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Empyra: Cloud computing to redefine information, process use

Posted: 02 Feb 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:cloud computing? outlook? SaaS? virtualization? EDA?

The cloud computing phenomena will become a natural operating model for CTOs and CIOs to transform IT practices for their companies in every industry ranging from electronic design to banking. In large organizations the multiple departments will be like subscribers to the "in-house cloud," which will behave very much like an "external cloud." Many businesses are evolving into building a cloud computing services ecosystem that is a blend of in-house services and external servicesit is just like building teams by combining onshore and offshore resources.

In particular, CIOs are rethinking significant parts of their software strategies, considering alternatives to conventional license structures as well as alternatives to lengthy development, complex customization, and long rollouts and upgrades. All that rethinking isn't brand new, but there's a much greater sense of urgency now. IT organizations for some of the large institutions are already setup along similar principles and a structure as cloud computingwhere the software is built on a shared platform [PaaS] and shared infrastructure [IaaS], and is deployed across multiple business units where costs are allocated based on pay-per-use.

The licensed software run by internal IT will remain a mainstay of most organizations into the next decade, but it will be complemented by external cloud computing services. Cloud computing will continue to gain ground by making software cheaper, simpler, more flexible and more accessible.

In addition there is a significant cost in creating and maintaining various development and test environments that are needed before and after an application goes live. Cloud computing helps jump-start quickly and reduces these costs significantly. It reduces the risk of carrying this equipment forward if the change in business direction stops the project mid-stream.

Are there concerns about security and confidentiality that need to be addressed?
Security, information confidentiality or intellectual property (IP) confidentiality, compliance and incident-liability are the most significant barriers to the adoption of cloud computing among businesses both small and large. The concentration of control, data and resources in cloud computing creates an attractive target for attack. These barriers are magnified by the fear of getting locked out of one's data for an unknown time due to breakdown and the fear of increased pricing as dependency deepens with a service provider.

The information and IP confidentiality is a big concern especially with functions involving intense design in a highly competitive industry like electronics. While cloud computing enables collaboration and data collection in no time at low cost, the fear of misuse or leakage of data, documents and designs is a valid concern. This leakage can jeopardize security and confidentiality of IP critical to survival of organization.

Most of the cloud computing based solutions and services follow the multi-tenant approach, that is, a single instance of application logic with data separated logically or physically. Contrast this with the single-tenant approach where the application logic and data reside together in a separate dedicated stack of hardware. It is critical for the consumers of cloud computing to understand the underlying approach for better understanding of the risks of confidentially breach.

Services through cloud computing services need the same degree of structure and rigour as was defined for offshore development and hosting.

The blurring of boundaries across layers with replicated information or "cloud stacks" complicates this further. Take for instance a SaaS-based solution may reside on another Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provider, which in turn is on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) from yet another provider, while parts of each service may be sub-contracted to someone else at another location. This complicates matters for businesses due to lack of clear strategy to exit or transition to in-house control when needed.

Using off-premises resources and services is not new, but what is new for companies is the absence of direct control over the services and the multi-tenant aspect of the services. On the other hand, this creates a natural tension for cloud computing providers to keep costs low through shared resources while allowing transparency beyond just meeting service level agreements (SLAs), especially for their larger clients.

Until consumers of cloud computing services are convinced that there is industrial-strength security and tracking in the cloud, they will remain reluctant to move more than development and test systems into that environment. Companies are smarter nowespecially those who have experienced transition to the onshore-offshore model.

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