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Value Proposition and Challenges of Cloud Computing. Steven A. Warner, Ph.D NGIS/ATG/Technology August 2009. What is Cloud Computing?. Hype, smoke & mirrors, snake oil A new way of looking at buying and managing IT infrastructure and applications

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Value proposition and challenges of cloud computing l.jpg

Value Proposition and Challenges of Cloud Computing

Steven A. Warner, Ph.D


August 2009

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What is Cloud Computing?

  • Hype, smoke & mirrors, snake oil

  • A new way of looking at buying and managing IT infrastructure and applications

  • Something we’ve been doing for a long time but with a different name

  • A great way to make my budget go farther

  • A great way to burn up my budget faster

  • Not sure, I hear different definitions


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Cloud Computing Defined

  • NIST.GOV definition: Cloud computing is a model for enabling available, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

    • This is a user-centric view and highlights:

      • Access method = availability, convenience, on-demand, via network,

      • Computing method = shared pools, configurable virtualized resources, including application, storage, and print

      • Setup = rapid provisioning/release, dynamic scalability, minimal management and service-provider interaction

    • “Pay-per-use” where relevant (differs from “hosted” environments, where model is “pay for maximum capacity”)

    • Not a technology but a means for using technology (or façade for the user)

    • Treats IT more as a utility than as a capital expense (etc.) that must be managed and upgraded

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Business Drivers

  • A recent working group identified potential government savings of $6.6 B over the next three years through cloud/SaaS (IDC: Total Cloud Market $42B by 2012)

  • Economics

    • Cost avoidance

      • Capital purchase

      • Power!

      • Maintenance

      • Staff

    • Pay for only what you use – do not need to size systems to maximum capacity required (also simplifies planning)

    • Enables some reallocation of budgets, assets, and people into primary business/mission areas or other IT tasks

  • Agility

    • Avoids capital procurement timing

    • Very rapid access to new capabilities/capacity – provides a way to add/increase services “just-in-time” without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software

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    Delivery Models

    • Good industry agreement on three major layered models:

      • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Clouds, where an application environment is provided

      • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) Clouds, where an application development platform is provided

      • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), where infrastructure capabilities such as storage or a bare operating system are provided

    • Within each model there is the dimension of ownership:

      • Public (someone else owns it outside of the enterprise – either hosted or open)

        • Can be either a consumer or enterprise market model

      • Private (the enterprise has sole ownership)

        • Focus is enterprise, not consumer market

        • Many dimensions to private, the “enterprise” can potentially include groups of enterprises, special interest groups, etc.

    Diagram courtesy of Cloud Security Alliance

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    Implementation Patterns

    • Transference -- Take an existing on-premises application and move it to the cloud.

      • Drivers include economics, consolidation, and prototyping

      • Often includes “out-sourcing”

    • Development and Multi-Tenancy – Develop, assess, and operate new applications with unknown loadings without requiring a full initial capital investment.

      • Drivers are rapid and inexpensive prototyping, verification/validation, and risk reduction.

    • Surge (aka Burst) -- Ability to handle additional requirements on an as-needed basis.

      • Drivers are economic – avoiding paying for over-capacity.

    • Elastic Storage -- Application can grow exponentially from a value-added storage perspective.

      • Drivers are economic – avoiding paying for over-capacity – and also risk reduction. For example, data replication for disaster recovery, near-line storage for less frequently accessed data, archiving, backup

    • Collaboration – Moving shared inter-organizational resources into a common area.

      • Driver is ease of management, also keeps traffic out of the enterprise’s internal network.

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    Implementation Patterns (continued)

    • These patterns drive various deployment models:

      • Pure Cloud – everything is in the cloud (whether internal, external private, or external hosted; or SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS)

      • Cloud <-> Cloud -- two to many, could federate

      • Enterprise <-> Cloud – hybrid of on-premises and one or more clouds (this will become a common scenario)

    • New design possibilities arise:

      • If we assume host virtualization is a core component of any PaaS or SaaS solution…

        • Virtual machines then become a fundamental level of application component (eliminates need for a common run-time across complex multi-component applications)

        • This will change how we design multi-tier applications, especially with state-less, clustered components (e.g. application servers)

        • However the added complexity emphasizes the need for good architecture, security, data classification, and systems engineering practices that takes into account the unique aspects of the cloud paradigm

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    How to Build a Cloud (High-Level)

    • First and foremost (!), execute using good systems engineering practices!

      • Begin with governance

      • Understand goals, objectives, and requirements

      • Define an architecture, then design services, infrastructure, etc. to it

    • Obtain a suitable infrastructure of arbitrarily adequate capacity with network access

    • Virtualize the infrastructure and secure it

    • Add requisite components if goal is SaaS

    • Provide a means for end-users to obtain and release resources upon request in a dynamic manner (where relevant, to be charged for use also)

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    The Virtual Private Cloud

    Communications Circuit(dedicated, Internet, etc.)


    Public Clouds


    External Hosted


    Semi-Private Cloud


    Private Cloud


    Public Cloud


    Public Clouds


    Public Clouds



    Private Cloud


    Inter-Cloud Access

    Non-Cloud Local


    Inter-Cloud Access

    The Virtual Private Cloud is the aggregate of all the above environments.

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    Challenges to Adoption (continued)

    • Understanding of the Paradigm

      • Definition: Lack of agreement over what exactly constitutes “cloud computing”

      • Confusion: Over what benefits cloud computing will provide, and the trade-offs

      • Multi-Tenancy:

        • How comfortable is an enterprise in storing its data in an environment shared with other customers?

        • What is the risk and the mitigation for data leakage?

        • How does this differ from what we did in the mainframe era?

      • Outrageous Vendor Claims and Obfuscation of Challenges:

        • Hinder understanding of cloud computing

        • What exactly are we buying?

        • To what is the vendor committing (especially true for a hosting vendor)?

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    Challenges to Adoption (continued)

    • Understanding of the Paradigm (continued)

      • Role changes: The CIO (or equivalent) may need to evolve to a general contractor in many areas.

      • Lock-In:

        • How difficult would it be to move large volumes of data to a different cloud (cloud provider)?

        • This is both a procedural and a technical issue (format, bandwidth)

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    Challenges to Adoption (continued)

    • Implementation and Operations

      • Architecture:

        • There is much disagreement over the necessary elements for a cloud technical architecture, and the elements are not mature.

        • In addition, SOA is the best approach for interface to clouds, yet culture for SOA success is immature and poorly understood.

        • There is much discussion over common cloud APIs, but none exist

      • Manageability: from the user perspective:

        • Existing management tools do not seem to be able to track metrics for applications that may reside on a varying number of different systems (not a problem where solution is a single VM)

        • How does asset management change in the cloud?

        • Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) has initiated a working group to address (

      • Memory limits within VM technology: VMs, which are approaching being a requisite design element, can address less memory than the physical OS. The latest product releases largely obviate this limitation.

      • WAN performance: Many geographies still are limited in their backbone capacity.

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    Challenges to Adoption (continued)

    • Implementation and Operations (continued)

      • Loss of control: Will business elements of the enterprise bypass the enterprise’s IT organization?

      • Governance:

        • In which deployment models and use-cases does this play?

        • Is governance antithetical to the concept of cloud?

        • Will lack of governance aggravate problems already associated with lack of SOA governance?

      • Provisioning: For SaaS, how will applications and application components be provisioned?

      • Licensing: Vendors have been slow to develop appropriate models.

      • Confidence: As to reliability, scalability, and security in public clouds (economics will also drive cloud vendors to minimize costs)

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    Challenges to Adoption (continued)

    • Implementation and Operations (continued)

      • Motivation for the Provider:

        • Ideally, providers keep just ahead of demand

        • May provide motivation for providers to federate and sell capacity to each other as do utility companies. Are there lessons from the power utility companies?

        • Aggravates manageability problem

        • Is the capacity really there for surge levels? Will another tenant’s surge impede your ability to do the same?

      • Service-Level Agreements: There have been effectively no substantive guarantees from public cloud providers.

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    Challenges to Adoption (continued)

    • Security and Compliance

      • Threat Models: What new models arise in the cloud? Have we further aggravated issues already present within SOA and with standard computing vulnerabilities?

        • Examples:

          • Dynamic virtual machines – How much control to the user?

          • Resource isolation (appropriate isolation measures are needed):

            • VM-to-VM attacks

            • Data leakage

          • Weakened perimeter – Firewall ports enabling user access are a vulnerability

          • Patch and security control management – Becomes the user’s responsibility; aggravated by VM dynamism

          • Hybrid usage – Consistency of control; ensuring the user understands where their data resides

          • Administrative access across networks – A vulnerability also inconsistent with some security policies

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    Challenges to Adoption (continued)

    • Security and Compliance (continued)

      • Cross-Domain Security: How does an organization extend or federate its authentication and authorization mechanisms into the cloud?

      • Data-at-Rest Security: What encryption and segregation mechanisms are provided?

      • Auditability: Can access to the data be audited?

        • Are data storage formats even amenable to auditing (more of an issue for chunking types of storage that lose the concept of a file)?

        • Forensics, as applications are not linked to physical infrastructure and the number of physical assets in play may vary

      • Accreditation in the Cloud:

        • How can you tell a cloud is “secure”?

        • Is there governing policy and procedures to accredit a cloud?

        • What processes and controls must be in place? (Pre-accredited clouds may actually simplify this process)

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    Challenges to Adoption (continued)

    • Security and Compliance (continued)

      • Compliance: May preclude cloud paradigm in some cases due to:

        • Physical chain of custody requirements

        • Regulatory requirements

      • Physical Location:

        • Do you know what country your cloud resides in?

        • Would you know if it changed?

        • What compliance requirements change?

        • Is there governing law that recognizes the paradigm?

    • Conclusions:

      • There are many challenges to adoption of the cloud paradigm

      • Public clouds and private clouds have different sets of challenges, with some overlap

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    Federal Government Environments

    • There are a few early adopters or near term plans:

      • “GovCloud”:

        • Significant interest by the Obama Administration in cloud computing, recognizing the following possible applications:

          • End-user communications and computing

          • Secure virtualized data centers

          • Portals, collaboration and messaging

          • Content, information, and records management

          • Workflow and case management

          • Data analytics, visualization, and reporting

          • Enterprise business applications

      • DISA Rapid Access Computing Environment (RACE) – a PaaS solution for DoD users, with option for hardened environment

      • Nimbus – cloud computing environment at Argonne National Laboratories

      • NIST – much thought leadership by Peter Mell and Tim Grance – has defined the need for a Cloud Interoperability Profile

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    So What Can I Do Today?

    • Good public cloud applications today (look for high “wow factor”)

      • Backup/restore

      • Publication of shared (sanitized) data

      • Business analytics

      • Development, test, prototyping

    • Good private cloud applications today

      • Almost anything unless there is a high security or compliance requirement

    • Wait for public cloud

      • Mission-critical applications

      • Security- or compliance-sensitive data