Starting with something that's not awkward at all: I'm happy to announce that the first draft of the Cloud Computing Use Cases white paper is available at Google Groups. This was produced by the Cloud Computing Use Cases group. We would love to hear your experiences with cloud computing. The more input to the paper the better (membership in the group has almost tripled in the last week), so please jump in and contribute to the discussion.
From the "Oh Yeah? Well, You're Not Very Secure Either" Dept.: If you follow the progress of the cloud computing industry, you're well aware that the #1 issue on everyone's mind is security. One interesting trend I've noticed is that some cloud vendors are addressing customers' anxieties by pointing out that customer environments aren't completely secure either. I've heard one speaker proclaim that once your data is in the cloud, there are no more insider attacks. Another vendor spokesperson has said that cloud computing eliminates the risk that data will be written to a thumb drive or burned onto a DVD that later disappears. A couple of thoughts:
- "Eliminating" insider attacks by redefining what an insider is doesn't count. If I'm storing sensitive, valuable data in someone's cloud, are you telling me that not a single employee of the cloud vendor will find be able to find that out? Or be tempted to access my data when they do? Redefining that person as an outsider because they're not directly on my payroll doesn't mean my data isn't at risk.
- It's disingenuous at best to say thumb drives and backups are the only way data can be stolen. To me this is just another variation on the "the data isn't stored here, so there's no risk of an insider attack" theme. Any insider who can access my data is a risk, whether that data is stored in house or in the cloud. (And if they can access the data, can't they figure out how to put it on a thumb drive?)
Let me be clear: A world-class cloud vendor's data center will be more secure than most enterprises. But that doesn't mean they are risk-free. What bothers me most about these arguments is the condescension and contempt behind them. Since when did you sell anything by belittling a customer's concerns? People will use cloud computing when they feel comfortable with it, and trying to browbeat them into using something they think is less secure is unlikely to close a deal.
On the Road Again: I'll be speaking at the ESRI International User Conference in San Diego next week. ESRI is an IBM Business Partner and the leader in GIS Software.
The theory behind cloud computing is that I shouldn't know anything about the physical infrastructure that I'm using. The reality is that many kinds of data are subject to government regulations. If you're storing personal information about your customers, you might be required to store that data on a physical machine located in a particular country. The Cloud says the location of your data doesn't matter, but the law says otherwise. I'll talk about cloud computing and location information in a future blog posting. (One of the use cases proposed for the white paper deals with this issue.)
Today's blog title: One of the interesting things about the way technology advances in our industry is the way we lose function for years at a time, only to get it back when we've forgotten how much we liked that function to begin with. At times it seems like one step forward, two steps back. Two examples of things I used to have but don't anymore:
1. Send-from-anywhere email from my palmtop with complete Lotus Notes synchronization: In the mid-to-late 90s, I had a SkyTel Glenayre two-way pager and a Palm Pilot. I could write an email on the Palm Pilot, then beam it via infrared from the Palm Pilot to the pager. The pager would then send the email from wherever I was. (I did this routinely on airplanes and lived to tell about it.) In addition, the Palm Pilot did an excellent job of syncing everything with Lotus Notes. So I could write an email at 37,000 feet over Arkansas, beam it to my pager, it would be delivered right away and the mail would be replicated with my Notes mail database when I got on the ground.
I can't do that today with my iPhone. If anybody has a good iPhone to Lotus Notes app, let me know. Actually calendar sync is all I really care about, I can manage mail and contacts on my laptop. I know IBM has released the iNotes client, which is very cool, but AFAIK it keeps all your email and calendar and contacts separate from the email and calendar and contacts already on my iPhone. (Corporate loyalty forbids me from ranting on this point.)
Special note to today's young people: If you don't know what a pager is, it started out as an amazing technology that allowed you to send 10 characters of numeric information (a phone number) to somebody far away. Imagine something with 1/14th the bandwidth of Twitter, only without profiles, icons or easy access via the Internet.
2. Give complete presentations, including live demos, from my palmtop: About seven years ago I had a Compaq iPaq Pocket PC. (It must really bug the Compaq guys that they came up with the "i" thing before Steve Jobs did.) I docked it into an expansion pack that had a second battery and two Compact Flash cards. One was an Ethernet card for wired connectivity, the other was a video card. This was in the early days of Web services. I had a Web service running on my laptop, a crossover Ethernet cable connecting the iPaq and the laptop together, and live video of whatever was on my iPaq screen. Demonstrating the cross-platform nature of Web services, I ran a Visual Basic client on the iPaq that used SOAP to access a Java Web service running on my laptop. (And the crowd went wild, in a quiet sort of way.)
In addition to the live video, the iPaq also had a software package that would take your PowerPoint presentation and display it at 1024x768 through the video card. While it was displaying the slides on the big screen, the palmtop screen in my hand displayed the speaker notes for the slides. (Yes, dual displays on a palmtop.) And as icing on the cake, the video card had a credit-card sized remote to control the slides if I didn't want to be weighed down by the 6-ounce palmtop/expansion pack.
You can just imagine the geek-a-licious wonder of such tools, and there was the additional benefit that a number of people would stick around to the end of my presentation just to see what kind of gadgetry I had. Anything to keep the crowd in the room, I always say.
Why doesn't the iPhone have these functions? I would love to be able to stand up in front of an audience and do my entire presentation (slides and live demos) from the iPhone in my hand. I'm happy to give up Notes sync in exchange. And speaker notes in my hand aren't a big deal either (as if I had a script, or would stick to it if I did). Somebody besides me has to have thought about this. Please post a comment if this stuff is available and I'm just not aware of it, I'll be thrilled.
Finally, a Classic Rant from Mr. Grumpy's Archives: I mentioned my surreptitious airborne emailing via two-way pager earlier in this post. Instead of focusing on telling everybody not to use their devices, maybe the airlines should fix the $150 million jetliner so it can't be disabled by a $49 cell phone. Just a thought.