As a company that leverages Cloud infrastructure to provide cost-effective, scalable and secure application messaging services, I get a lot of questions about how we make the Cloud secure. Before I address this question, I figured it would be interesting to first take a look at the history of Cloud computing. I ask forgiveness in advance for all my gross-oversimplifications.
Cloud computing first started being described in the 60’s when the pioneers of ARPANET envisioned that people all of the world could connect and access data from each other over a network. Having an interconnected “web” would provide the foundation for distributed computing. Further, John McCarty, a noted computer scientist, proposed the idea of “computation being delivered as a public utility.” (ComputerWeekly.com, March 2009), much like it is used today.
Through the 80’s, the concept of a client-server model for operating applications and platforms within an enterprise began to take root and lay a foundation for what we recognize as “the Cloud” today. Client-server systems require that one computing appliance, ideally with a great amount of computing power and capacity, would be able to serve multiple clients (PC’s, terminals, etc.) around the world. One famous example of this in the 80’s was BITNET which connected IBM mainframes in order to send electronic mail to academic institutions around the world. (A brief history of the internet, Internet Society, 2010)
Although the idea of a “Cloud” infrastructure was seeded in the 1960’s, it was not really until the 1990’s that we saw any semblance of Cloud computing the way we know it today. In the late 90’s, SalesForce pioneered one of the first SaaS (software as a service) CRM applications and boldly labeled their innovated business model as “The end of software” since you did not have to purchase and install an application locally.
Although it appeared that SaaS based software models would be the future of how we used and interfaced with applications, these applications were still hosted in server farms or locally by the companies that published the software. In 2006, Amazon.com launched a new service that would change how we thought about hosted computing and helped catapult Cloud computing into the spotlight.
Amazon’s EC2 environment gives developers and software publishers a way to access what seems like unlimited resources in a “pay for what you use” model. This combination of low cost and scalable server resources made it possible for developers with very little money to develop applications and publish them (very quickly!) for the community to use. While this was a great milestone for developers and just about anyone who has ever used the internet, many people, businesses, and experts did not believe that the Cloud could provide the security and reliability needed to run enterprise grade applications.
While Amazon provides a paid public service (much like the one anticipated by John McCarthy), many users of the Cloud leverage what is called a “Private Cloud”. This generally means that the host of the distributed computing center has created a cloud environment but its resources are not made publicly available. Bringing the Cloud internally allows managers to have more control over security and maintenance, instead of relying on a provider. Private Clouds help satisfy many of the concerns IT Managers and CIOs have around security while allowing them to take advantage of the benefits of Cloud computing. Eric Knorr of InfoWorld has a great article here discussing “Private Clouds”.
Today, there is a wide range of options for developers and publishers of software when evaluating which Cloud provider they will use to host their applications. Companies like Microsoft and IBM have started offering services providing their customers with “elastic cloud” environments that promise services that are scalable, easy to access, and inexpensive to use. Seeing more and more large players, as well as small and medium size boutique cloud providers enter the market is a signal that more and more companies are adopting the Cloud as an acceptable infrastructure for hosting their data and applications.
Cloak Labs is a service that leverages* the Cloud for many of the same reasons any other business might. The Cloud provides a scalable, cost-effective and on-demand environment through which we can provide our application messaging services. When people ask how it is that we can leverage the Cloud when it is not secure, the answer is two fold:
Having an infrastructure that can scale as you grow allows our business to provide a rich and robust service without you incurring large up-front costs or expensive service fees for transferring data between local and hosted applications. You can learn more about Cloak Labs and our services by visiting http://www.cloudprime.net