Cloud Computing Central
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With the proliferation of cloud computing, many businesses are starting to adopt a service provider model—either as a deliberate strategy to establish new revenue streams or, in some cases, inadvertently to support the growing needs of their organizations. This is especially true for companies with diverse needs, whether they’re tech companies with dev teams churning out new apps and services, or business owners driving requirements for SaaS services and cloud capabilities to enhance their data center operations.
Read more about provisioning and orchestration capabilities to meet growing business needs.
Glad to let the cloud computing central members know that I've also started writing on ThoughtsonCloud - the IBM cloud experts blog. Please read my first post on ThoughtsonCloud -about Maximizing the value of cloud for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). and let me know your comments and feedback. Thanks
Cloud Computing is a term that is often bandied about the web these days and often attributed to different things that -- on the surface -- don't seem to have that much in common. So just what is Cloud Computing? I've heard it called a service, a platform, and even an operating system. Some even link it to such concepts as grid computing -- which is a way of taking many different computers and linking them together to form one very big computer.
A basic definition of cloud computing is the use of the Internet for the tasks you perform on your computer. The "cloud" represents the Internet.
Cloud Computing is a Service
The simplest thing that a computer does is allow us to store and retrieve information. We can store our family photographs, our favorite songs, or even save movies on it. This is also the most basic service offered by cloud computing.
Flickr is a great example of cloud computing as a service. While Flickr started with an emphasis on sharing photos and images, it has emerged as a great place to store those images. In many ways, it is superior to storing the images on your computer.
First, Flickr allows you to easily access your images no matter where you are or what type of device you are using. While you might upload the photos of your vacation to Greece from your home computer, you can easily access them from your laptop while on the road or even from youriPhone while sitting in your local coffee house.
Second, Flickr lets you share the images. There's no need to burn them to a compact disc or save them on a flash drive. You can just send someone your Flickr address.
Third, Flickr provides data security. If you keep your photos on your local computer, what happens if your hard drive crashes? You'd better hope you backed them up to a CD or a flash drive! By uploading the images to Flickr, you are providing yourself with data security by creating a backup on the web. And while it is always best to keep a local copy -- either on your computer, a compact disc or a flash drive -- the truth is that you are far more likely to lose the images you store locally than Flickr is of losing your images.
This is also where grid computing comes into play. Beyond just being used as a place to store and share information, cloud computing can be used to manipulate information. For example, instead of using a local database, businesses could rent CPU time on a web-based database.
The downside? It is not all clear skies and violin music. The major drawback to using cloud computing as a service is that it requires an Internet connection. So, while there are many benefits, you'll lose them off if you are cut off from the Web.
Cloud Computing is a Platform
The web is the operating system of the future. While not exactly true -- we'll always need a local operating system -- this popular saying really means that the web is the next great platform.
What's a platform? It is the basic structure on which applications stand. In other words, it is what runs our apps. Windows is a platform. The Mac OS is a platform. But a platform doesn't have to be an operating system. Java is a platform even though it is not an operating system.
Through cloud computing, the web is becoming a platform. With trends such as Office 2.0, we are seeing more and more applications that were once the province of desktop computers being converted into web applications. Word processors like Buzzword and office suites likeGoogle Docs are slowly becoming as functional as their desktop counterparts and could easily replace software such as Microsoft Office in many homes or small offices.
But cloud computing transcends Office 2.0 to deliver applications of all shapes and sizes fromweb mashups to Facebook applications to web-based massively multiplayer online role-playing games. With new technologies that help web applications store some information locally -- which allows an online word processor to be used offline as well -- and a new browser called Chrome to push the envelope, Google is a major player in turning cloud computing into a platform.
Cloud Computing and Interoperability
A major barrier to cloud computing is the interoperability of applications. While it is possible to insert an Adobe Acrobat file into a Microsoft Word document, things get a little bit stickier when we talk about web-based applications.
This is where some of the most attractive elements to cloud computing -- storing the information on the web and allowing the web to do most of the 'computing' -- becomes a barrier to getting things done. While we might one day be able to insert our Google Docs word processor document into our Google Docs spreadsheet, things are a little stickier when it comes to inserting a Buzzword document into our Google Docs spreadsheet.
Ignoring for a moment that Google probably doesn't want you to have the ability to insert a competitor's document into their spreadsheet, this creates a ton of data security issues. So not only would we need a standard for web 'documents' to become web 'objects' capable of being generically inserted into any other web document, we'll also need a system to maintain a certain level of security when it comes to this type of data sharing.
Possible? Certainly, but it isn't anything that will happen overnight.
What is Cloud Computing?
This brings us back to the initial question. What is cloud computing? It is the process of taking the services and tasks performed by our computers and bringing them to the web.
What does this mean to us?
With the "cloud" doing most of the work, this frees us up to access the "cloud" however we choose. It could be a super-charged desktop PC designed for high-end gaming, or a "thin client" laptop running the Linux operating system with an 8 gig flash drive instead of a conventional hard drive, or even an iPhone or a Blackberry.
We can also get at the same information and perform the same tasks whether we are at work, at home, or even a friend's house. Not that you would want to take a break between rounds of Texas Hold'em to do some work for the office -- but the prospect of being able to do it is pretty cool.
More About Office 2.0
Elsewhere On Web Trends
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Organizations looking to optimize across the application lifecycle recognize the need for enhanced innovation and speed to market. Yet most IT resources are focused on covering the basics, leaving fewer resources to support business agility. The solution: Platform as a Service (PaaS).
IBM’s PaaS solution, IBM SmartCloud Application Services, or SCAS, allows clients to differentiate themselves with built-in flexible services that allow them build and customize cloud solutions their way – leading to a competitive advantage. Companies are using enterprise-class IBM Application Services to measure and respond to market demands, capture new markets, and reduce application delivery and management costs.
First, with IBM Collaborative Lifecycle Management Service, included within SCAS, development teams can establish shared team development environments in minutes – before it used to take weeks. Within hours they can quickly define their development team and begin working collaboratively to respond to business needs.
Another significant benefit of a PaaS approach is the time it takes to get an application deployed and to market. Application deployment can take weeks on a traditional environment but with IBM SmartCloud Application Services, applications can be deployed to the cloud in minutes.
SCAS also allows clients to respond rapidly to changing market conditions by deploying or modifying cloud-centric (“born on the cloud”) or cloud-enabled (legacy applications) quickly and easily. In fact, developers can move from the dev/test environment directly into production with SCAS, taking advantage of proven repeatable patterns contained within the SmartCloud Application Workload Service, thus eliminating human error. These repeatable patterns allow clients to eradicate errors by avoiding manual processes – this drives consistent results, increases productivity, and reduces risk.
IBM SmartCloud Application Services are compatible with the newly announced IBM PureSystems family. For example, through SmartCloud Application Services clients can rapidly design, develop, and test their dynamic applications on IBM's public cloud and deploy those same application patterns on a private cloud built with PureApplication Systems, or vice versa.
IBM SmartCloud Application Services is now in pilot and accepting new client who want to get ready to accelerate their cloud initiatives. Clients won’t pay for SCAS services during the pilot, but will only be charged for the underlying *SmartCloud Enterprise infrastructure used by the services (that’s because SCAS runs on top of IBM’s Infrastructure as a Service offering, SmartCloud Enterprise, or SCE). Existing SCE customers can get up and running on the pilot quickly and start realizing the benefits of PaaS right away.
To be considered for the program, new or existing SCE customers should IBM SmartCloud Application Services web site and click the button on the right titled, “Get a jump on the competition with the SmartCloud Application Services pilot program.”
You can learn more about IBM SmartCloud Application Services with this video, “The multifaceted potential of platform as a service (PaaS) from IBM.”
CLD Partners, a leading provider of IT consulting services with a particular focus on cloud computing, began using SCAS during the beta which launched in 2011 and has now transitioned into the pilot program.
“We share IBM’s vision for how enterprise customers can achieve huge productivity gains by embracing cloud technologies. SCAS allowed us to utilize world class software in a managed environment that greatly reduced the complexity of the deployment while also providing for future scalability that our customers only pay for when they need it,” said Steve Clune, Founder and CEO of CLD Partners. “Ultimately, traditional infrastructure planning and configuration that would have required weeks was literally reduced to hours. And future flexibility as infrastructure needs change is virtually limitless.”
IT Operations, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), Line of Business, and Application Developers would benefit from the SCAS pilot program. And it doesn’t matter the company size, enterprise or mid-market; all types of businesses can realize value from getting their applications to market faster.
To learn more about the IBM SmartCloud Application Services pilot program, read the Pilot Services Bulletin or visit the Application Services web site.
One of the exciting and valuable characteristics of IBM SmartCloud Enterprise is it's tight linkage with the IBM Software Group portfolio of offerings. In addition to the offerings from IBM Software Group, innovative software vendors are making exciting offerings available as well. There is an ever-growing list of offerings available to IBM SmartCloud Enterprise customers. These recent additions are now in the SmartCloud Enterprise public catalog and available to you to use.
BYOL - Bring Your Own License; PAYG - Pay As You Go
The following BPM images are now available in the catalog:
IBM Process Center Advanced 7.5.1 64b - BYOL
IBM WebSphere Service Registry and Repository (WSRR) is a system for storing, accessing and managing information, commonly referred as service metadata, used in the selection, invocation, management, governance and reuse of services in a successful Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). In other words, it is where you store information about services in your systems, or in other organizations' systems, that you already use, plan to use, or want to be aware of.
The following WSRR images are now available in the catalog:
IBM WebSphere Service Registry 64bit BYOL
IBM WebSphere Message Broker (WMB) delivers an advanced Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) that provides connectivity and universal data transformation for both standard and non-standards-based applications and services to power your SOA.
The following WMB images are now available in the catalog:
IBM WebSphere Message Broker 220.127.116.11 64b BYOL
IBM SPSS Decision Management enables business users to automatically deliver high-volume, optimized decisions at the point of impact to achieve superior results.
The following SPSS image is now available in the catalog
IBM SPSS Decision Management 6.2 64b BYOL
From our partner Riverbed comes Riverbed® Stingray™. This software-based application delivery controller (ADC) designed to deliver faster and more reliable access to public web sites and private applications.
The following Riverbed Stingray images are now available in the catalog:
Riverbed Stingray V 8.0 RHEL 6 32 bit BYOL
Additionally, Alphinat SmartGuide provides visual, drag and drop tools that can help you quickly build interactive web dialogues that guide people to the relevant response, help them diagnose problems or lead them through a series of well-defined steps that make it easy to complete complex—or infrequently performed—tasks.
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GridRobotics' Cloud Lab Grid Automation Server can manage any number of client or agent computers, which can be spun up automatically on public clouds like IBM SCE or private clouds. Grid Robotics’ Cloud Lab Classroom is a virtual classroom management solution.
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We keep a list of our partners on our Cloud ecosystem partner images page
We are committed to adding value continuously to IBM SmartCloud Enterprise to help you advance cloud in your organization.
Securing the Virtual Infrastructure
Cloud computing tests the limit of security operations and infrastructure from various perspectives. Let us examine what is different about Cloud Security and identify what are existing threats and what are the new areas that we should be concerned about.
Figure 2 Cloud Security - Existing & New Threats
I think what make cloud security complex is the number of layers involved in the cloud service stack and the number of components in each layers. So it means
· Increased infrastructure layers to manage and protect
· Multiple operating systems and applications per server
More Components = More Exposure
As we can see we already do perimeter protection at the network and operating systems as well as do physical and personnel security for the traditional infrastructure. All of them holds good for cloud as well to combat the existing threats at these layers.
us examine what are the new points of exposure with cloud. Security and resiliency complexities are raised
by virtualization and automation which are essentials to cloud. The new risks
· Cloud Service Management Vulnerabilities
· Secure storage of VMs and the management data
· Managing identities on the increasing number of virtual assets
· Stealth rootkits in hardware now possible
· Virtual NICs & Virtual Hardware are targets
· Virtual sprawl, VM stealing
· Dynamic relocation of VMs
· Elimination of physical boundaries between systems
· Manually tracking software and configurations of VMs
For managing these additional complexities, you need a reference model that is comprehensive and covers security controls that can combat not only the existing challenges but also the new challenges that cloud brings in.
IBM Foundational Security controls for IBM cloud reference model (see below) provides the different elements and controls required to build a secure cloud.
Figure 1 Foundation Security Controls for IBM Cloud Reference Model
Managing datacenter identities (Identity and access Management) is one of the top-most security concerns and we discussed how to handle the same in my previous post. I’ll discuss how to handle the virtualization related threats in my next post.
Meanwhile let me know your comments on this reference model. Do you think these set of controls are comprehensive. Do you see any areas not covered from a cloud security perspective? If so, just add it as comment to this post and let us discuss.
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Rethink IT. Reinvent Business.
Join us for the 2012 IBMSmartCloud Symposium event on 16-19 April 2012 in San Francisco, California. This Symposium will help you Rethink IT and Reinvent Business.
This event will introduce Cloud Computing’s disruptive potential to not only reduce cost and complexity but reinvent the way we do business. Over the course of four days, there will be sessions that define cloud computing and discuss transformative benefits and challenges to consider while sharing specific, proven patterns of success. We will provide proven methods to get started on the Cloud journey from the up-front investments to capacity planning. This event will cover the technology behind private and public clouds whether you choose to build your own, leverage prepackaged solutions or have it delivered as a service.
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Managing Datacenter Identities for Cloud
Among top challenges for cloud , I discussed Security as the top concern. I also detailed the top concerns with regard to securing the cloud in the subsequent post. Cloud computing tests the limits of security operations and infrastructure for the various security and privacy domains
Cloud brings in lot of additional considerations like multi-tenancy, data separation, virtualization etc. In a cloud environment, access expands, responsibilities change, control shifts, and the speed of provisioning resources and applications increases - greatly affecting all aspects of IT security. We will discuss the different security aspects classifying them against specific adoption patterns (see post here). The cloud enabled data center pattern is the more predominant one which has Infrastructure and Identity management as the top concerns. Within cloud security doing the right design for the infrastructure security is the important aspect – the details of which and how it is done by different public clouds we discussed in the previous post. Now with regard to Identity lets discuss the top requirements, use cases and look at what solutions that we can provide to make the cloud secure. Lets start with managing datacenter identities which is the top concern.
Managing Datacenter Identities
Identity and Access Control needs to deliver capability that can be used to provide role based access to securely connect users to the cloud. The users include the cloud service provider as well as consumer roles. Within each user groups we need to support User as well as Administrator Roles. The identity and access management should the 4As - Authentication, Authorization, Auditing and Assurance.
§ For a cloud consumer user, it is about making sure the user identity is verified and authenticated at the self service portal and providing right access to the resource pools.
§ For the administrator, we need to provide role based access to Service Lifecycle Management functions
§ We will need to integrate with existing User Directory infrastructure (AD/LDAP/NIS) to extend the user identity to the cloud environment as well.
§ Once in the cloud environment, we need to automatically manage access to the cloud resources, through provisioning and de-provision of resource profiles and users against the resources in the cloud identity and access management systems. Manual processes to manage accounts for users on various virtual systems and applications are not going to scale in a cloud environment. The same is true with the manual processes to process various audit logs to meet compliance and audit requirements
§ In massively parallel, cloud-computing infrastructures involves enormous pools of external users as well. We need to ensure smooth user experience for the users so that they don’t need to enter their credentials multiple times to access various applications hosted within the enterprise or by business partners and Cloud providers.
§ Management of user identities and access rights across hosted, private and hybrid clouds for internal Enterpise users is also a major challenge that includes
o Centralized user access management to on and off-premise applications and services
o Enables Federated Single Sign-on and Identity Mediation across different service providers
Lets look at some of the capabilities that we can leverage to solution these requiremnts.
IBM Security Identity and Access Assurance - provides the following capabilities. These capabilities enable clients to reduce costs, improve user productivity, strengthen access control, and support compliance initiatives.
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Infrastructure Security Design (Public Clouds)
As we discussed in my previous post, transparency or more control is need of the hour with regards to security on the cloud. Let examine how this is done by the popular cloud providers and understand the method and the technologies. We need to secure the infrastructure, network, endpoints, applications, processes, data, and information and overall have a governance to mitigate the risk and meet the compliance. Let us take the infrastructure to begin with.
The key areas for a security team to design for with regards to infrastructure security are
Let us start looking at the public cloud implementations to understand how they are managing these aspects.
Almost all the vendors – IBM, Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce provide a means to do SSH with keys to the Guest OS. The protocol runs over SSL and is authenticated with a certificate and private key which could be generated by the customer.
IBM LotusLive employs a security approach based on three three-pillars that includes ensuring security rich infrastructure.
We will see how the infrastructure security aspects are dealt with for private clouds in my next post. Stay tuned and keep those comments coming. I’d some of my readers tell me that the blog entries are not showing up fine on Internet explorer. While I will make the effort to fix the issue, please use Firefox or any other browser in the meantime.
And if you these posts interesting dont forget to rate the post (click on the stars) and if you got an extra minute do put in a comment on what apsects you find interesting or need discussion.