Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cloud Computing Risk

CIO.com reviewed the top three concerns that the IT executives have regarding the adoption of cloud computing - security, latency, and SLA.

These concerns seem similar to those previously assigned to grid computing, software as a service and just about every new capability that comes along. While I agree that the concerns are real, I also feel that as the "boundaries" between intranets and extranets are falling away because solutions to these concerns have been found and implemented. If this weren't true, the internet would have failed as a commercial infrastructure long ago.

Chirag Mehta, Architect and Design and Innovation strategist for the SAP Office of the CEO, addressed these concerns in his Cloud Computing blog

" Security

Many IT executives make decisions based on the perceived security risk instead of the real security risk. IT has traditionally feared the loss of control for SaaS deployments based on an assumption that if you cannot control something it must be unsecured. I recall the anxiety about the web services deployment where people got really worked up on the security of web services because the users could invoke an internal business process from outside of a firewall.The IT will have to get used to the idea of software being delivered outside from a firewall that gets meshed up with on-premise software before it reaches the end user. The intranet, extranet, DMZ, and the internet boundaries have started to blur and this indeed imposes some serious security challenges such as relying on a cloud vendor for the physical and logical security of the data, authenticating users across firewalls by relying on vendor's authentication schemes etc. , but assuming challenges as fears is not a smart strategy.

Latency

Just because something runs on a cloud it does not mean it has latency. My opinion is quite the opposite. The cloud computing if done properly has opportunities to reduce latency based on its architectural advantages such as massively parallel processing capabilities and distributed computing. The web-based applications in early days went through the same perception issues and now people don't worry about latency while shopping at Amazon.com or editing a document on Google docs served to them over a cloud. The cloud is going to get better and better and the IT has no strategic advantages to own and maintain the data centers. In fact the data centers are easy to shut down but the applications are not and the CIOs should take any and all opportunities that they get to move the data centers away if they can.

SLA

Recent Amazon EC2 meltdown and RIM's network outage created a debate around the availability of a highly centralized infrastructure and their SLAs. The real problem is not a bad SLA but lack of one. The IT needs a phone number that they can call in an unexpected event and have an up front estimate about the downtime to manage the expectations. May be I am simplifying it too much but this is the crux of the situation. The fear is not so much about 24x7 availability since an on-premise system hardly promises that but what bothers IT the most is inability to quantify the impact on business in an event of non-availability of a system and set and manage expectations upstream and downstream. The non-existent SLA is a real issue and I believe there is a great service innovation opportunity for ISVs and partners to help CIOs with the adoption of the cloud computing by providing a rock solid SLA and transparency into the defect resolution process."

He also address some valuable innovation opportunities. I agree with his views and hope that more CIOs do as well.
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