Five Big Issues Affecting The Cloud
Eurocloud UK Board Member & Cloud Industry Forum Governance Board Member
Cloud computing is the fastest growth and most hyped area of IT ever and continues to stimulate debate and divergence of opinion. Many are using it in private or/and business life without even realising it and it has already impacted the IT sector bringing dramatic change. We are seeing big brand historic IT providers having to reshape their business in light of changes in delivery and procurement of computing power (DELL, HP, Intel, EMC and others all making big employee cuts in the past year).
The 2013 Future of Cloud Computing Survey of IT decision makers found that 75% are using the cloud in some way, add to this are that more than 80% of respondents to a November 2013 Frost & Sullivan survey admit to using non-approved SaaS applications in their jobs and you can ascertain that cloud is here in a big way and cannot be ignored. Interestingly 73% of IT staff (CDW 2013 State of the cloud report) cited that it was employees personal use of the cloud that influenced the enterprise to accelerate cloud adoption.
Cloud brings a wealth of benefits to consumers, businesses small and large including affordability of more computing power, easier delivery to mobile devices, lower cost of operations, greater flexibility and easier scalability and easier and more intuitive applications.
This is borne out by industry stats such as 82% of companies reportedly saved money by moving to the cloud and 80% of cloud adopters gaining business improvements within 6 months of moving to the cloud.
It is no wonder that 451 Research is predicting a 36% compound annual growth in cloud computing through to 2016 and the total global market for cloud computing is expected to reach over $158 billion dollars by 2014, up 126% since 2011. Wikibon is also reporting that 60% of CIOs are now indicating that cloud computing is their top priority.
Transparency of Service
This represents an underlying issue where cloud providers meet the customer and where bodies such as the Cloud Industry Forum out of the UK are lobbying for providers to get their act together.
Many customers and those engaging in the cloud, either do not know the questions to ask of a cloud provider (having not had a wide experience of it), or find it hard to get clarity of answers when they do ask. There are key areas where a customer should be able to easily compare, evaluate and assimilate a potential cloud provider without the barriers that many currently put in the way.
Cloud providers, should where possible, make clear up front, easy to understand and locatable information available on key areas such as SLA’s and penalties, where data is hosted, under what sovereignty it is held, what backups are done and where stored, data liberation (how you get your data back and in what format) and other similar fundamentals.
The highest concern in all Cloud Surveys that users cite as hindering adoption, is always that of data security and privacy concerns (Security is the biggest pain point and roadblock to cloud computing adoption according to 30% surveyed by 451 Research, with 82% citing it as the biggest issue in the Cloud Industry Forum 2013 survey)
The perception in businesses that have not utilised outsourced models in the past, is that cloud and its medium of someone else doing it for you, is somewhat new and unproven. This model in varying forms has been around for 30 years from the data processor of the past to the mainframe service delivery firms. Cloud has simply commercialised, consumerised and commoditised this model to reach the masses. Technology has made it easy to deliver an internet based service and with this comes different risks, by the nature of it; risk of selecting a lesser provider and risk of not asking the necessary questions and understanding the relative answers as a customer. Certainly in utilising an external provider it is potentially harder to maintain data integrity and privacy and support data and service compliance. However for many small to medium businesses this has not been best delivered in house either, so an externalised specialist service can bring great upsides in security.
Following on from the generic security issue is the more specific sub concern of where data is held and how it is protected. With the boldly publicised issues raised in 2013 by the Snowden affair and the ongoing NSA press, no wonder this remains at the forefront and customers ask more questions now than 2 years ago. Where your data is physically held, where the secondary data is held, where backups are stored, who has access to your data, how it is stored, what country legality applies to it, how you get it back and in what format (Data Liberation) are all valid questions to ask of a cloud provider and any reputable provider should have no issue answering such questions. The Cloud Industry Forum report in 2013 identified that 46% of UK businesses surveyed wanted data hosted in the UK or Europe when choosing cloud.
More recent news has heightened the awareness and questions around this, as in May 2014 in a well-publicised incident, a USA court ruling cited that a user's personal data that is stored on a cloud services servers overseas can still be handed over to authorities in the U.S, (meaning for a British firm hosting with a USA company means your data is treated as if on USA soil no matter where their data centre is located. This incident was driven off of a search warrant issued in the USA on Microsoft for a user’s information stored on a server in Dublin. Microsoft challenged, Microsoft lost.. Whilst Microsoft plans to appeal it does illustrate why customers are valid in asking a provider where their data is held and under what jurisdiction. Another large cloud provider for example, Salesforce, has for years stored all customers data in the USA, with no SLA’s in the standard contract, neither fact being openly known or publicised, unless a customer knows to ask for firm answers on these points.
Interoperability / Portability
There is perception that cloud makes this easy. It can, but often at this point of evolution it is not always as advanced as the customer may expect. Migration and integration of legacy and on-premise systems with cloud applications, came the second most important customer issue in 451 Research;s cloud study. With the rapid rise of mobile and the growing use of cloud solutions, platforms have exploded and integrating the mix of mobile, cloud and on network applications can pose to achieve the mix you may wish. Many cloud systems have complex integration needs to connect to other cloud applications, as well as existing on-premise applications in a quick and cost effective way.
We are now seeing the emergence of cloud integration brokers, providers building connectors that provide the medium between cloud applications as a common integration interface. Providers of these already include Onesaas,Dell Boomi, Mulesoft and Cast Iron.
Finally in the mix is the age old industry standards discussion. In cloud, as in other areas. there are a mix of independent, vendor specific and regional standards in place and developing that affect the cloud space. Booz & Company actually found a total of 160 different standards covering varying areas of cloud computing from technical standards such as ISO and SAS-70 through to regional organisations setting additional standards and guidance such as the Cloud Industry Forum, Cloud Security Alliance, Eurocloud and others. Standards will evolve rapidly and ratify themselves as legislation and legality catches up with the changes cloud has bought (eg European Data laws are in review and set to be updated in the short term) and in the meantime it does not stop anyone progressing and utilising cloud to their advantage in both personal and business lives.