In The Cloud - Risk and Opportunity

If you pick up this weeks edition of Computer Weekly, on page 10 in the My Take column you will read that I describe “In the Cloud” computing as being the new black. Gartner refer to it as an emerging phenomenon while on the Cloud Computer blog at they take a more cautious view stating there are some strong technical security arguments in favour of Cloud Computing – assuming we can find ways to manage the risks.

Some of those risks are such things as identity management. Most cloud services rely on simple password authentication and authorisation occurs on an application by application basis. The outcome will inevitably be multiple login experiences with different IDs and passwords. This creates an additional burden for user account management auditing within the organisation.

One of the principle risks I’ve been discussing within my own organisation is that of service reliability and availability. Keep in mind that a loss of availability might not always be down to the service provider: routing problems, cables being cut, and other unfortunate incidents could all result in the systems being inaccessible.

Data protection laws could be another minefield. If you are a company with globally dispersed offices collating customer information from each of your regions of operation then sharing it across your business from a Cloud service based in America, which data protection laws apply?

And there’s more that I could discuss at length. Being aware of the risks is always good because it means we can plan contingency. In the case of Cloud computing the business sees the opportunity and that really makes it all worthwhile because, as I’ve said before, this is where we’re all going like it or not.

One of those opportunities is scalability and the way that services can scale up or down depending on requirements (i.e. the Elasticity). In other words, you only pay for the processing time and disk space that you need at any given time.

Just about anything can be offered as a cloud-based service. Gartner make the point in a recently released paper entitled Cloud Computing: Defining and Describing an Emerging Phenomenon that the cloud “is more than just SaaS in that everything as a service (XaaS) would be a more appropriate applellation.” Personally I think the opportunities for collaboration are the most interesting as described on the CloudSecurity blog where it states: Forward thinking companies use collaboration technologies to melt away the physical distance between disparate offices, remote workers and suppliers.  Investments in R&D projects to create the next generation of business collaboration technologies and starting to bear early fruits and are worth paying attention to…

There’s much more I could, and will, write on this subject.