this may well be
adequate—but if you are a large customer, tweaking the terms of the SLA
is common. In some cases, the terms are negotiable.
Cloud providers, and other types of providers as well, have embraced the
value of the SLA, not just because it delivers value to the customer, but for
their own uses as well. From the perspective of the provider, it protects
against escalating client expectations. For example, some services may
deliver varying levels of guarantees, each one with a different rate. There
may be for example, one price for a 98 percent guarantee, and another for
a 99 percent guarantee.
XII. The Future of Cloud
Resistance to new technology concepts is inevitable, and cloud computing
is no exception. But today, cloud computing has matured to the level
where it is a viable technology, ready to embrace and bring benefit to your
The reasons why cloud computing's time is now include:
• Economic necessity
• Support from major mainstream software vendors
• Demand from small business for high-end features
• Demand from enterprise users for more cost-effective solutions
• Need for collaborative tools
• Cloud technology has already passed the proving ground stage
Economically, the market today is not only ready for cloud computing, it
demands cloud computing. On a macro level, the world is facing a huge
recession from which it will be slow to recover, and businesses of all sizes
need an edge just to stay competitive. Increasing revenues is always a key
strategy of any business, but the reality of the situation is that many
companies are not able to do so in a struggling economy. This leaves only
cost cutting as a way to stay flat or increase the bottom line.
When a business needs to cut expenses, it's not prudent to cut those areas
that contribute to the company's overall mission. Staff reductions may
provide a short-term shot in the arm, but in the long run, this may be
detrimental. The better strategy in cost-cutting is to re-evaluate the
company's technological underpinnings, and implement new technology
that allows them to do more with less. Cloud computing is such a
Furthermore, mainstream software vendors have all staked a claim in the
cloud computing market. Enterprise software vendors, many with
reputations for massively expensive implementations that take months or
years to install successfully, have already rolled out cloud-based versions of
their otherwise bulky systems. The results have been astounding.
Enterprises have been using cloud-based versions of ERP software for
example, to get up and running on individual modules immediately, instead
of having to wait months for a custom rollout. Even if an on-premises
solution is ultimately desired, the cloud-based system allows them to make
an easier transition—and one of the hardest things about a major ERP
installation is the transition. On the lower end, midsized businesses are
taking advantage of these cloud-based enterprise systems to get
functionality that they couldn't afford before they became available on the
cloud. On the low end of the market, small businesses and SOHO
companies also have the cloud at their disposal as well, with offerings from
mainstream vendors like Microsoft, Google, and even Apple delivering a
wide range of cloud-based applications and services that promote not only
productivity, but increased collaboration as well.
The consumer market is especially important for the acceptance of cloud
computing, as this is where the technology initially filters into the business
mainstream. Consumers that have become accustomed to using Google
Apps, Microsoft Live, and Apple MobileMe will demand the same
functionality in the workplace.
The collaborative potential is just as important as the functionality of the
applications themselves. The fact that the cloud promotes collaboration
fits in well with today's ways of doing business. The decentralization of the
workplace, the growth of outsourcing, and the desire for telecommuting
and work-at-home solutions all demand collaborative technologies to
work, and this is now possible only through cloud computing technology.
And finally, we have to look at the adopter stage of any technology. Early
adopters jump in when a technology is new and unproven, and serve the
purpose of providing a testing ground for the rest of us. Today, we see
that cloud computing has a rich collection of providers, both wellestablished
and startup; and that users come from all segments and all
business size classifications. Furthermore, cloud computing providers have
expanded to encompass the entire range of cloud computing technology
(infrastructure, platform, and application), with prominent vendors already
offering robust deliverables in all three categories. Cloud computing has
passed that early adopter stage and is now entering the mainstream.
To technologists, the future of cloud computing is easy to understand,
because we have the advantage of history. To truly understand the future
of cloud computing technology, we merely need to examine the historical
evolution of earlier computing platforms. The cloud is evolving in many of
the same ways, with its infrastructure, platforms and software.
The cloud is evolving in the same ways as prior computing platforms
More important is the effect of the cloud on the people who use it. We
may even say that cloud computing is reaching "critical mass." That is, it
has come too far to put it back in the bottle. It's here, the technology is
ready, and it is already making dramatic changes to the way people do
business, the way we work, and even the way we think. It is creating a new
class of entrepreneurs and ushering a second dotcom boom.
What are the implications of this technology achieving critical mass? For
one, IT buyers will not need to defend why they are buying cloud
computing services—the argument instead will focus on "why are you
using antiquated technologies?" and "Why are you spending ten times too
much on this project when you could be using cloud computing instead?"
Top ten predictions: The future of cloud computing
This new era of cloud computing is behind some of the biggest shifts in
business since the Industrial Revolution. Today, the genie is out of the
bottle, and change is imminent and inevitable. We're not alone in
predicting a major role for cloud computing. Gartner placed cloud
computing at the very top of its "Top Ten strategic technology areas for
2010" report, and virtually every research organization and think tank has
declared it to be a technology that is destined to change the way we think
about computing.
There is no doubt that as a disruptive technology, cloud computing's
future is assured, but what will that future be? Following are ten
predictions for how cloud computing will play into the future.
1. Cloud infrastructure commoditizes, and prices fall.
Cloud computing already provides a pricing advantage to end users,
who gain access to high-end applications at entry-level prices. But the
infrastructure, upon which the rest of the cloud lives, will also decrease
in price as more major players enter into the market to provide
commodity infrastructures to hold the increasing number of cloud
applications. Meanwhile, the competition is steepening. Together, this
will make it even cheaper for applications providers to enter into the
2. Open standards emerge as dominant in cloud platforms.
Cloud-based development becomes simpler, giving rise to greater
competition from smaller players. It’s “déjà vu all over again” as the
proprietary shakeout gives way to open systems. These open systems
not only simplify development and provide for more robust
applications, they allow for a greater level of customization, and they
also answer the vexing question of what happens to an application if a
provider goes out of business.
3. Homesourcing becomes mainstream.
Cloud computing will drag us kicking and screaming out of our
cubicles and into our homes. There will be resistance on several fronts,
but the move is inevitable due to the incredible efficiency gains and
cost savings to companies. Because applications and data no longer
need to reside on the computer in front of us, the physical office is
quickly becoming redundant.
4. Corporate processes become decentralized.
Larger companies take advantage of the decentralization made possible
by cloud computing. This leads to a greater level of outsourcing, which
in turns triggers the need for more smaller companies to fill the need
for those outsourced services.
5. A new wave of entrepreneurship emerges.
Cloud computing ushers in the next great dotcom boom, only this
time things are different. Cloud computing has lowered the barriers to
entry so that anyone can be a dotcom superstar. Entrepreneurs won’t
need to be programming wizards or venture backed. They only need
an idea, ambition and a credit card.
6. Smart phones evolve with cloud apps.
Smart phones like the iPhone and BlackBerry continue to gain
functionality and power, and their reach extends further with easier
access to wireless broadband. This makes smart phones more
attractive as an actual working machine, and a tool for accessing
productivity apps over the cloud for corporate use.
7. The days of multi-million dollar enterprise software projects comes to
an end.
Those years-long deployments, high failure rates and big price tags are
already pushing their limits, and enterprise customers are demanding
something better. Enterprise-level cloud computing apps will gradually
replace those huge on-premises implementations with a more modular
approach; and the existence of cloud platforms will encourage new
entrants into the enterprise market. The days of multi-million IT
projects will eventually fall by the wayside along with the fall of
ground-up Web 2.0 engineering. Think about it – who, these days,
would want to write an e-commerce website from the ground up when
you can rent an e-commerce server? Yesterday’s million dollar systems
only cost a few dollars today. Likewise, cloud platforms will become
the norm rather than the exception. The same thing is happening with
other types of platforms, from social platforms to enterprise business
8. Cloud computing penetrates all areas of business management.
The earliest applications delivered more consumer-oriented
applications and services, although cloud computing is by no means a
consumer-only technology. Already in widespread use by SOHO and
small businesses, it is expanding into larger enterprises. The result will
be that cloud applications will evolve to accommodate more missioncritical
needs, delivering full-fledged management systems to the
largest government agencies and corporations in the world.
9. Big-name companies struggle for new identities.
Something fascinating happens when computing platforms change: the
big IT boats get rocked. Hello IBM, do you remember that little
company named Microsoft? Hello Microsoft, do you remember that
little company named Google? Hello Facebook, do you remember that
little company named??? The emergence of new cloud offerings from
names like Rackspace will drive competition in the cloud infrastructure
arena. Cloud platforms are enabling 10s of thousands of software
newcomers. Cloud platforms will gain attention from infrastructure
providers looking for new competitive advantages. In the end, several
new brands will emerge, both from established players and newcomers
to the market. The space will become more cluttered before eventually
shaking out.
10. Social networking systems will evolve into collaborative management
Today’s managers need to get things done despite growing challenges.
Their teams are more scattered and complex... more difficult to
motivate, coordinate and hold accountable. An honest manager will
tell you that real work is still being done with spreadsheets and emails.
For these reasons and more, the future of collaboration will be more
focused on the emerging needs of mangers who are coping with more
complexity and demands. They need more than social networking.
They need interactive management systems with real reports.
What’s Next?
The future is unfolding quickly. It has been said that 1 year in computer
technology is like 10 years in the automobile industry.
In the 1980s, PC computing showed us just how fast new computing
technologies can reach the world. Cloud computing will move much
faster, because it has several advantage, including today’s Internet.
In a few years, we will go to our cloud desktop. It will probably look a lot
like today’s PC desktop. The underlying technologies will be different, but
we’ll leave those details to the techies. Soon, the hype will subside, but the
cloud will be here to stay. We will use it without thinking about it.
We’ll simply log on to do whatever we do.
About the Authors
Cary Landis owns and operates
Virtual Global, Inc., where he
currently serves as lead architect
for the TeamHost™ enterprise
cloud platform. In the past, Cary
has engineered nationallydeployed
software systems for
federal agencies, including the US
Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS) / Food and Drug
Administration (FDA), National
Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST) and NASA.
He also co-founded KeyLogic
Systems. Cary currently resides in
Morgantown, WV.
Dan Blacharski is a freelance
writer, having published numerous
books and articles for technology
trade and popular press. He
currently owns and operates Ugly
Dog Media out of his virtual office
in South Bend, Indiana with his
wife, Charoenkwan. While in
Silicon Valley, Dan created content
for, and helped many dotcom
startups fine-tune their messaging
strategies, and had an opportunity
to see first-hand what works, what
doesn’t, and what still gets
supported even though it defies all
common sense.
Amazon, 10, 15, 24, 58
as-a-service, 10, 11, 18, 22, 23, 24, 33,
Benefits, 18
bloatware, 30
Cloud Infrastructure, 9, 14
Cloud Platforms, 9, 17, 18, 20
Cloud Software, 9, 22
collaboration, 8, 10, 26, 28, 29, 37, 40,
44, 45, 49, 60, 61, 64
Collaboration, 28, 39
Community cloud, 58
data center, 13, 16, 17, 31, 56, 57
elasticity, 10, 18
enterprise software, 13, 19, 20, 32, 33,
Facebook, 10, 20, 32
grid computing, 24, 35
Health-IT, 46
HIT, 48
HPC, 24
Hybrid cloud, 58
IaaS, 9, 14
Infrastructure-as-a-Service, 9, 14
mainframes, 31
Middleware, 20, 45
NASA, 21, 49, 50, 54, 58, 66
Nebula, 49, 50, 58
NIST, 7, 10, 14, 19, 55, 58, 66
offshoring, 37
on-demand, 10, 14
Open source, 50, 51, 52
operating systems, 9, 21, 26, 36, 54
PaaS, 9, 17
PC, 8, 9, 12, 16, 21, 27, 31, 36
Platform-as-a-Service, 9, 17
Private cloud, 58
risks, 17, 19, 20, 33, 52, 55, 58
SaaS, 7, 9, 19, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, 33,
36, 54
Scalability, 28
Security, 7, 52, 53, 56
Simplicity, 28
SLA, 57, 59
SOAP, 23
Software as a Service, 7
SOHO, 6, 30, 33, 60, 64
supercomputing, 23, 24
teleworking, 39
total cost of ownership, 21
Virtualization, 13, 16, 17, 29
Web 2.0, 28, 29, 37, 41, 45, 63
web services, 18, 23
Windows, 8, 12, 22, 28, 54
XML, 23

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