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Will cloud computing make traditional vendor relationships obsolete?

Tom Henderson | May 29, 2011
Shifting compute processes to the cloud can help companies save money and become more flexible.

What surprised us about both types tools we tested (retail and life cycling) was the fact that systems security really wasn't touched on heavily. We could build stupendously large and highly sophisticated infrastructure, lay down enormously powerful systems infrastructure, but security was one of the devils of the details that the automation tools often left to somebody else.

The storage story

So far, we've tested and built brain capital regarding private cloud extensions of public resources, tools to automate public and perhaps private cloud use. Next came storage. We tested Amazon's S3 storage alongside a similar offering from Rackspace, together with a cloud appliance gateway system from Nirvanix, Nasuni's cloud-based CIFS storage, and Egnyte's WebDAV-based filing system. Here, security was stronger, if sometimes daunting to deploy.

There's a misconception regarding cloud storage; one that's onerous. It seems that some feel that the time of data life stored in the cloud is so short, and the time that it takes to crack VPNs is so long, that data stored is protected because of its more overall transient life in the cloud.

That might be true for some applications, and certainly there are applications where stored data theft has no value - for example, rendered video segments.

But customer data, and those data sets that fall under privacy law and regulatory authority have to be protected. There were varying degrees of encryption, ranging from none through simple SSL transport encryption (without storage encryption) through to full AES-256+. But there was no standard, in-your-face we-always-encrypt attitude. Much is still left up to the diligence of the developer or the administrator of the storage.

We found a lot of variance in system response for storage as well. The Internet as a storage transportation highway was found to be faster at night than during the day. But it won't likely come near to even a USB 2.0 disk connection to an external SATA drive. The Internet makes a lousy transport for traditional disk data. To that point, our test results showed symmetry with Amazon's S3, in terms of upload/download speed, but everyone else demonstrated that uploads were faster than downloads, sometimes by a large factor. None of them were blazingly fast, and yet none of them crawled, either.

Canonical's Stratosphere

The Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud application arrived, and we tested it as our first foray into monolithic private cloud platforms. Here was an astute evolutionary move, we felt, that took a famous Linux distribution and bundled with just the right starter kit accessories to enable a private cloud on the cheap. If you know Linux, here was a path to make mistakes on your own through the pilot process, become familiar with how clouds work, and as openEucalyptus is used frequently with AWS, gain knowledge to re-use in the Amazon AWS cloud.


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