Tag Archives: Cloud

Cloud is the Conservative Choice

How Migrating your Infrastructure to the Cloud Improves Security, Productivity and Business Continuity

Existing infrastructures today are hugely varied, due to (where applicable) on-going acquisition efforts but certainly the complexities of the business. Infrastructures today require substantial resources to maintain, secure and monitor. Unless you are an IT company, IT infrastructure is not your primary business – but for instance legal or financial services are. Moving to Cloud-based infrastructure represents the most conservative, risk-adverse approach to providing the services required for your company to effectively serve its partners, employees and customers.

The Cloud is Not All New

The moniker “cloud computing” is a recent invention, but the bulk of what is today called cloud is not actually new – it is a rebranding of ISPs and hosting services. There are new products that are part of the cloud movement that are new, primarily elastic computing – technology that dynamically scales computing according to need. These new technologies should be evaluated but are not required in the current effort to secure the infrastructure of your company.

The Cloud Is Not “All or Nothing”

With a variety of services available under the cloud moniker, customers are able to pick-and-choose what services they wish to use. This opens the door to hybrid cloud models where part of the service lives in the cloud, part in hosted services and part in servers owned by the organization.

Hybrid Cloud Supports Jurisdictional Compliance

The hybrid cloud model represents the most effective solution to dealing with jurisdictional compliance challenges in certain countries. Current generation cloud offerings do not offer sufficient control to support jurisdictional compliance. In these scenarios, services hosted in the country in question support jurisdictional compliance while still providing interoperability with cloud services as well as on-premise servers.

Building a Conservative Infrastructure

Within any distributed infrastructure, each and every server represents a liability: physical security, content security, maintenance and monitoring. Often these servers are on-premise.

A conservative and risk-adverse infrastructure for your company minimizes the number of servers it owns utilizing the hybrid-cloud model. Services that do not have jurisdictional compliance issues in particular countries should operate in the cloud. Services with country-specific jurisdictional compliance issues should be operating on a hosted server in the country in question. Where these hosting services do not exist, your company should place a server in a co-location facility in the country. Only when none of these options are available should the server actually be hosted on the office premises.

When applied to email, this hybrid cloud design requires Office 365. Office 365 is SAS70 and ISO27001 compliant. Office 365 is Exchange 2010, so where Office 365 is not an option due to jurisdictional compliance, Exchange 2010 can be utilized as a hosted service or on your own server.

A conversation with Ron Markezich, Corporate Vice President of Online Services at Microsoft offers this:

“Office 365 is in beta today, but it will be generally available this year. Exchange Online in Office 365 has 50M users from educational institutions provisioned today – we brought to market early for educational institutions under Live@edu.

Office 365 is the next version of BPOS. BPOS runs on Exchange 2007 and SharePoint 2007. Office 365 runs on Exchange 2010, SharePoint 2010 and Lync. We also add MS Office to Office 365 which did not exist in BPOS. The support processes, platform is the same – just the core server technology is being upgraded. We wanted to get a better name than BPOS and locked on Office 365.”

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Are IT companies the only ones that can benefit from the cloud?

When I listen and read about cloud computing, the thing I notice is that it is all very tech centric. It is almost as if the IT business is the only one that can take advantage of this “new” technology that is at our disposal. But is that really the case or are there other beneficiaries?

As stated in my previous post on cloud computing (Is cloud computing leveling the playing field?) the IT companies, as well as, both SMEs and their bigger counterparts, can benefit from cloud computing. In reality, there are many more companies that can and will benefit from cloud computing. Traditionally, however, they lean on their IT partner(s) to get their IT landscape shaped and maintained. As long as they didn’t switch or saw the light it might take a while before the benefits of cloud computing will be obvious to them.

Customers of the IT partners usually have no interest in IT other than cost cutting and gaining functionality at high level. If they were tech savvy enough, they most likely wouldn’t need an IT partner to get their IT up and running and maintained. Platforms like BPOS and Google apps are starting to make their way to the attention of the customers, and are therefore gaining momentum.

The other cloud opportunities, like SQL-Azure and Windows-Azure platform, are not at that level yet. Once they are exposed to these capabilities it is my strong belief that it will drive their entrepreneurial spirit and it will drive innovation in their industries. Nowadays IT is a part of almost anything we do in life, but since the cost are still pretty high it is blocking innovation as well.

Cloud computing and the pay as you go billing associated with it will break down these barriers. IT will become the enabler of innovations beyond its own territory, which in the end will increase employment and drive economic growth. In the IT industry we have claimed for years that IT should be an enabler and not a driver. It however hasn’t been – and in cases where it has been, it was an expensive one.

It is my strong belief that many shelved ideas can be brought to life when the cloud benefits are exposed and shared with our customer base. The jobs of IT people will change from the geek that writes incoherent English in his editor to the business consultant with domain knowledge of one or more industries. He/ she happens to have incoherent English as an additional skill set to make computers do what the customer has dreamt up.

Business agility and innovation are the real benefits for our customers.  The customers in return will make our jobs way more interesting, because we get to participate in their domain and build a real partnership. I can see an exciting future that will be driven by cloud computing. Cloud computing without a doubt is a game changing shift. What the PC was to the mainframe, cloud computing is to the server / data center world and – who knows – maybe even for the PC in the longer term. The funny thing however is that the most resistance against cloud computing comes from the IT companies.

History repeats itself: the mainframe mini world also predicted chaos and anarchy when the PC gained momentum. We all know how that went…


Is cloud computing leveling the playing field?

Leveling the playing field is a huge challenge to live up to. There has been statements about technologies like this before but they always somehow kept the SME’s out of the playing field. Is cloud computing different from it predecessors and is it a real playing field leveler for the SME’s?

Server virtualization and outsourcing to data centers didn’t really do it for the SME’s in those scenario’s there still is a huge investment upfront. It is less but still an investment that cannot be pre financed by many SME’s. This is where the bigger companies still have the better cards to win a deal over a SME. This is aside of the required knowledge to actually setup and maintain these virtual environments.

The data center outsourcing and/or virtualization furthermore lacks agility this is true for the companies that are able to go this route as for the SME’s. Cloud computing takes away this roadblock since the whole platform is outsourced in a public cloud scenario, installing and maintaining virtual environments is no longer a concern. On top of that pay as you go scenario means no upfront investment.

SME’s can now promise  (potential) customers a fully redundant highly available and scalable platform. This enables them to compete with the big guys based on both price and domain knowledge. Bids that in the pre cloud era went to the one that had the best overall proposition are gone. Platform wise the SME can compete with the big companies.

As far as the domain knowledge goes that’s hard to say but the buyer can now focus on selecting the bid based on the exposed domain knowledge. This makes the comparison of the bids way more accessible and transparent.

On the question does cloud computing level the playing field i’d say yes it does from a technology standpoint. Are big customers comfortable enough to go with an SME over its bigger competitor? Will the era of shortlists and prefered suppliers have passed? I don’t know i think it will take a while before these old habits have died too. Will we ever reach that state i am convinced we will. It will take a couple of good examples and marketing buzz from cloud offering parties like Google, Amazon, Microsoft before the buyer is ready to make that step.


Overcome Cloud FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt)

There are a couple of concerns and objections that can reasonably be raised when cloud computing is considered within your organization. Many times the argumentation used is comming from fear uncertainty and doubt. Besides that people do not question how ‘good’ their current infra & software landscape is. Lets address the most important issues when it comes to cloud FUD.

losing control
Losing control of the infrastructure, applications, data and so forth. Even though this might be valid in some cloud offerings, there are cloud offerings that do provide sufficient tools to measure QoS (Quality of Service). The losing control factor is mainly psychological and driven by “Server huggers” who love to walk into a room being able to touch the server(s). The costs for being able to hug the server however are huge. Does an organization that isn’t an IT company really want to know what every server is doing? IT to them is a commodity that simply needs to work in order to make it work they had to staff people and own servers in the pre cloud era.

Security
Security is the ultimate fear factor in any computing environment but it reaches new heights in the Cloud computing space. It is true that your applications are running across the internet and therefore more open to an attack than applications in a data center. But if a hacker comes inside your data center unsecured applications become their playground. So whether or not your apps run in a data center or in the cloud the applications in today’s world should be locked down. So applying the right security at every level is important. As far as the infrastructure goes who will be better at security you or the cloud provider whose business depends on it.

Data loss
Another fear is the loss of data, basically when you are in the cloud with your crown jewels you don’t know where it really is. Basically you need a 24/7 backup scenario in place in order to prevent data loss. Besides a robust backup mechanism you need a transaction logging in place to see what is going on during business hours. So when selecting your cloud provider take these elements into account.

other concerns
Vendor lock in, complexity, learning curve and or losing our jobs. But none of these are cloud specific this is common with any new emerging technology.

Parting thoughts
Those opposing the cloud based on the other concerns section, should be more concerned about losing their job when not embracing this new phenomena. Conventional and emotional thinking around security and data loss should be revisited while looking in the mirror. Defining a roadmap and a strategy to move to the cloud are must haves. An on and offboarding strategy should be defined before starting the transition to overcome the vendor lock in.

The cloud is a new reality to be embraced and understood. Think in possibilities and opportunities without loosing sight of possible threats.