Google Website Translator Gadget

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Dark Side of Cloud Computing

The old axiom in real estate is location, location, location. I just spent a full day at the CloudConnect Conference in Santa Clara, CA and the manta repeated by every one of the presenters on the future of cloud computing was security, security, security!

One presenter after another quoted data from Gartner Group, McKinsey & Company, or privately-funded research to show that 9 out of every 10 potential customers listed security issues as the number one barrier to implementing a cloud computing strategy at their company.

And the concern about cloud computing security is well founded.

One of the presenters asked conference participants if they knew what enterprise had the largest cloud computing presence in the world. Among the guesses were IBM, Microsoft, HP, Facebook, Amazon, and of course Google. The answer, however, was an outfit, if you can call it that, with which many in the audience were not even aware – Conficker .

A New York Times article from last year describes Conficker as program that “uses flaws in Windows software to co-opt machines and link them into a virtual computer that can be commanded remotely by its authors. With more than five million of these zombies now under its control – government, business and home computers in more than 200 countries – this shadowy computer has power that dwarfs that of the world’s largest data centers.”

Indeed, Conficker’s “cloud” is larger that the cloud computing efforts of Amazon, Google and IBM combined! And its sole purpose for existing is to disrupt normal business operations inside of companies, organizations and governments. With that monster looming in millions of “cloud computing resources” around the world it’s no wonder 9 out 10 customers considering implementing cloud computing strategies are nervous about security breeches.

But all is not doom and gloom. Despite the security issues that must be taken seriously, the benefits of moving resources to the cloud far outweigh the risk, and many organizations, including the US Government, are doing just that in a big way.

Much of the same research that showed security as the biggest impediment to cloud computing adoption also showed cloud computing revenue growing by more than 20 percent in the next three years. Of course with that much money in the balance, Conficker, and other ne’er-do-well’s won’t be far behind. That’s why security will remain front and center in any discussion about cloud computing.

In my follow up post next week, I’ll address Gartner Group’s “Seven Deadly Sins” of cloud computing security and what questions companies should ask of their cloud computing vendor before taking the plunge.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Creating a Perception of Relevance is Critical for Companies Vying for Cloud Computing Success

Every company wants to be known as having the answers. Every business wants to be heard. Every brand wants to be relevant.

But the truth is, relevance is a commodity that is rented, not owned.

Creating a perception of relevance is critical to business success.

And it is as simple, and as difficult, as defining a clear, concise message and constantly reinventing dramatic ways to convey this message to your markets.

At 3Point, we have done just this. From helping disruptive technologies find relevance, to helping major companies re-establish relevance to positioning acquisitions as relevant accelerators to acquirers.

As noted previously in the 3Point blog and in blogs all over the web and in tech news everyday of the week all over the globe, the future of enterprise IT is closely tied to cloud computing.

And nearly every enterprise IT company is shouting. Shouting so their flavor of cloud computing will be heard over the cloud computing hype and earn them, what else --relevance.

But to the dismay of customers, the conversation is confused.

At this week's Cloud Connect event in Silicon Valley, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that within a year the work of nearly all Microsoft employees will have something to do with the company's cloud computing mission, built around Microsoft's flavor of the cloud -- the Azure platform.

And Google is working feverishly to insert itself into as many clouds as it can. "If you don't use the cloud you will fail," said Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Oracle is in the middle of its own multi-continent cloud computing forum, telling organizations how they "can break through with cloud computing" using, of course, Oracle's cloud computing solutions.

Also, and as you might imagine, cloud computing expos and conferences are popping up everywhere so that customers can "better understand" how to put cloud computing to "work" for them.

But in many cases, so many choices are leaving customers more confused than ever.

Here's a thought: perhaps from these conferences and global cloud computing tours an industry realist will emerge. A realist who is also a visionary leader and an advocate for the seamless world cloud computing can make possible.

But most importantly, a leader who's an advocate for the customer. Someone who is asking customers what they want and need for a safe transition to the cloud.

Leadership like that is hard to come by, but certainly not impossible.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Using NIST Definitions to Clarify the Cloud

The other day, I heard a new term used for cloud computing, "cloud washing."  Apparently this was coined by an analyst at Forrester Research to describe the practice of repackaging existing cloud concepts as something new or unique to a vendor.

This kind of marketing adds to the confusion surrounding the cloud.  In the zeal to be different, companies "repackage" information that is not different at all.  When this happens, companies often unwittingly put up a big caution flag for customers.  When an entire sector of companies employ the same marketing practice, customers simply stop in their tracks.

Fortunately, there is a standard set of definitions for various types of cloud computing. If you are confused by the hype, it might be helpful to rely on definitions put forth last year by the National Institute of Standards and Technlogy (NIST), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Fortunately, there seems to be a growing consensus around these definitions. Here is a summary of the NIST definitions for Cloud Computing:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling 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. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.

Service Models:
Cloud Software as a Service (SaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider's applications running on a cloud infrastructure. The applications are accessible from various client devices through a thin client interface such as a web browser (e.g., web-based email). 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.

Cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created or acquired applications created using programming languages and tools supported by the provider. 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 application hosting environment configurations.

Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to provision processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, deployed applications, and possibly limited control of select networking components (e.g., host firewalls).

Deployment Models:
Private cloud. The cloud infrastructure is operated solely for an organization. It may be managed by the organization or a third party and may exist on premise or off premise.

Community cloud. The cloud infrastructure is shared by several organizations and supports a specific community that has shared concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It may be managed by the organizations or a third party and may exist on premise or off premise.

Public cloud. The cloud infrastructure is made available to the general public or a large industry group and is owned by an organization selling cloud services.

Hybrid cloud. The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more clouds (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load-balancing between clouds).

We're interested in collecting examples of cloud washing,  If you have one, please post it here.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Shining Light on Dark Clouds

At 3Point we are of the opinion that cloud computing is rapidly evolving to the point that eventually nearly every corner of business will be impacted. We see nearly all segments of technology, from semiconductors to enterprise software to mobility, becoming significant elements of the cloud.

However, as we have mentioned in this space before, cloud computing hype is beginning to peak which could lead to confusion and delayed market acceptance. As an undercurrent to the hype, there is also a steady drumbeat of cloud naysayers, populating the blogosphere with the opinion that cloud computing is nothing but fog and will fall short of its ideal.

A quick Google search finds articles such as Money magazine’s “Cloud Computing is for the Birds” and AdAge’s “This Cloud (Computing) Has No Silver Lining,” which present arguments and opinion that cloud computing is not all as promised. Even respected McKinsey & Company released a study last year that painted the cloud in shades of dark gray saying that while the cloud provided some benefits for smaller companies, large companies could lose money through cloud adoption. And industry luminaries such as Larry Ellison continue to rant against the cloud as old news, nonsense and water vapor.

There is even a Facebook page devoted to debunking the cloud suggesting “Join if you think that cloud computing is a horrible idea” and posted commentary like “It's a funny word for "web services". It's been around forever, and it still kinda sucks. Calling it "cloud computing" doesn't make it any more practical.”

This skeptical opinion also appears to permeate some large corporations, like P&G, as reported by VentureBlog. “What is interesting, however, is that one thing they aren't trying are cloud services. It was made clear that P&G runs everything behind their own firewall. And they have no intention of moving any part of their infrastructure into the cloud. P&G's view of the enterprise is pretty old school.”

This presents a challenge for companies bringing cloud-related products and services to market. Not only must they present a compelling case for their individual success, they must present a solid argument for cloud computing.

We welcome your comments and opinion on this topic:

Is the skepticism of the cloud well-founded?
How might companies rise above this fog of negativity?
What companies are doing a good job with the cloud?
Is any company other than doing a good job of marketing cloud computing?