A Look At The Cloud Computing Market: Part 2

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a three part series on the cloud computing market. The series is from a study published by Asad Imam, a graduate student in the United Kingdom. Yesterday, in part 1, Asad looked at the challenges facing the market. In today’s look at the cloud computing market, Asad studies the security and technical challenges of cloud computing. Tomorrow, we will publish the third part of the series with a look at the opportunities, solutions and a conclusion about the overall market.

Security Challenges

The security of the data is an instantaneous concern raised by the prospective cloud users. This is attributed to the fact that organizations are any which way affected with vulnerabilities within their traditional IT infrastructure itself and putting the data over the cloud multiplies this vulnerability.

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Managing Web Infrastructure Storage Cost, Complexity, and Performance

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In his article ‘Where’s the Security?’ (Matthew, D) has pointed out that security challenges in the cloud exist not only during the data storage stage but throughout the data life cycle. This means that within the cloud a data is vulnerable to threats all along the collection, transmission, processing, storage, report and export stages. Hackers or ‘Data Sleuths’ or ‘Cyber Criminals’ as one may call them have proliferated and they are always looking for opportunities exploit such vulnerabilities. The lack of a robust security mechanism within the cloud provides them ample opportunities.

In yet another perspective, hackers are a much bigger threat in terms of ‘desktop security’ problems. The primary concern is the damage that a hacker can cause by planting a virus, from a normal desktop machine of an office using cloud services which could spread across the cloud and cause data damage of catastrophic magnitude [Waters K, J, 2009].

The concern about security is further amplified by the fact that no cloud vendor in present time provides a guaranteed mechanism to ensure data security. This is further supplemented by Simon Crosby [2009] in his article ‘Thinking about cloud? Then start internally’ where he states that no cloud vendor in present times offers the level of security required to fulfill the regulatory and audit requirements of enterprises. Often the cloud vendors would either avoid the security concerns or would suggest not uploading critical data over the cloud. Thus for potential customers, cloud computing does not help them in reducing much of their cost as they would still be required to store and maintain their critical data.

In addition, often a cloud data of a customer co-exists in a shared environment and the possibility of security loopholes or lack of proper encryption mechanisms presents a different dimension to the security issues within the cloud.

Technical Challenges

The fundamental dependence of cloud computing on the internet presents a set of technical challenges to the domain. The obvious concern is the worst case scenario where a customer could face ‘Data outage’ due to interruption in internet services. In financial terms, for a cloud consumer this could result in severe losses to the company. This concern is amplified by a report stating an increase from just one case in 2007 to 14 outages in 2008. [Mari A, 2009].

In addition there is a business challenge of ‘vendor lock-in’ that needs consideration as well. In best case scenario if adoption of cloud computing proliferates then cloud consumers would like the freedom to change their respective cloud vendors based on better offers provided by other vendors. The analogy of ‘electricity’, where customers have the freedom to choose a vendor, could be best used to describe this point of view. To implement it every cloud vendor will have to ensure for its consumers a smooth transition from one cloud to another and if it poses hurdles then a ‘potential’ consumer could find this restriction uncomfortable [Lohman T,2009].

Finally, as discussed earlier, it is understood that organizations would not migrate to the cloud instantaneously. They would like to continue using there current IT infrastructure and add cloud services as supplementary services to reduce cost and continue with the process until a complete robust and trustworthy cloud mechanism is developed. Until this is achieved it is imperative to develop techniques to integrate cloud services with current data storage and processing mechanism of an organization. The lack of such mechanisms could amplify clients concerns and prevent it from adopting the cloud.

If cloud computing intends to attain a status in computing domain similar to the ‘utility providers’ in the general world then they have to address the issues mentioned above. The above mentioned issues are not intended to indicate that every aspect of the cloud is ‘dark and stormy’. Through above attempt has been made to identify the key issues and lay a foundation for a prosperous growth of the cloud. Just as the famous English language phrase states ‘every cloud has its silver lining’ the world of cloud computing holds several promises, covered in the following section.

Tomorrow: The study will concludes with a look at the opportunities and solutions that cloud computing provides.

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