Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Cloud Computing - Part Two

In part two of this two part blog post on cloud computing, we will cover:

1. Concerns related to cloud computing
2. Factors which can accelerate wide spread adoption of cloud computing

1. Concerns related to cloud computing

(a) Security: One of the biggest concerns related to cloud computing is security. This is because sensitive data may no longer reside on dedicated hardware, secured within the enterprise’s own data centers. If the cloud is not secure enough enterprises will hesitate to migrate their business related data to the cloud platform.

(b) Poor Service Level Agreements: Service Level Agreement (SLA) is an integral part of the business relationship between a service provider and a customer. An SLA is essentially a contract between a service provider and a customer which clearly defines the business relationship, assures the customer that the service will meet stated requirements, and provides contingencies in case issues arise.

Due to poor or non-existent Service Level Agreements, cloud computing confidence and adoptions is affected. Most Enterprise IT organizations will not adopt cloud services on a large scale until service levels can be clearly spelled out and backed up. For many IT organizations Service Level Agreements are a requirement to use any vendor’s service since the absence of an SLA puts the business at risk from an operational, financial, or liability standpoint.

The main issues commonly found in cloud computing related Service Level Agreements are:

•    Lack of guaranteed availability
•    Lack of guaranteed performance
•    Lack of guaranteed support and response time

(c) Inadequate Risk Assessment: Risk Assessment and Management is often considered the greatest concern in cloud computing. Risks associated with cloud computing can be generally classified into:

  (i) Legal, compliance and reputation risks
  (ii) Operational risks

Legal, compliance and reputation risks can result from cloud computing vendors leaking, losing, breaching, damaging or impeding access to various types of sensitive or valuable information. When information is leaked, damaged, or lost by a cloud computing vendor, the customer organization may face legal or regulatory consequences for which there is little recourse. Cloud customers are unlikely to repair the reputation damage by transferring the responsibility to the cloud vendor.

The majority of the operational risks for cloud computing services are related to IT security, performance or availability. Small to medium sized organizations could see a net gain operational security by using a professional cloud computing service. However, larger enterprises may see lower levels of security in the areas of strong encryption, access control, monitoring and physical separation of resources.

(d) Vendor Lock-in: Vendor lock-in is a real and major concern in cloud computing. The factors that lead to vendor lock-in are:

    (i) Lack of interoperability between cloud services
    (ii) Inability to migrate to other cloud services
    (iii) Vendor management limitations at the customer’s end

(e) Management Issues: There are two management issues often associated with cloud computing – performance monitoring & troubleshooting and data management. Many cloud computing service providers do not provide adequate tools for performance monitoring. Many vendors also do not have the ability to effectively trouble shoot when issues arise. Similar to performance monitors some vendors do not provide tools for meta-data manipulation or extraction of data.

2. Factors which can accelerate wide spread adoption of cloud computing

(a) Expenditure and ROI: As mentioned in part one of this post, cloud computing enables customers to defer large capital expenditure. This will probably be the biggest factor which will drive the wide spread adoption of cloud computing. The current model is to buy as much infrastructure as is needed to meet estimated peak capacity and in most cases this results in under-utilized IT resources. Cloud computing offers the ability to scale up and scale down as per demand and a pay-as-you-go business model where the customer pays only for the services actually used. In financial terms, this translates into less capital expenditure and more operational expenditure. The advantage of operational expenditure is that it can be fine tuned as per need, thereby resulting in more efficient utilization of financial resources and better return on investment (ROI).

(b) Wide spread Mobile Internet Access: It is fair to assume that in another 5 to 6 years, significant progress will be made in the field of Internet connectivity resulting in the ability to connect to the Internet at all places where it is possible to connect to a mobile telecommunication tower. Further, the spread of 4G wireless standards will bring broadband Internet access to remote locations and will introduce true broadband connectivity to automobiles, trains and even commercial aircrafts. This will boost cloud computing acceptance as internet access is a pre-requisite most for cloud computing models. Another factor which will help acceptance of cloud computing is the availability of smart phones and net-books which help mobile users connect to the Internet.

(c) Offline Access for Online Applications: Google Mail or GMail is a commonly cited example where an online application is available for offline use when there is no Internet connectivity. This allows the user to continue working while being disconnected from the online application, hosted on a cloud computing platform. On restoration of Internet connectivity changes made to the offline version are synchronized with the online version of the application. For cloud computing applications, this means that Internet connectivity is not always required for users to work with the application.

(d) Separation of Data from Applications: In application development, it is becoming increasingly common practice to separate data from applications. For enabling users to connect with minimum of system pre-requisites, application front ends are being delivered via web pages which can be accessed from any browser. The backend is maintained separately, powered by highly scalable databases. Factors like WAN (Wide Area Network) speeds of over 100 Mbps, decreasing bandwidth costs and WAN acceleration technologies will assist the separation of data and applications.

This concludes part two of this two part blog post on “Cloud Computing”.

~ Sunish

No comments: