Yes Cloud!

All My Clouds

Posted on: May 20, 2009

The emergence of “cloud computing” has injected a lot of excitement within the IT industry, users and vendors alike, as it has shown to significantly reduce cost and increase flexibility/agility.  Interestingly, cloud based services of many varieties – IT or not – have been available for many decades.  Are there key ingredients of these well known services that also apply to modern IT clouds?

One everyday service often mentioned in IT cloud literature is electric utility service – always on, ubiquitous, elastic and priced based on usage. It provides AC power to every home and business within the territory served.  Any certified electrical appliance can be plugged into the standard 3-pin electric socket.  The industry is an eco system consisting of regulated utility companies, appliance vendors of all sorts, installers, wire/socket/peripheral makers, etc.  Similarly, natural gas and water utilities are other examples of everyday non-IT clouds.

All-My-Clouds-1

Key characteristics of these “infrastructure” cloud services are summarized in the table below.

All-My-Clouds-Table-1-new

Let’s consider few technology-related residential cloud service examples and their characteristics.

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All-My-Clouds-Table-2-new

In a competitive market place, there may be multiple cloud providers providing the same service – for instance, AT&T and Verizon providing the mobile telephony service.  These clouds often interact with each other, as shown in the example below.  A landline phone user can call a mobile phone user, or talk to a Skype user on PC connected to the Internet.  Similarly, an Internet user may consume cloud-based web application services, such as webmail.

All-My-Clouds-5

What are the key ingredients in creating profitable markets for these everyday cloud services?  They are open standards, vendor interoperability and certification (and, in some cases, regulations).  Standards include physical interface, wire protocol, user-to-network interface (UNI) and network-to-network interface (NNI).

As we move to IT-focused “modern” clouds, similar type of ingredients are needed.  Physical interfaces and wire protocols already exist, thanks to IEEE, IETF and ITU.  Others need to be developed and/or widely adopted, including user-to-cloud provisioning, cloud-to-cloud (intercloud) provisioning, state migration of networks/network services/security/segmentation, virtual machine portability etc etc…

For sure, modern IT clouds are at an early stage of development, so it’ll take some time to see light at the end of the cloud tunnel.  Nonetheless, the journey promises to be nothing short of exciting…

PG.

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2 Responses to "All My Clouds"

Prashant,
You are ever the professor. I see cloud computing as a semi-dumb interface (more than a CRT in a network PC – such as at an airport gate.) A business or power user worthy Netbook PC still needs to do basic word processing, process video/photo/audio, present PowerPoint slides and perhaps even do pivot tables in Excel to be competitive against standard laptop PCs.
VPN Security will be a major factor too. This could go a lot further if the user can access their enterprise ERP systems securely with minimal computing required at the remote end.
This is likely to be a chicken and egg scenario where software usually wins out. However, if the proper consideration is put into the enterprise backbone early enough, this could be a much better situation for everyone…

Prashant,

An interesting analogy between the earlier and the most recent cloud models. What became evident to me based on this analogy, is the growing need for security and access control as you progress through the model evolution continuum. In telephony and TV video cloud services the emphasis is on physical security (wire / wireless taping). In internet services the emphasis is on authentication, authorization, confidentiality, and non-repudiation of communications between client and server. In cloud computing however, the requirements are more stringent and challenging. Virtualization, federated identity across service and identity providers, and high perceived risk associated with trusting a 3rd party with the corporate “crown jewels” are all contributing to this trend. The cloud computing economies of scale are definitely compelling. This is most likely the reason as to why it is getting traction even before security and access control solutions for this environment have been solidified. This unfulfilled need is an interesting market opportunity…

Michael Segal

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    • Kevin Clark: Interesting article. Keep it up.
    • Michael Segal: Prashant, An interesting analogy between the earlier and the most recent cloud models. What became evident to me based on this analogy, is the gro
    • Pete K.: Prashant, You are ever the professor. I see cloud computing as a semi-dumb interface (more than a CRT in a network PC - such as at an airport gat

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