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April 15, 2013

Posted by Marquette MS Computing in Cloud Computing.
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The comments in this archive were created by students in the Professional Seminar,  an integral part of the Master of Science in Computing program at Marquette University. In this seminar students analyze technical and professional writings  on current topics and publish their opinions. Visit marquette.edu/computing to find out more about the program.

Cloud Computing More of the Same: “To the Cloud” May 14, 2012

Posted by Marquette MS Computing in Cloud Computing.
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by Eric Gordon

After completing all of the readings and all of the posts from this semester, I have come to determine that the hype of cloud computing is real. This however is nothing new and revolutionary, just a way to accomplish old tasks in a new way. This new way is being on the network. To me, cloud computing is just a buzzword where we can insert web applications the majority of the time. Services like iCloud, Amazon web services, Microsoft SkyDrive are nothing we haven’t utilized before. These are just a more efficient way of delivering them to us. We live in a connected world these days. Just about everyone has a smartphone, laptop, or tablet device. If you are using Gmail, Dropbox, Google Docs you are essentially using cloud computing.  The only reason the term even was used is because network diagrams represent the internet as a cloud.

The defining characteristic of the cloud is the internet. I still feel like cloud computing is not going to take the whole business world by storm. I think it presents advantages for small to medium sized companies to be able to offer better services then they currently can. The larger corporations will continue to do everything in house, and utilize their own private clouds.

There are some problems with the cloud I feel haven’t occurred yet. Companies are getting used to getting their data to third party vendors, but we still don’t know how they can get it back. If a company goes out of business, or has a massive catastrophe, what will happen to the business who is their customer? This allowed us to look at distributed infrastructures and the problems with record locking and eventual consistency.

I think companies will be weary of the cloud until the security has been proven. The cost savings is another that is undetermined. You might save a lot of money in the beginning by throwing away your hardware and all of your server admins. In time though that might prove troublesome and costly to the

The definitive characteristic of the cloud is the practice of using a network of remote servers on the internet to process and store data instead of a local server at a high level is what the cloud is all about. We as computing students took a more in depth approach to look at security, and CAP theorem to better understand the cloud. Companies like IBM and HP have to go on TV and promote cloud computing to companies like it is revolutionary in order to get new business. I don’t fault them for that, but the cloud is an evolutionary step to completing the same tasks we have been doing for years.

 

References

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hinchcliffe/cloud-computing-a-new-era-of-it-opportunity-and-challenges/261

http://www.techtangerine.com/2009/06/02/ten-reasons-why-cloud-computing-is-a-bad-idea/

Cloud Computing . . . . The hip new face of Utility Computing May 12, 2012

Posted by 8237mcraew in Cloud Computing.
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Cloud computing relies on sharing of resources to achieve coherence and economies of scale similar to a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet).[1]

What is Utility Computing?

Utility computing and the resource sharing of computing devices is an old concept (at least relative to the rapid progression of technology), first conceptualized in the 1950’s with Herb Grosch’s (author of Grosch’s Law), theorized that the world would be operating off of “dumb” terminal devices powered by a number of large data centers.[1]  Just a decade later, renowned computer scientist John McCarthy conjectured that “If computers of the kind I have advocated become the computers of the future, then computing may someday be organized as a public utility just as the telephone system is a public utility… The computer utility could become the basis of a new and important industry.”[2]  

Elastic provisioning, service provided as a utility on a network, the illusion of infinite resources, sound familiar?  These are all concepts explored in detail in Douglas Parkhill’s book, The Challenge of the Computer Utility.  In case you were wondering, Parkhill’s book was published in 1966.[1]  Utility computing is simply put, the metered service package involving the leveraging of computational resources, such as processing power, storage, and applications.  This allowed the user to avoid the cost of acquiring computing services, allowing them to simply ‘rent’ the services from a provider. [2]

Over the next couple of decades following Parkhhill’s book, utility computing took off in the form of “Time-sharing”.  Time-sharing is the sharing of a computing resource among multiple users, usually by the means of computer multiprogramming and multi-tasking.  As foreseen by Grosch, McCarthy, and Parkhill, time-sharing emerged as a metered service allowing users to utilize the resources of a computer without owning one.

An interesting, but very dated look at time-sharing featuring MIT science reporter John Fitch in an extended interview with MIT professor of computer science Fernando J. Corbato at the MIT Computation Center:[7]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q07PhW5sCEk

This promoted the development and deployment of interactive software on computing devices. [3] As the engineering of personal computers matured in both capabilities and cost effectiveness, time-sharing was left behind in order to usher in the era of the PC.

Fast forward to the early 21st Century, with the emergence, or should I say, dominance of the Internet. Networking technology has advanced at an exponential rate, with billions of people across the world capable of connecting over the Web via a number of devices.  Over 32.7% of the world population are internet users. [4] Powerful laptops/desktops, smart phones, and tablets have become a fact of modern life providing portable and mobile access to the Internet for work and play.  The availability of high bandwidth Internet has also played a factor in Cloud Computing progress, as it has become seemingly cheap and freely given. [5]

So, what is the Cloud? 

image

According to the US Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cloud computing is defined as follows:

“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, 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.”[6]

The Cloud, as defined by the NIST, consists of five essential characteristics:

–       on-demand self-service

–       broad network access

–       resource pooling

–       rapid elasticity or expansion

–       measured service

These characteristics are encapsulated in three service models and four models of deployment.

–       Service models

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user-specific application configuration settings.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure including network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but has control over the deployed applications and possibly configuration settings for the application-hosting environment.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications; and possibly limited control of select networking components (e.g., host firewalls).

–       Deployment models

  • Private – Cloud infrastructure is provisioned for the exclusive use of a single organization/user. Contrary to a common misconception, the Private Cloud can be owned, operated, and managed off-site by a third party.  The organization also has the choice of owning, operating, and managing the Cloud itself, or divides the operation, ownership, or management between themselves and a third party.
  • Community – Cloud infrastructure is provisioned for the exclusive use of a group or community of organizations.  Again, ownership, operation, and management can be handled by a member of the organization, a third party, or a combination of the two.
  • Public – Cloud infrastructure is made available for the general public and is owned, operated, and managed by a private, academic, or government organization.  It can also be provided by a combination of those three.
  • Hybrid – A combination of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures, allowing for the portability of data and applications. [6]

OK, so what’s the difference between Cloud Computing and Time-sharing?

image

VS

image

Well, for starters both offer utility computing as a service.  Both supply consumers with a centralized uber-computing resource, beyond the means of the individual consumers means.  Beyond that the comparison requires a deeper look at characteristics, service models, and models of deployment.

Characteristics

On demand self-service: Here is where cloud computing takes its first big step forward from time-sharing.  Time-sharing required consumers to, oftentimes, wait in line to access a terminal connected to the mainframe.  Cloud computing’s on demand self-service allows the consumer to independently request and/or scale services without any actual human interaction with a service provider.  Increased or decreased services are only a click away.

Broad networking access:  During the advent of time-sharing, systems were operated primarily on corporate, government, and academic networks.  Access was only through dumb, or at least low IQ, terminals connected directly to a mainframe.  Cloud computing on the other hand, provides the capability to allow consumers to access services via a myriad of devices to include workstations, tablets, and smart phones.

Resource pooling: Thanks to the Internet, cloud computing provides consumers with the combined might of multiple computers, servers, and storage areas, as well as high speed bandwidth.  All this is presented to the consumer in a seamless and transparent manner, giving the illusion that a single uber-resource is set aside for them alone.  In contrast, time-sharing only provided the illusion of a dedicated uber-resource to the consumer.  In fact time-sharing shared the resource of a single ‘powerful” computer with multiple users.

Rapid elasticity or expansion: A big no for time-sharing.  However, this has largely become the calling card of cloud services.

Measured service: Barring the differences in rates, this a shared characteristic for both time-sharing and cloud computing.

Service Models

Of the three service models available under cloud computing, only SaaS was available for the time-share consumer.  If an application was not available on the mainframe, it was not available to the consumer.

Models of Deployment

In contrast to flexibility and access to service provided by cloud computing, time-sharing was only available in the private and, to a lesser extent, community deployment models.  If you weren’t part of an organization, you simply did not have access.

Summary

Utility computing has a history of transforming the world of computing.  From its early days of collaborative computing on terminals connected, to the mainframe to the smartphone application utilizing Amazon’s EC2 platform, utility computing has pushed boundaries on networking technology.  Today, we stand amidst the early stages of the cloud revolution.  Building on the framework provided by time-sharing systems, cloud computing is poised to not only take over the business world, but the social lives of many throughout the world.   Cloud computing incorporated the positive attributes of time-sharing (such as resource sharing amongst multiple users and pay-for-use), while making use of the versatility of the Internet to provide on demand, rapid scalability, and the illusion of infinite resources. Operating in the cloud has become hip, cool, and in some cases necessary to stay relevant in our corporate or personal lives.

Resources

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility_computing

4. http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

5. http://www.leeb.com/content/surf%E2%80%99s-incredible-future-internet-infrastructure

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time-sharing

6. http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-145/SP800-145.pdf

7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q07PhW5sCEk

Defining the essential characteristics of the cloud – Separating cloud computing from marketing hype and dealing with popular misconceptions May 12, 2012

Posted by pvidosa in Cloud Computing.
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The Cloud

The cloud is this idea that computing resources can be offered by a third party as a service so that each individual organization that wishes to build web applications doesn’t need to build their own datacenter to support it.  This extends down to even the smaller team that is just starting out.  They have the ability to buy access to the cloud cheaply and eliminate unneeded costs of maintaining their own server.  This means that it should be even easier for groups to create and deliver their applications to the web.  There are those who do not believe that the cloud is anything new and that it simply is marketing hype.  I am here to prove them wrong.

The Cloud Is Nothing New

One of the big misconceptions of the cloud is that it is nothing new, just more of the same.  A group at UC Berkeley posted their thoughts on the cloud and they listed three hardware advantages that cloud computing provides:

  • The first is the illusion of infinite computing resources available on demand. [1]  The cloud providers make you believe that your application can grow to unimaginable sizes and they will still be able to support you.  However, because of the setup of the cloud, you will not have to worry about growing too big with most major providers.  The resources are shared between many users so that when one application is not using many resources, another application can take advantage of those unused resources if they need it.
  • The second advantage is that cloud users have to make no up-front commitment.[1]  As described before, this is great for many reasons.  This allows small groups that are just starting out to have access to computing resources without building their own hardware setup.  It is just another thing that they don’t have to worry about, especially when they should be focusing on building their application.
  • The third advantage is having the ability to only pay for how many resources you use and for a short amount of time.[1]  This means that you can cut costs by intelligently managing your resources.  This is another great advantage for startups which will help them save money.

From a hardware perspective, these three points really show how much the cloud can help with many applications today.  The cloud providers focus on setting up great computing resources while the developers can focus on building great applications.  What personally comes to mind when thinking about the advantages of the cloud and developing a new web application is Agile.  An organization that is Agile would love the idea of the cloud.  It would allow them to get up and running with their product very quickly.  Also, if the product doesn’t work out or they decide to take a different path, they don’t have a lot of sunk cost since they were only paying for the service for a short amount of time.  Also, an Agile group may be growing their application, but they don’t need to go out and buy more hardware.  They can simply request or purchase more resources from the provider.  With the take-off of Agile, I think cloud computing will attract attention as Agile organizations realize that it is a solution that will allow them to become even more Agile.  [2]

Watch Out For Vendor Lock-in

Another misconception is that vendor lock-in will create problems if you wish to move to a different provider.  However, I think that in many situations it may make sense to actually use multiple providers to store your data.  There are great benefits that come along with this.  One is that outages are less likely to completely take your application offline.  If you distribute your application, it is less likely that two providers go down at the same time.  Another advantage of using multiple providers is that if one of the providers chooses to make policy changes or increase fees, you won’t have to move as much data since the data may be duplicated across providers and all your data is not likely to be stored with that one provider.  Also, using multiple providers could actually save you money.  You could use one provider to do CPU intensive tasks because that provider is cheaper than the others for CPU time while you use another provider for bandwidth intensive tasks because it offers a more competitive rate for that function.

Aren’t You Worried About Security?

Another major misconception is that if you move to the cloud, you will be sacrificing security.  I think that while there are some new concerns associated with storing your data in the cloud, it is probably overblown.  There are a few things that can be done to prevent data from landing into the wrong hands.  One option is to encrypt all the data that is stored in the cloud.  With a good encryption algorithm, no one will be able to access your data with today’s technology.  Another option is to have the data be self-describing.  The data will need to determine if the user or process that is trying to access it has the sufficient privileges. [4]  Even though there are some new security concerns with the cloud, I think that it is overblown because many organizations would not be able to create a very secure environment for their data anyway.  I think the cloud providers have a great incentive to provide a secure environment.  If it is found out that their cloud is not secure, their customers will leave them.

Conclusion

As you can see, cloud computing isn’t something old repackaged in a new name.  It has many advantages that shouldn’t be ignored.  It can be a cheap way to get your application on the web and it could really make sense if you don’t want to have to worry about that part of the equation.  You are the professional developer and these guys know how to build a great datacenter.  Let the specialist do what he is best at.

References

[1] http://x-integrate.de/x-in-cms.nsf/id/DE_Von_Regenmachern_und_Wolkenbruechen_-_Impact_2009_Nachlese/$file/abovetheclouds.pdf

[2] http://www.developerforce.com/media/ForcedotcomBookLibrary/WP_Agile_112608.pdf

[3] http://pubs.0xff.ps/papers/racs-socc.pdf

[4] http://markus-jakobsson.com/papers/jakobsson-ccsw09.pdf

The Real Deal With Cloud Computing May 11, 2012

Posted by kbrendelmu in Cloud Computing.
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Separating Cloud Computing From Marketing Hype
and Dealing With Popular Misconceptions

In recent years some big names in technology have been throwing out the word “Cloud” in their television advertisements. For example Microsoft had a number of “To The Cloud” ads on television and Apple had a number of iCloud ads as well, both tend give people misconceptions as to what the “Cloud” really is. Here I discuss 5 common misconceptions about the cloud as I see them.

The Cloud is All About Cost Savings in I.T.

This misconception is completely not true. Moving your data to the cloud can certainly save you some big money by reducing hardware, software and maintenance costs associated with housing it locally, but thats not all the cloud is cracked up to be. The cloud offers a number of other benefits besides savings such as the ability to offer new services to your customers that previously wasn’t attainable running your own servers. Another benefit is system uptime, cloud service providers often guarantee over 98% uptime and no matter how much you try that is not achievable running your own server locally. Expandability is one of the nicest benefits of cloud computing, as the traffic demand of your data or application increases your cloud provider can add more space or processing power to handle the spike. The benefits dont stop here, but as you can see its not all about the money.

The Cloud Providers are All The Same and One Size Fits All

This is a big time misconception about the cloud, simply put it couldn’t be further from the truth. There are so many different cloud providers available today, some are really big players like Amazon for example, but none of them have exactly the same services or pricing plans. Service providers can offer many different services models such as Software As A Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS). Some may only offer data storage, or other niche services. Then depending on what service model you choose to fit your companies needs you should start comparing vendors. Pay attention to the different way they charge for their service, is it by bandwidth use or processing? Which does your application or use of the cloud use more of? Also check the Service Level Agreements to determine the providers guaranteed uptime, security they provide for your data if any and make sure that you own your data.

Once Your In, Your Locked In For Good!

Vendor lock-in is a real concern among IT professionals looking to take advantage of cloud services for their company. They feel that once they choose a vendor, move their data over to the cloud, they can’t easily get that data back. Some people believe that the providers actually have proprietary encryption to make it hard to move to another provider in the future. Proprietary encryption is pretty unlikely, but vendor lock in is a real concern. However most quality Software as a Service cloud vendors will let you export your data raw as it is. Where many people need to be careful is that when you move from one cloud provider to another you are going to be paying twice for the same data to be transferred to and from providers. Depending on the data store your moving, this could get costly. Looking to the future vendor lock I believe will become much less of a concern. The IT industry is already looking in to setting standards among cloud providers and companies are attempting to implement strategies such as RACS (Redundant Array of Cloud Storage). The theory behind RACS [1] is that your data is carried through a RACS proxy which then replicates the data to your different repositories. This way your data is actually kept with multiple cloud providers making it easy to switch a provider, and no requirement to pay to transfer your data out of the cloud you are terminating. Ideas like RACS and others will become more prevalent as we continue to further develop cloud computing.

My Data Isn’t Safe in the Cloud

Your data in the cloud is just as safe as it was locally, if not safer. Cloud providers include many safeguards to protect your data including data backup services. The providers realize that one breach to any of their customers data could most likely put them out of business. Now the security they provide can change with each vendor, and it varies depending on what cloud model your using (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS). Also currently there are no official standards that cloud providers need to adhere to so you do your homework on each provider. To make understanding the security practices of cloud providers easier a online registry has been created called STAR (Security Trust Assurance Registry) [2] by the Cloud Security Alliance. The STAR registry [3] allows cloud providers to answer the same questions about how they maintain confidentiality, integrity and availability of their customers data. This helps compare the security practices among different vendors in one single place. The way the providers answer the questions in for STAR is very similar to a how someone would fill out an RFP. The sections in the questionaire are shown below, but I think you will agree it is a very detailed list of information that anyone looking to expand into the cloud concerned about data security can reference for piece of mind.

  • Compliance – 8 areas
  • Data Governance – 8 areas
  • Facility Security – 8 areas
  • Human Resources Security – 3 areas
  • Information Security – 34 areas
  • Legal – 2 areas
  • Operations Management – 4 areas
  • Risk Management – 5 areas
  • Release Management – 5 areas
  • Resiliency – 8 areas
  • Security Architecture – 15 areas
The Clouds Performance is Inconsistent

The beauty of cloud computing is that when you move your data or applications into the cloud your not limited to one system. You have the benefit of all the cloud provider offers. This includes replication, where as if one server fails, the replicated servers will take over and handle the load virtually with no downtime at all. Of course there are more concerns than just downtime, and a large one is latency. Will the latency of moving my application to the cloud slow down the performance? Latency unfortunately to some degree is unavoidable because data can’t move faster than the speed of light.  However there are things that you can do to still reap the other large benefits of the cloud and not lose much performance. The impact of latency can be minimized by choosing a provider that has servers closer to your location. If your application is used country or world-wide you can spread your server replications accordingly keeping the distance from a server to user shorter. Cloud providers will consult you on what your intentions are in the cloud and help maximize the performance of your application. 

In Conclusion
Putting the marketing hype aside the benefits of cloud computing can really help IT departments and companies in many ways, and they should embrace them. The cloud can offer cost savings in hardware, software, and management. It can improve the performance and reliability of your applications or services. In addition it can open new doors for your company to offer new services or gain access to new opportunities. As long as you do your homework, know what you want out of it, and compare providers before jumping in you’ll see the water feels fine!
References

[1] http://pubs.0xff.ps/papers/racs-socc.pdf

[2] Is my Data Safe In the Cloud? Part1 and Part2: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/education/archive/2012/04/17/is-my-data-safe-in-the-cloud-part-one-csa-star.aspxhttp://blogs.msdn.com/b/education/archive/2012/04/18/is-my-data-safe-in-the-cloud-part-two-csa-star.aspx

[3] STAR Registry https://cloudsecurityalliance.org/star/

Cloud Computing Evolution May 10, 2012

Posted by mattpassini in Cloud Computing.
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Cloud computing has been at the forefront of media attention for quite some time, and it shows no signs of diminishing.  A few of the hottest arguments in the tech world focus around what is cloud computing, is it something new, and does it deserve all the hype?

In order to understand the situation and properly analyze the arguments, one must first understand a bit of computing history.  About 50 years ago in the Mainframe era, dummy terminals would connect to a centralized mainframe, where the actual computation and storage took place.  The dummy terminals were simply an access point where an end-user would utilize software on the local machine to request the mainframe to process and/or return data to be displayed back on the local machine.  Fast forward to the Personal Computing age, where each computer had enough physical resources to handle local computing and storage.  Applications were installed locally on each PC, where the vast majority of computation and storage would take place.  The Internet era came next, where the entire idea was to access data that is stored on servers placed throughout the world via a public network called the Internet.  As broadband access to the Internet increased, so too did its everyday capabilities.  High-speed connections between browsers and public facing servers allowed the browser to request the server to process and transmit large amounts of data back to the PC, very much like the mainframe to dummy terminal days.  Not too long ago, the smartphone and mobile device boom created a parallel era – the Mobile Device era.  Mobile devices did not have the ubiquitous access to a broadband internet connection, thus requiring local native applications to create a better user experience than Internet hosted applications.  However, today we are nearing a relatively pervasive high-speed wireless internet connection.  Is the Mobile Device era simply morphing its way in to the Internet era, or, perhaps, are we entering a completely new era?

Steve Jobs said we are in a Post-PC era, others argue we are still in the Internet era, but I prefer to say we are in a pervasive Cloud Computing era.  For perhaps the first time, the change was not brought to light by one single technology, yet the culmination of all technologies.  Cloud computing requires three main components, an end-user device, a network connection (public or private), and a remote computing environment.  In this instance, a remote computing environment is any piece of hardware that is processing or storing data.  While this is nearly the same architecture of the Mainframe era, the significant difference is that each one of those three components can be independently interchanged.  For instance, your smartphone can automatically detect when you are entering a grocery store, use the cellular network to connect to an internet hosted grocery list application that pings your refrigerator at home via your home broadband connection to update its inventory online, and then alert you to the new additions.  The entire process utilizes the entire gamut of past eras; different devices, local native apps, various private and public networks, and internet hosted application, data storage, and processing.

So Cloud Computing requires a device, a connection, and remote computing, but what exactly is it?  To define it in its most abstract and succinct terms, it is the remote hosting, processing, and/or storage of data.  What has evolved is the technical details behind the scenes.  Three main categories make up these advances: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).  Most users are most familiar with SaaS, it is essentially an application that runs online instead of on a local device.  An example of this would be Google Docs, which hosts different document types online and allows you to view, edit, and collaborate by connecting to the hosted application via a browser.  PaaS provides a platform for developers to program on and host the application in a specialized environment that provides advanced features such as pay-as-you-go and transparent scalability.  Lastly, IaaS, which could also be referred to as Hardware as a Service, as it provides the customer with a completely outsourced IT infrastructure, allows for companies to have pay-as-you-go access to top of the line hardware resources.

Computing as a whole has continually evolved era to era.  At a very high level, cloud computing is very similar to mainframe computing.  However, this abstraction purposefully leaves out the technical advances made in recent years.  As these technologies have matured and more companies enter the field, the media attention and marketing has skyrocketed.  By definition, cloud computing has become a buzzword.  Yet, there is no doubting its continual advances and numerous benefits.  With relatively new technologies such as Hadoop, MapReduce, redundant arrays of cloud storage, and advanced virtualization techniques, recent changes have proven it is not just a renamed version of mainframe computing, but a truly evolved and sophisticated computing infrastructure still in its infancy.

Defining the essential characteristics of the cloud: the move to virtualization and big data May 10, 2012

Posted by kirbyr in Cloud Computing.
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What is cloud computing? 

Cloud computing is getting a lot of buzz these days, but the concept of the cloud is not well-defined.  My definition of cloud computing is the ability to use a vendor’s hardware and software over the Internet, paying for only the resources used.  This is similar to how an InfoWorld article defines cloud computing: “Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT’s existing capabilities.” [2] I like the InfoWorld definition as it highlights the benefits of cloud computing: the cloud allows the IT department to perform additional functions.

 

 

What are the benefits of cloud computing? 

A key factor in the decision to use a cloud environment is for a company to save money by outsourcing tasks or equipment.  Cloud computing definitely offers companies the opportunity to reduce costs, along with the benefits listed below.  Please refer to the paper Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing for further details. [1]

  • Cloud computing allows for easy scalability, giving access to large amounts of computing resources on demand.
  • No need to purchase physical hardware or invest in machine upgrades.
  • Pay for only the hardware and processing time you need: no downtime.

 

What are the drawbacks of cloud computing? 

As with any new technology, companies need to be aware of possible risks.  The list below highlights some of the risks associated with using cloud computing vendors.  Each of the below topics is worthy of its own discussion and companies considering a transition to a cloud computing vendor should examine the risks thoroughly.  Refer to the paper Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing for further details. [1]

  • Service availability: a company may have unexpected down time or go out of business.
  • Data confidentiality and security: who can access data and how is it protected from unauthorized users?
  • Data reliability: how can you ensure data is correct and backed up?
  • Legal issues: when client data is stored with a vendor, who owns the information?

 

Cloud influences: virtualization and big data

I believe cloud computing stems from two recent trends: virtualization and big data.  Let’s look at big data first.  IBM defines three characteristics of big data: volume, velocity, and variety. [3] Cloud computing can help companies manage all three of these aspects.  With the growth in data volume, companies may have a hard time just storing all of the information they collect.  IBM’s concept of velocity in big data is that companies want to analyze their data or run a report quickly.  Using cloud computing to scale up processing power can help.  The idea of variety of data is that you don’t always know how your data will arrive and need to be stored.  Some data will have traditional relational database structure, some will have no structure at all, some data will be text, or video, etc.  Most cloud computing systems can handle most data structures, and how to handle unstructured data is a big concern for leading cloud computing vendors.

 

A second trend spurring the development of cloud computing technologies is virtualization.  In this case, traditional IT department tasks are being outsourced to the cloud computing vendor.  This relieves the IT department of the need to keep up with the new technologies offered through the cloud computing vendor, such as how to store unstructured data sets.  Another key benefit of virtualization is that company employees can access cloud computing services, and thus, company data and services, from anywhere in the world.

 

Cloud computing is a new technology concept that is impacting the way companies do business.  Companies can outsource their hardware and processing needs, which saves time and money.  The scalability of cloud computing allows for projects to be completed quickly so results are delivered right away.  Companies can use cloud computing to adapt quickly to the marketplace.  As companies integrate the trends for virtualization and big data into their everyday work processes, cloud computing will become even more prevalent.

 

[1] http://x-integrate.de/x-in-cms.nsf/id/DE_Von_Regenmachern_und_Wolkenbruechen_-_Impact_2009_Nachlese/$file/abovetheclouds.pdf

[2] http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/what-cloud-computing-really-means-031

[3] http://www-01.ibm.com/software/data/bigdata/

Defining the essential characteristics of the cloud May 8, 2012

Posted by janettheresjohn in Cloud Computing.
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Separating cloud computing from marketing hype and dealing with popular misconceptions

Cloud computing refers to the delivery of computing and storage capacity as a service to a heterogeneous community of end-recipients. Cloud computing entrusts services with a user’s data, software and computation over a network. [5] It is not the same as any of the traditional computing technologies. Cloud computing allow enterprises to be worry free about setting up and maintaining a data center. Cloud computing help them to get their applications up and running faster, with improved manageability and less maintenance, and enables IT to more rapidly adjust resources to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business demand. [5] In addition to helping large enterprises, cloud computing help small startup companies by bringing down the startup cost for small internet service based businesses.

A cloud service has three distinct characteristics that differentiate it from traditional hosting. [1] A could service is sold on demand. It is elastic so that a user can decide how much service they want at any given time.  Finally, a cloud service is fully managed by the provider.

Compared to the traditional computing model, which uses dedicated, in-house infrastructure, cloud computing has the unprecedented advantages in terms of cost and reliability. Cloud computing ensure reliability by using multiple redundant sites.  This makes a well-designed cloud computing system suitable for business continuity and disaster recovery.

Cloud customers pay for the service usage on demand. Cloud customers do not need to pay a large upfront cost before launching services. In traditional computing, the customers has to place a large investment to purchase and setup hardware infrastructure to provide a service. They may have to over-provision to accommodate future or peak demand. Cloud computing allow dynamic provisioning of resources on a fine-grained, self-service basis near real-time, without users having to engineer for peak loads. [5] This allows programs to continue running smoothly even as the number of users grows. Cloud service’s pay-as-you-go charging model enables the customer to pay for what they actually uses and promises to scale with demand. Moreover, customers can avoid the cost of maintaining an IT staff to manage their server and network infrastructure.

The services are broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). In infrastructure- as- a -service model, the cloud service provider provides virtual server instances for customers to run their application. Customers can start, stop, access and configure their virtual servers and storage using the APIs provided by their chosen guest operating systems. This model allows companies to pay for only for the capacity that they needed, and expand capacity quickly as required. Some providers offer platform as a service (PaaS) model, where a cloud customer develops applications using the APIs provided by the cloud. In the software-as-a-service model, the provider supplies the hardware infrastructure, software and associated data are centrally hosted on the provider’s infrastructure. Most of the time, SaaS delivers a single application through the browser to thousands of customers using a multitenant architecture. With Saas model, from customers stand point, they don’t need to do any upfront investment in servers or software licensing and from the provider’s stand point, with just one app to maintain, and costs are low compared to conventional hosting. [4]

Cloud service providers offer a variety of options in pricing, performance, and feature set. Cloud providers differ in their pricing models. For example, Amazon’s AWS charges by the number and duration of VM instances used by a customer, while Google’s AppEngine charges by the number of CPU cycles consumed by a customer’s application. [2]

Studies show that there is no clear winner on the current cloud market who satisfies the needs of every customer. Cloud application designers has to decide which core functionalities of cloud computing is important for their application whether it is the computational power or data storage or something else. Based on the customer needs, they might have to choose one provider for storage intensive applications, another for computation intensive applications and pick and choose cloud solutions that fit their needs.

Currently, there are not standards for interoperability or data portability in the cloud. Since this is an evolving technology, it is still possible to develop some standards and some common APIs to prevent vendor lock-ins, and improve communication between different clouds. Moreover, it is very important to take privacy into account when designing cloud services that involve collection processing and sharing of personal data. Security safe guards should be used to prevent unauthorized access, disclosure, copying or modification of information.[3] Cloud service providers often apply data mining techniques to obtain marketing information. It is very important apply anonymisation techniques to protect personal data. Cloud services need to be more transparent since some regulatory compliance requires transparency into cloud. [3] Privacy issues are the major concern that reduce the adoption of cloud computing. Cloud service providers should keep this in mind when designing and developing new services.

Reference

  1. Cloud Computing, http://searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com/definition/cloud-computing
  2. Ang Li,  Xiaowei Yang, Srikanth Kandula, Ming Zhang, CloudCmp: Comparing Public Cloud Providers
  3. Siani Pearson, Taking account of privacy when designing cloud computing services, HP laboratories, March 6, 2009
  4. Eric Knorr, Galen Gruman, What cloud computing really means, InfoWorld
  5. Cloud computing, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing

Defining the essential characteristics of the cloud — Mobile Cloud Computing May 8, 2012

Posted by shuliuls in Cloud Computing.
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1. Introduction

The hottest wave in the world of information technology now is the potential growth of cloud computing. While many technologically advanced people are aware of cloud computing, it is still a new term for the mass. So, what exactly is cloud computing? First in my opinion, cloud computing entails the availability of software, processing power and storage on an ‘as needed’ basis. Its key characteristics include agility, reduced Cost, device independence, reliability, scalability, security and reduced maintenance. Cloud computing applications can be broadly divided into: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS, for example: Amazon Web Services provides virtual servers with unique IP addresses and blocks of storage on demand), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS, such as Google apps, a set of software and development tools hosted on the provider’s servers), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS, such as web based email, in which the provider allows the customer only to use its applications).

In advanced, mobile cloud computing could be defined as the availability of cloud computing services in a mobile ecosystem. This incorporates many elements including consumer, enterprise, transcoding, end to end security, home gateways and so on. Also since the terms ‘mobile’ and ‘wireless’ are used interchangeably, I consider mobile as ‘anywhere anytime’ and wireless is ‘without wires’. So, we are talking of ‘anywhere anytime secure data access’ when we speak of mobile cloud computing.

In such a multi-device world, the role of cloud computing becomes central to the content access and sharing. Consumers won’t like to store and upload by device type but would want the same level of functionality available across all their devices necessitating the need for mobile cloud computing. In a mobile environment, one has to contend with the limitations of screen size, the variability of devices, and the network latency. Therefore, the cloud requirements will vary by context.

With the emergence of the Smartphone, the mobile operators are being gradually cut out of the value added services space with most of the revenues shifting to rest of the ecosystem. Mobile cloud computing provides an opportunity to leverage their network infrastructure assets and their consumer relationships to open up new revenue streams.

2. Challenges

2.1. Privacy

One significant challenge for cloud computing in general is privacy. For applications which employ cloud computing often at least some of the user’s data will be stored remotely. This leads to concerns that companies will use or sell this information as well as concerns that the information could be given to government agencies without the user’s permission or knowledge. When it comes to mobile cloud computing, one family of applications specifically raises concerns. Location-aware applications and services perform tasks for users which require knowledge of the user’s location.

With the popularity of handheld devices, more and more people use location-based services, including emergency services, location-based gaming and mobile yellow page services, which ensure the true power of mobile cloud computing will be achieved. Although the service providers do not ask people to send the only signs such as name, Internet address and so on to the providers while people request services, but sometimes providers require users to send their current location, because related services will be more satisfied with the more accurate location information. In this case, the user’s location has become the personal privacy information. Service providers can carry out to match the user’s location with maps and use some other experiences of observation to discover the true identity of the user, and then to analyze the user’s service request and find the user’s personal information such as personal interests and other privacy. Examples would include an application that finds nearby restaurants for the user or one which allows their friends and family to receive updates regarding their location. This type of application simultaneously has broad appeal and brings significant concerns.

2.2. Data ownership

Another issue that arises from mobile cloud computing relates to the data ownership of purchased digital media. With cloud computing it becomes possible to store purchased media files, such as audio, video or e-books remotely rather than locally. This can lead concerns regarding the true ownership of the data. If a user purchases media using a given service and the media itself is stored remotely there is a risk of losing access to the purchased media. The service used could go out of business, for example, or could deny access to the user for some other reason.

As shown by a recent incident, this challenge can develop even when the media is not completely stored remotely. In July of 2009 Amazon remotely deleted and refunded copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from its users Kindle e-book readers. They did this because they discovered that 1984 was not actually in the public domain and that the publisher of that specific e-book edition of the novel did not have the right to sell or distribute it. This provoked uproars among Kindle users and commentators. This action was compared to accidentally selling someone stolen property and then later breaking into their home to retrieve it.

2.3. Security

Mobile computing devices have a large amount of storage, are highly portable and are frequently unprotected: they are relatively easy to steal or lose, and unless precautionary measures are taken, an unauthorized person can gain access to all the information stored on them. Even if not stolen or lost, intruders can sometimes gain all the access they need if the device is left alone and unprotected, or if data is “sniffed out of the air” during wireless communications. The result can include: crippled devices, infection with a virus or spyware allowing for surreptitiously capture the owner’s keystrokes, and/or a device whose data has been invisibly downloaded by an intruder leading to the loss of personal and other non-public information.

In addition to issues regarding privacy and data ownership there are the related issues of access and security. If an application relies on remote data storage and internet access in order to function at all then this can significantly affect the user. If, for example a user stores all of their calendar and contact information online, outages can affect their ability to function from day to day.

Mobile cloud computing is particularly vulnerable due to multiple points at which access can be interrupted. Reception and high speed availability can vary greatly for mobile devices. In addition to this, particular services used may have downtime. Finally, there can be issues of data becoming locked in to a particular service.

3. Related solutions

3.1. Privacy

In the challenge referred above, the type of application has broad appeal and brings significant concerns. One method sometimes used to alleviate concern is to make data submitted either spatially or temporally imprecise. This is called location cloaking. The cost of location cloaking, of course, is that it can reduce the quality of service delivered by the applications. For example, if a user is attempting to find a nearby restaurant and the request sent to the server by his mobile client is too imprecise he could receive results which are irrelevant or perhaps miss relevant results. Thus, there is an interest in developing location cloaking methods which manage to alleviate privacy concerns and simultaneously reduce the negative effect on location-aware applications.

3.2. Data ownership

In the challenge referred above, it demonstrates that special precautions need to be taken with mobile cloud computing to assure that incidents like this do not occur. Users should know exactly what rights they have regarding purchased media content. Either systems which imitate as closely as possible the normal processes of content ownership or systems which differ but communicate clearly the extent to which they differ should be used.

3.3. Security

For security challenge, one of the first measures to protect a notebook computer is to set or enable a BIOS or hard drive password. Beyond that, anti-malware, personal firewalls and wireless protocol encryption provide multiple layers of security for the mobile device. Even on desktop systems inside the network perimeter, most organizations have some sort of client-level antimalware and personal firewall solution in place. For roaming mobile devices that have to protect themselves, these security measures become even more imperative.

Administrators need to take into consideration that the mobile device may go days or weeks without connecting to the organizations’, but it still needs to get the latest signature updates. For mobile devices, the software should be configured to download updates straight from the manufacturers’ servers rather than relying on internal servers on the organization’s network.

4. Future works

In my opinion, it is still undecided that what the future truly holds for cloud computing and mobile cloud computing, but experts foresee that within 2-3 years, all technologically superior countries will be using mobile cloud computing as their primary method of accessing data through their mobile phones and in fact India will lead the show due to its higher mobile subscribers rate than any other country in the world. The future for mobile cloud computing is surely bright, but the end users will have to wait until cloud computing reaches its best possible potential stage in the mobile industry to have access to innumerous advantages and benefits it have for all the users. According to a research, this change is only a few years away.

The changes will occur with differing speeds depending on the market. Markets with higher Internet participation will obviously lead the way, as will markets with higher subscriber penetration. That includes Western Europe, North America, and parts of Asia. Other markets will then follow. By 2014, mobile cloud computing will become the predominant application development strategy. By that time, our PCs will be more like thin client devices than they are today, and now it seems our phones will too.

As referred before, considering the importance of mobile cloud computing from former discussion, we would like to explore further architectures that are plausible. Adequate security measures have to be incorporated to support the low processing ability at the client-side.

Further, we would like to test the feasibility of extrapolating concepts from cloud computing in the domain of large-scale computers to the realm of mobile world. Also, the cost policy needs to be evaluated as it could prove to be a hindrance to the growth of mobile cloud computing.

On the other hand, we also need to focus on the applications and their supporters. Mobile applications are distributed recently. If we want to use an iPhone application, we must have iPhone. Similarly, if we want to enjoy some Blackberry applications we have to have Blackberry. With mobile cloud computing we will be able to enjoy all such application only if we can access web through our cell phone.

We need to make mobile cloud computing offering all the benefits of cloud based computing. Customers don’t have to purchase and update their hardware and software every time a new application is launched. And more importantly they don’t have to pay for features they don’t use.

References

[1] Tejas Dave, “Emergence Of Mobile Cloud Computing”, Tracking Developments In Indian Telecom Industry, May, 2011, pp. 1-10.

[2] Preston A. Cox, “Mobile cloud computing”, developerWorks, May, 2011.

[3] Rajkumar Buyya, Chee Shin Yeo, Srikumar Venugopal, James Broberg, Ivona Brandic., “Cloud computing and emerging it platforms: Vision, hype, and reality for delivering computing as the 5th utility”, Future Gener. Comput. Syst., 2009, pp. 599–616.

[4] Andreas Klein, Christian Mannweiler, Joerg Schneider, Hans D., “Access schemes for mobile cloud computing”, Eleventh International Conference on Mobile Data Management, 2010, pp. 387–392.

[5] M. Satyanarayanan, “Pervasive Computing: Vision and Challenges”, IEEE Personal Communications 8(4), August, 2002, pp. 10-17.

[6] M. Satyanarayanan, “Fundamental Challenges in Mobile Computing”, ACM SigMobile, 1,1, April 1997, pp. 1-7.

Defining the essential characteristics of the cloud May 8, 2012

Posted by Sapna Sumanth in Cloud Computing.
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Separating cloud computing from marketing hype and dealing with popular misconceptions

The term “cloud” in the very basic terms can be thought of as a virtual hard disk which is accessible to a network of computers. Here different services are hosted over the internet, which are shared among different users. There are three main services namely:

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Infrastructure-as-a-Service: Providing the infrastructure or the hardware resources such as storage devices, Servers, network components etc. as a service is known as IaaS. Organization may choose to make use of IaaS from various service providers rather than having their own dedicated hardware resources. The advantages include less maintenance of resources as the resources are deployed in an organized way over the cloud, it allows IT to shift focus and concentrate on other key areas like innovations in application solutions, fast delivery of products etc., it minimizes cost which is highly beneficial for small and medium sized organizations, it provides dynamic scalability/elasticity, where services can be scaled up and down according to the usage requirements/demands. This aids in optimal utilization of resources and leads to conservation of resources and cost savings. IaaS also enables green IT, with optimal utilization of resources which has reduced effect on the Reduced environment.

Platform-as-a-Service: Here the resources such as development tools, required for application development are provided as PaaS, using which developers can develop software products and deploy them faster. According to Wikipedia, “PaaS offerings facilitate the deployment of applications without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software and provisioning hosting capabilities,providing all of the facilities required to support the complete life cycle of building and delivering web applications and services entirely available from the Internet”. It provides the infrastructure/resources needed for application design, development, testing ,deployment, hosting applications etc. over the Internet in an integrated development environment. The benefits include cost savings as the resources are provided as a service rather than buying them entirely. These services are provided as “Pay as you go” model. As with IaaS, even PaaS allows IT to shift focus and concentrate on primary goals like innovations in application solutions, fast delivery of products etc. rather than worrying about the infrastructure. Also another big advantage with PaaS is that developers from different geographical locations can collaborate and work together, on the same project. With the robust application development environment, it enables the developers to keep up with the increasing demand for a high turnaround time.

Software-as-a-Service: Delivering software applications over the web and charging the users on per-subscription basis or on usage basis etc. Hence instead of having proprietary software applications which requires upfront expenses, the organizations/users can make use of such a service, where they can rent the software. This lowers IT costs and time, in terms of not having to buy software licenses or additional infrastructure and also since the software is readily available, the deployment is faster and eliminates implementation tasks associated with the software such as installation, keeping up with upgrades etc. And as with IaaS and PaaS, SaaS allows IT to shift focus and concentrate on other key areas. Among the many applications offered as SaaS are Business applications, software development tools, E-mail applications etc. It can observed that PaaS is an outgrowth of SaaS. SaaS is more abstract compared to PaaS. PaaS is more about making use of development tools to build software to a particular platform.

Essential characteristics of cloud computing

1. On-demand self-service: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing broadly as “a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (for example, networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” On-demand self-service is basically allowing the users to configure their systems or computing capabilities such as setting server time or network storage as and when needed, to use cloud services without having to interact or take assistance from the cloud provider. It allows the users to have self service access and configuration capabilities which aids in cost saving as the need for IT administrators are none or limited. Also it helps in saving time, faster deployment etc.

2. Broad network access: It means that resources accessed via the cloud should be made available from anywhere and to all standardized computing platforms and devices such as desktops, laptops, mobiles etc. This way the consumers can access the resources over the network which is different compared to traditional way of installing the software on a particular device and not being able to access it when away from it, which can be frustrating.  Hence computing resources are delivered over the network to heterogeneous devices.

3. Resource pooling: The main idea of the cloud is to provide computing resources to users who can rent them and thereby they need not have to buy their own infrastructure and maintain it. This is highly cost effective for end users who prefer to rent the resources from the cloud providers. On the other hand, the cloud providers make sure the resources are available to users who have paid for it and they make money out of it. Hence it’s a win-win situation, where clients get computing resources when they need and the providers get paid by them. On the providers end, they need to make sure they have enough resources pooled to serve the consumers by making use of multi-tenant architecture, maintain the resources, perform updates, provide availability, scalability(upscale and downscale resources dynamically) and so on. Since the providers will be taking care of all these, the users simply have to pay in order to use the resources.

4. Scalability & Elasticity: Cloud services can scale the capacity up or down elastically, based on the usage demands of the user, by adding or removing resources as needed. Thus Elasticity enables scalability, wherein the cloud can upscale during peak demand and downscale during lighter demand. Scalability is beneficial to users as they only pay according to their usage and lowers the IT costs.

5. Measured service: Since the cloud operates on the basis of “Pay as you go” model, the service offered can be measured and the consumers pay for how much they use the service. “Cloud computing resource usage can be measured, controlled, and reported providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service”. This goes hand in hand with Elasticity. More the usage more will be the bill and vice-versa.

Some of the Popular Misconceptions

1. One size fits all: The cloud serves different consumers who may have unique business needs. Each organization’s IT needs is different from the others. Hence it is not logical to think that cloud is One size fits all. Cloud creates an ecosystem of choice. Cloud provides opportunity to users to customize solutions, processes and can meet different industry standards and requirements. It allows users to easily configure systems, tools, applications and so on.

2. Cloud is virtualization: Cloud is commonly thought as being fully associated with the concept of virtualization and people connect virtualization technology with cloud, which is not true. According to Wikipedia, “In a multi tenancy environment, multiple customers share the same application, running on the same operating system, on the same hardware, with the same data-storage mechanism. The distinction between the customers is achieved during application design, thus customers do not share or see each other’s data. Compare this with virtualization where components are abstracted enabling each customer application to appear to run on a separate physical machine”. Virtualization is just a multi-tenancy strategy. Hence not all clouds use virtualization.

3. Cloud is inexpensive: Consumers make use of cloud by renting the resources because they find it more affordable compared to buying them. In terms of cost saving, it works great for small and medium sized businesses as they need not have to worry about investment in IT infrastructure, systems integration, project management, managing IT resources, software installations, initializing environments and database configurations and so on. They can enjoy the benefits of global business solutions at affordable cost. Also in order for the businesses to keep up with the latest technologies cloud can be affordable instead of buying them often. However as the businesses grow cloud can become expensive to the point where it might be a good idea to own the resources instead of renting them. So cloud can prove to be expensive or inexpensive based on the needs of each business.

4. The cloud is risky: Although cloud computing can offer businesses significant cost-savings namely, pay per use, access to sophisticated software and powerful hardware, the service does come with certain security risks. Data leakage has become a big risk from the security standpoint.  In private clouds, the customers have direct control over the whole infrastructure, in turn control of the data. But when moving to a public cloud, the customer’s data will be stored away from the customer’s local machine, and secondly, the data is moving from a single-tenant to a multi-tenant environment, where there is higher risk of data being exposed. For example a software bug or system malfunction gives access to a user of another system on the same shared infrastructure, or maliciously, when someone exploits some weakness in the architecture to gain illicit access to data. However account and service hijacking has been around since the inception of internet. Some of the methods include phishing, fraud, and exploitation of software vulnerabilities. Often credentials and passwords are reused which amplifies the impact of such attacks. After considering some of the risks & threats posed by the cloud computing environment, it is also very important to understand that there are many ways by which  these threats can be mitigated. Some of the ways are encrypting all sensitive data, making use of cryptographic methods, ensuring the firewall, IPS & DPS protect the VM’s separately, taking security counter measures for e.g. purging residual data from instance resources before they are re-allocated, monitoring privileged users, checking the background and logging activities of these users, conduct post-evaluations periodically to reassess the risk so that we can counter new vulnerabilities and new threats that have emerged, employ proactive monitoring to detect unauthorized activity, usage of digital signatures, understanding cloud provider security policies and SLAs etc. Hence it’s clear that these risks are in the cloud are addressable.

5. Cloud computing may result in IT job cuts: It might be true to certain extent that the cloud may lessen the need for huge IT staff. But on the other hand, cloud computing is also creating new jobs. The companies who migrate to using cloud, may reduce their staff but the companies who provide cloud services will open up new jobs as they expand. They will require more man power to manage their data centers and services, in which case the job roles would be more or less similar for those who were let go. Also, we all know that change is the only constant. Technology becomes obsolete with the introduction & success of new technology and it doesn’t mean that everyone will lose their jobs when this happens. The skills needed by IT workers will be constantly changing. So people need to keep up with the technology in order to move forward and also the companies need to encourage training programs for their employees. There has been a 62% annual increase in cloud computing-related jobs. Cloud Computing will generate some 14 million new jobs worldwide by 2015,  India alone will create over 2 million and 1.1 million U.S. jobs,  predicts a study commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by International Data Corporation(IDC). Hence cloud computing can be thought of as IT job generator rather than thinking it as a treat.

Cloud computing is new in terms of providing computing resources as a service and scaling of resources dynamically with increasing or decreasing demand and the users paying according to the usage. These characteristics set the concept of cloud apart. As a technology, the concept dates back to the time when internet became mainstream and it incorporates derivations of ideas that have been in use for some time. There were mainframes, client-server architectures, 3-tier web architectures and now there is this next major wave in IT which is Cloud Architecture. “If marketing tricks us into believing that it is new, so what? What matters is that the trend and phrase have caught on and that we are going to see a change in the way we will use computers and other connected devices in the future. And if you think about it, this change is substantial and it is likely to stick with us for a long time.” The idea of offering resources as services to end users is definitely new. Cloud computing is a revolution in the way the IT operates and in how the IT budget is spent.

“For the first time software is going to enable compute and storage platforms to be easily sliced, diced, and aggregated, taking standard, commodity hardware platforms and delivering IT value, by ensuring never before levels of scalability, flexibility, and efficiency. Its a style of Computing where scalable and elastic IT capabilities are provided as a service to multiple customers using Internet technologies. The service can be delivered over the internet as a public/external service or consumed over the intranet as a private/internal service.”

Looking back at the history of IT, there are models similar to cloud computing. But setting them on an equal level to what cloud computing is today, would be improper, especially with cloud computing having substantial newer trends and providing newer opportunities. “Today’s cloud computing idea goes far beyond the idea of anything that was cloud-related until a few years ago. It is stunning to see how much the consumer perception of renting services has changed.”

“The real benefit from cloud storage comes when applications take advantage of its compelling distribution, collaboration, and programmability capabilities. The entire storage industry is moving toward greater levels of application awareness and integration.” The characteristics that distinguish cloud from traditional hosting is that, it’s an on demand service, it is elastic and the service is fully managed by the provider and also it extends the IT capabilities. Cloud is also more sophisticated and technically advanced than the traditional hosting mechanisms.

According to Stephen foskett, Nirvanix Director of Consulting, cloud storage goes further in terms of application integration and programmability. Vendors have added many features, from replication to indexing to media transcoding, each of which can be called by applications through custom APIs. Cloud storage also leverages the openness of the Internet and modern programming concepts, incorporating the Internet Protocol (IP), HTTP, SSL, REST, and SOAP. the real benefit from cloud storage comes when applications take advantage of its compelling distribution, collaboration, and programmability capabilities. The entire storage industry is moving toward greater levels of application awareness and integration. With the emergence of cloud computing, more and more businesses are moving to cloud. According to a survey about cloud adoption, 49 percent of the small businesses are expected to signup to at least one cloud service over the next three years.

Resources:

1. http://searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com/definition/cloud-computing

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing

3. http://www.tomshardware.com/news/cloud-computing-online-networks,11203.html

4.http://www.siliconindia.com/guestcontributor/guestarticle/128/Cloud_Computing_Cloud_Storage_Are_There_Clouds_In_Your_Future_Sajai_Krish.html

5. http://csrc.nist.gov/nice/states/maryland/posters/cloud-computing.pdf

6. http://www.oracle.com/us/technologies/cloud/oracle-cloud-computing-wp-076373.pdf

7. http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/what-cloud-computing-really-means-031?page=0,1

8. http://www.crn.com/slide-shows/cloud/229300600/cloud-connect-five-massive-cloud-computing-misconceptions.htm?pgno=1

9. http://www.maxclouderp.com/common-misconceptions-cloud-erp-software.html

10. http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/05251-cloud-apps-misconceptions.html?page=4

11. http://www.cloudtweaks.com/2012/01/cloud-hiring-reaches-new-heights/

12. http://developer.nirvanix.com/blogs/strategies/archive/2009/06/19/what-makes-cloud-storage-different-from-traditional-san-and-nas.aspx

Separating cloud computing from marketing hype and dealing with popular misconceptions April 30, 2012

Posted by daleklein in Cloud Computing.
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I believe that the term “cloud computing” is over-hyped by marketers – like most new things that catch on and are rapidly growing.  It is not “the one” solution to all your needs but it is also doing something new and different in the way it has utilized its resources. So what I want to discuss is separating cloud computing from marketing hype and dealing with popular misconceptions.

First off we have to take a look at a definition of cloud computing.  In Wikipedia it says “The term cloud theoretically signifies abstraction of technology, resources and its location that are very vital in building integrated computing infrastructure (including networks, systems and applications). All Cloud computing models rely heavily on sharing of resources to achieve coherence and economies of scale similar to a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network”. [1]

In a paper by some authors from UC Berkeley they define it as follows: “Cloud Computing refers to both the applications delivered as services over the Internet and the hardware and systems software in the datacenters that provide those services. The services themselves have long been referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS). The datacenter hardware and software is what we will call a Cloud. When a Cloud is made available in a pay-as-you-go manner to the general public, we call it a Public Cloud; the service being sold is Utility Computing. We use the term Private Cloud to refer to internal datacenters of a business or other organization, not made available to the general public.”

The internet has had a profound effect on the way we do business allowing businesses to operate globally.  In addition, the rapid change in smartphones and tablet personal computers has created a highly mobile extension for users of the internet and opened up whole new market segment that can take advantage of the cloud services.  Today large data centers provide the hardware infrastructure, connected by the internet and the ability to allow access from anywhere on the planet and coupled with a slew of application possibilities.

If we look at marketing perceives and peddles as the cloud we find that the Cloud is presented as a collection of services that help an organizations internal marketing functions more efficient and cost effective without the cost, risk and complexity of a traditional marketing platform.  In a video by Sogeti, an IBM Business Partner, they talked about how they could help companies by assisting them with performance testing and even lower the costs of performance testing up to fifty percent.  The partnership provides hosting services on the cloud while providing the engine and the latest solutions for delivery. [3] Some of the key aspects highlighted in another video by an IBM research scientist are that the Cloud provides value by making businesses more efficient and give people new functions.  It also provides a fair playing field for everyone to compete and to cooperate.  It allows accessibility to more people while having more solutions and creativity available.  We already see a number of commercials talking about the Cloud that are targeting the masses by allowing them to access movies or personal photos or music regardless of their location. [4] Previously cloud services were targeting businesses with software as a service but this allows a whole market segment to utilize those massive data centers which represent the technological side of the cloud.

If we look at it from a technologist’s perspective they are evaluating it from a hardware perspective, with three aspects that are applied to Cloud Computing which distinguishes it from other computing.  The first is that there is a perceived illusion that there is an infinite amount of computing resources available on demand.  Therefore a Cloud Computing user does not need to plan too far ahead.  The second is the scalability factor available to Cloud users.  Cloud Computing users do not have large up-front commitments and can increase their hardware resources when there is an increase in their needs.  This is especially useful when there is little or no way to approximate your needs.  The third aspect is the ability to pay for your use of the computing resources on as-needed basis.  Consequently, this allows for the freeing up of computing resources when not in use rather than having dedicated resources sitting idle for long periods of time.

If we look at applications there are different levels of control depending on the service provider.  In Amazon EC2 the automatic scalability and failover are affected because the instance looks much like physical hardware and the user has a great deal of control over nearly the entire software stack.  Other providers such as Google AppEngine target traditional web applications exclusively and enforce a clean separation between a stateless computation tier and a state-full storage tier.  These are examples that cover opposite spectrums and are but a few that are available. [2]

The last thing I would like to discuss is to look at some of the benefits and concerns and threats that are part of this ever-growing segment of the computing world.  “Storing data locally in a data center has a number of limitations. Storage capacity and redundancy are limited by the server and drive space available in the data center. Increasing capacity to meet demand is costly and time-consuming. If demand falls off, the result is wasted capacity sitting idle.” [5]

“Leveraging cloud data storage addresses these issues and provides a scalable, reliable, cost-effective storage solution. Benefits vary from vendor to vendor and depend on the service level you negotiate, but here are some of the primary benefits of storing data in the cloud:” [5]

  • Scalability
  • Redundancy
  • Hardware Upgrades
  • Load Balancing
  • Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity
  • Cost

One area of concern that is still evolving comes from a legal perspective.  Copyright and privacy law issues arise on a regular basis where existing laws and legal precedence simply don’t make sense in the context of electronic media and Internet communications.  Businesses just need to be aware of what they put out there and realize there are some grey areas that are still trying to sort themselves out.  Another one of those areas is the loss of data stored in one of the third-party vendors due to an event or closing of operations.  Redundancy helps businesses stay available to their customers but never put all your eggs in one basket.

Another concern many people have is how safe is the cloud to use?  Due to its nature access may be easier in some ways which offer openings for malicious intent but at the same time it is being countered by a group of researchers known as the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA).  Their mission to aid in security is as follows:

“To aid both cloud customers and cloud providers, CSA developed “Security Guidance for Critical Areas in Cloud Computing”, initially released in April 2009, and revised in December 2009. This guidance has quickly become the industry standard catalogue of best practices to secure Cloud Computing, consistently lauded for its comprehensive approach to the problem, across 13 domains of concern. Numerous organizations around the world are incorporating the guidance to manage their cloud strategies. The guidance document can be downloaded at www.cloudsecurityalliance.org/guidance.” [5]

It definitely has advantages and provides everyday consumers and small businesses the opportunity to take advantage of technology in a cost effective means that they could not previously afford.  Our economy is global in nature and the cloud allows for a lot more players to be part of the game.

References:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing

[2] Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing, M. Armbrust, et al, February 10, 2009

[3] IBM cloud solutions for midsize businesses, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oru9i9LBuZQ

[4] IBM Cloud Computing, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk5O67Xrflc

[5] Protect Your Customer’s Data in the Cloud, Zecurion-Treats Internal Threats

Cloud Computing April 12, 2012

Posted by Marquette MS Computing in Cloud Computing.
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