Martin’s Weblog

Cloud Conditions

It isn’t possible to specify any one factor in the development of cloud computing  but like many significant events there are a set of interacting and reinforcing factors that react together to set the conditions for cloud computing.  In no particular order here are some of the factors that set the conditions where the cloud can develop and where the cloud can be a natural resource.

Internet access

Good Internet access is a necessity for Cloud computing and over the last few years Internet access has become progressively cheaper, faster, more reliable and more pervasive – it is increasingly common to be able to get on the net from almost anywhere in the developed world.

In order to use and develop cloud computing you must have good internet access.

Collaboration

Education and work today asks and requires more collaboration.

Collaboration is something that has been “bolted” on to “old style computing” and can be difficult. Trying to work on a document with a group of colleagues using email or file sharing is frustrating and version management is a nightmare. Email attachments fly backwards and forwards or users can’t edit a shared document at the same time.

The cloud is natural for collaboration – collaboration has been built in from the beginning and the resources are naturally “out there” and accessible to collaborators. 

One other big advantage for usign the Cloud for collaboration is compatibility – collaborators only need to have a browser and Internet connection. With “old style” IT each collaborator would have to have the same application installed on their computer to access the files being used for collaboration. If using Word for example each person would need to have Word installed on their computer (buy it, install it, maintain and secure it) and then have the right version to read the files (Word 2003 cannot natively open Word 2007 files). Using the Cloud people can collaborate on computers using systems from Microsoft, Apple or Linux for example.

24/7 Mobile and remote work

Education and work today asks and requires more flexible mobile and remote working – from homework to work placement and partnerships outside the organisation.

External access is something that has been “bolted on” to “old style computing” – organisations use network “firewalls” to protect their private networks and providing external access to these private resources is awkward. Either resources are placed outside the firewall (in a DMZ) or “tunnels” are provided to allow external access to internal resources. As more and more people require external access the whole concept of firewalls and tunnel access becomes difficult to sustain.

The cloud is a natural for flexible mobile and remote work – the resources are naturally “out there” and accessible from anywhere with Internet access. You can create a document in the cloud and work on it at home, in work, at a meeting with a partner organisation etc etc.  

Consumerisation and Personalisation

Education asks and requires more personalisation. The IT industry is increasingly focused on consumer issues rather than corporate issues. Students and young workers are comfortable with IT and can use their own resources to get things done.

“Old style computing” was formed from business use of IT and is focused on control and application – the ability of users to “do there own thing” is designed out of such systems. No wonder IT “users” in companies get frustrated with corporate IT. This is all made worse by the “bloat” and complexity of dealing with modern applications which makes it so difficult for “normal” people to look after their “old style” IT – they become dependent upon the IT department or those who know how to deal with this stuff. Cloud systems avoid all this – no need to spend hours installing applications and dealign with computer issues like driver problems – just point a browser.

The cloud is a natural for Consumerisation and Personalisation  – the resources are naturally “out there” and available for people to use on their own terms. People can choose and use their own communications tools and applications from social network to webmail, cloud documents and microblogging etc etc.  IT is possible for people to make use of the “natural resources” of the cloud and get things done themselves without having to wait for overworked corporate IT departments to come along and do it for them.

Security

More of our lives are mediated by the Internet and criminal activity on the net is increasing and becoming more sophisticated – the security of our on-line presence is increasingly important.

“Old style computing” was formed from business use of IT on private networks and “standalone” isolated computers – security grew out of physical access to IT (from inside a firewall to access to the computer itself). Security measures regarding the Internet and the unknown have been “bolted on and have proved difficult and only partially effective – consider the monthly security patches for Microsoft software through to the very concept of a firewall.  The problem for traditional computing is that people or organisations need to keep abreast of security issues and practice and to secure the increasing amount of equipment they use.

The cloud has been built with security in mind – rather than starting life isolated behind a firewall or cut of from a network the cloud is naturally “out there” and exposed from the start. The big advantage is that security can be delegated to experts in the cloud – I’m sure that dedicated experts at Google, Amazon or Microsoft can keep their cloud systems more secure than I can keep my computer for example.

The “old style” of IT uses local running applications and files such as Word and Word files (although these applications and files may be delivered from a server they run on the local computer). Both of these present security problems.  The local files and applications are a target for viruses and hackers – the majority of viruses ae now aimed at applications rather than operating systems. The other problem is that people carry these files around or email copies – these local files can be accessed by people with physical access to a computer or storage device – the majority of data breaches have been with lost or stolen laptops and removeable storage.  

Jack Schofield recently talked about cloud security – comparing the cloud to Fort Knox and traditional IT as Gas stations – the “cost-benefit”  involved makes targeting small installations a better option than targeting large well secured installations. A recent article at silicon.com describes the advantages of using the cloud for security

Another aspect of security is business continuity and availability. “old style computing” developed before the Internet and required you to buy, install and maintain your own computers and for  people to become IT experts. Increasingly people and organisation want to use their time and money using IT rather than dealing IT (hardware and software complexities for example). A small company no longer needs to install and maintain its own staff and servers for file sharing, database, web and email these resources can be accessed from web browsers while the likes of Microsoft, Amazon or Google for example manage the hardware continuity- take a look at Microsoft’s “Fort Knox”. If I had a penny for the people I have come across who have lost files from problems with either removeable media or computer hard drives I would be a wealthy man – forget local data corruption or loss – place your data in the cloud.  

In summary, where you have good Internet access and wish to develop any of collaboration, 24/7 mobile and remote work, consumerisation and personalisation and have security and continuity concerns then these are ideal cloud conditions.

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November 8, 2008 - Posted by | cloud, ICT |

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