I've Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now

  • vendredi 29 juillet 2011
    By: Dan O'Donnell

    If you were not in college in the 70’s you probably do not recognize these wonderful lyrics by Judy Collins; “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now and, still somehow, I really don’t know clouds at all.” This is a song where the cloud is a metaphor for love, not ubiquitous computing power. However, I found myself humming these lyrics over and over as I attended a conference on Cloud Computing in Baltimore last week.

    The conference, called Team Action Week, is produced bi-annually by the TM Forum, a wonderful consortium of Service Providers, equipment vendors and cyber defense experts. This is not a typical trade show. It is an opportunity for industry experts from around the world to discuss, debate and develop standards and best practices that can be used in the telecommunications industry to help Service Providers grow revenue, cut costs and improve business operations.

    My first session of the week was the Service Provider Leadership Council meeting on Cloud Services. One truth came to me very clearly…while the big picture seems simple; there are many details that Cloud users need to understand. The Cloud SLA you negotiate will be much more complicated than a simple transport agreement. So here are a few observations from “both sides” of the cloud…the Marketing Side and the Reality Side.

    Marketing: It does not matter where the Cloud is, your information is available to you from anywhere in the world.
    Reality: True, one can access the cloud computing and data storage from anywhere. However, there are many government and industry regulations governing the location of certain information and computing platforms. The geographic location of the user's Cloud service should be understood, meet national and industry regulations and be written in the contract. The same goes for back up locations.

    Marketing: Your information is secure.
    Reality: There are many levels of security. Access Control, while important, is only part of the story. Is the Cloud perimeter protected from data leakage from the inside as well as intrusion and hacking from the outside? The perimeter protection and associated risks should be detailed and described in the contract.

    Marketing: End user’s networks are separate from other users.
    Reality: The level of separation should be detailed in the contract. The “separation” could be a virtual instance with many other virtual networks on the same machine accessed by the same high speed links. The “separation” could, indeed, be a completely separate machine accessed by dedicated links. This is a high priced alternative but if complete physical separation is paramount, it should be discussed and written in the contract.

    The moral of the story is that Clouds, like the song says, should be looked at from “up and down and in and out” before jumping in. I guess, in the end, Cloud computing, like love just needs to be experienced to be understood completely. However, the more you know going in, the better your chances of a good outcome.

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