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The Cloud as the New Way of Doing IT

The cloud represents a milestone in technology maturity for the way IT services are delivered. This has been a common pattern, with more sophisticated technologies taking the place of earlier ones. The automobile industry is a fitting example. At the dawn of the industry, the thinking was to replace horses with the internal combustion engine. There was little realization then of the real changes to come, including a remaking the energy supply chain based on petroleum and the profound ripple effects on our transportation systems. Likewise, servicelets will become more than server replacements; they will be key components for building new IT capabilities unlimited by underlying physical resources.

Note An important consideration is that the cloud needs to be seen beyond just a

drop-in replacement for the old stovepipes. This strategy of using new technology to

re-implement existing processes would probably work, but can deliver only incremental benefits, if any at all. The cloud represents a fundamental change in how iT gets done and delivered. Therefore, it also presents an opportunity for making a clean break with the past, bringing with it the potential for a quantum jump in asset utilization and, as we hope to show in this book, in greater security.

Here are some considerations:

Application development time scales are compressing, yet the scope of these applications keeps expanding, with new user communities being brought in. IT organizations need to be ready to use applications and servicelets from which to easily build customized applications in a fraction of the time it takes today.

Unfortunately, the assets constituting these applications will be owned by a slew of third parties: the provider may be a SaaS provider using a deployment assembled by a systems integrator; the systems integrator will use offerings from different software vendors; IaaS providers will include network, computing, and storage resources.

A high degree of operational transparency is required to build a composite application out of servicelets—that is, in terms of application quantitative monitoring and control capability.

A composite application built from servicelets must offer end-to-end service assurance better than the same application built from traditional, corporate-owned assets. The composite application needs to be more reliable and secure than incumbent alternatives if it's to be accepted. Specific to security, operational transparency means it can be used as a building block for auditable IT processes, an essential security requirement.

QoS constitutes an ever-present concern and a barrier; today's service offerings do not come even close to reaching this goal, and that limits the migration of a sizable portion of corporate applications to cloud. We can look at security as one of the most important QoS issues for applications, on a par with performance.

On the last point, virtually all service offerings available today are not only opaque when it comes to providing quantifiable QoS but, when it comes to QoS providers, they also seem to run in the opposite direction of customer desires and interests. Typical messsages, including those from large, well-known service providers, have such unabashed clauses as the following:

“Your access to and use of the services may be suspended . . . for any reason . . .”

“We will not be liable for direct, indirect or consequential damages . . .”

“The service offerings are provided 'as is' . . . ”

“We shall not be responsible for any service interruptions . . . ”

These customer agreements are written from the perspective of the service provider.

The implicit message is that the customer comes as second priority, and the goal of the disclaimers is to protect the provider from liability. Clearly, there are supply gaps in capabilities and unmet customer needs with the current service offerings. Providers addressing the issue head on, with an improved ability to quantify their security risks and the capability of providing risk metrics for their service products, will have an advantage over their competition, even if their products are no more reliable than comparable offerings. We hope the trusted cloud methods discussed in the following chapters will help providers deliver a higher level of assurance in differentiated service offerings. We'd like to think that these disclaimers reflect service providers' inability, considering the current state of the art, to deliver the level of security and performance needed, rather than any attempts to dodge the issue.

Given that most enterprise applications run on servers installed in data centers, the first step is to take advantage of the sensors and features already available in the server platforms. The next chapters will show how, through the use of Intel Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) and geolocation sensors, it is possible to build more secure platforms.

We believe that the adoption, deployment, and application of the emerging technologies covered in this book will help the industry address current quandaries with service-level agreements (SLAs) and enable new market entrants. Addressing security represents a baby step toward cloud service assurance. There is significant work taking place in other areas, including application performance and power management, which will provide a trove of material for future books.

 
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