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Posts Tagged ‘Cloud’

Storage and the Cloud

November 18, 2011 2 comments

For this second post in the cloud series, I’d like to take a quick look at the challenges and opportunities around digital content storage in the cloud.

According to Cisco’s visual networking index, by 2015 “the equivalent of an archive of all movies ever made will cross Global IP networks every 4 minutes”, or to put it another way, Global IP traffic will quadruple from 2010 to 2015 with a compound annual growth rate of 32%. Oh, and by the way, over 60% of this traffic will be video! Now, that’s an awful lot of content which implies an increased need for storage, at one point or another in the content life cycle.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the potential for content storage on the cloud, and indeed so many examples already exist of cloud storage providers for both enterprise and consumer specific needs (e.g. think Amazon, Dropbox, or even Apple’s iCloud). So what’s the big deal? Well, according to a recent Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) Cloud Adoption Study, over half of enterprise respondents were planning to deploy cloud storage, and up to 60% planned to retain data anywhere between 5 – 20 years plus, on the cloud. This means the content stored on cloud is likely to increase exponentially over time, in light of the aforementioned growth in traffic.

Whilst these trends offer great opportunities, at least for cloud storage services and the content industry ecosystem, it also provides some key challenges to be addressed along the way, e.g. data storage and security, regulatory compliance and retention issues, as well as IP Rights management in a distributed, global digital landscape (the last will be subject of a separate post in this series).

In my opinion, one immediate issue for cloud storage will be how to interoperate, and easily migrate, stored data / content between cloud services. There is clear need for standards for cloud storage, and several initiatives, e.g. SNIA’s Cloud Storage Initiative (which introduced the Cloud Data Management Interface), and the Open Grid Forum’s Open Cloud Computing Interface are certainly steps in the right direction, because they help to specify the attributes, functions and requirements of data and content stored in the cloud. The key message for Enterprises looking to step into the cloud storage arena would be to ensure that their suppliers or vendors have adopted, or plan to adopt, a cloud storage standard early on in the selection process.

Note: This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series. For more information please click – HERE

Digital Content and the Cloud

October 17, 2011 3 comments

This is first in a series of posts about cloud computing and digital content which will look at some of the immediate impact, as well as emerging and potential future trends of digital content in the context of cloud computing.

Digital Content Cloud

Digital Content in Cloud

Once upon a time, it was normal expectation and practice to run a decent-sized content business entirely from your own servers, storage and website. Nowadays this is not necessarily part of the conversation, even for small content businesses, as a result of the pervasive awareness of this thing called cloud and all the benefits it can deliver to the bottom line. The obvious advantages (e.g. scale, flexibility and reach) far outweigh most of the real and perceived disadvantages, but for content businesses, and I mean those businesses that rely on digital assets for their livelihood, this is a critical step with an intolerably high cost of failure.

In order to play in this field, content businesses must make it a point to ensure they are well placed and able to handle challenges posed by certain key aspects of doing business in the clouds, so to speak. These include:

  1. Storage – Along with the vast compute power, virtually unlimited storage is one of the key calling cards of the cloud optimist or evangelist. It is a compelling argument but there are still some key operational challenges to be faced in dealing with the vast amount of content stored in the cloud.
  1. Security – Cloud security is a staple topic of criticism by those I would refer to as cloud pessimists, but even now it is still way too early to tell which way the dice will fall on this one
  1. Collaboration – the ability to collaborate over space and time is another key attraction of cloud for content creators, business users and the even consumers (e.g. for User Generated Content)
  1. Intellectual property – The ability to monitor and enforce IP rights is a slow burner of an issue which will only get hotter as the more immediate challenges get resolved
  1. Emerging Usage models – The content industries face a major challenge dealing with constantly changing user needs and behaviours, (e.g. in the social context) resulting in the need for a highly flexible business model to cope with the onslaught; and this in my opinion, is where cloud technologies can really help enable the businesses of tomorrow

These and other related topics will form the main subjects for discussion in my subsequent posts for this series. In the meantime, I’d like to reiterate that the opinions expressed in this post and in the subsequent series of posts (and indeed my entire blog), are strictly mine and do not in anyway reflect the views of my employer, Capgemini, or the BCS Chartered Institute for IT.

DISCLAIMER:  This post is brought to you in partnership with Intel(R) as part of the “Technology in tomorrow’s cloud & virtual desktop” series.

Innovating and Enabling Digital Futures

July 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Certain trends and observations in the use and growth of content and communication technologies make it clear that the future of digital enterprise will depend heavily on key enablers such as Mobile Infrastructure. As ever, technology is probably the least of a set of key challenges facing those that would capitalize on such clear foresight, and this was the topic of my webcast at a BrightTalk Summit earlier this week.

Mobile Infrastructure: Innovating and Enabling Digital Futures

Mobile Infrastructure: Innovating and Enabling Digital Futures

First of all, my thanks to the kind people at BrightTalk for inviting me to share some thoughts and opinions at their Mobile Infrastructure Summit (click here to view the full webcast), and despite running out of time near the end, the audience feedback was most generous. To summarise briefly, some key points of discussion included:

  • Social, technology & business trends (with particular relevance to mobile)
  • Demand, usage, fulfillment and monetisation scenarios
  • Key issues around privacy, security, and health & safety
  • Opportunities with business models, Cloud and next generation mobile capabilities
  • An overview of 5 key stakeholders, business model innovation and our approach to innovation

The one message to take away from this, in my opinion, is the clear need and responsibility of any digital / mobile enabled enterprise to engage in constant innovation and adaptation of its business model, process and customer engagement approach. The current business environment has become far too dynamic and fluid for any rigid or hierarchical approach to remain unchallenged for any length of time.

Other events and similar discussions:

Interestingly, some of the above points were either echoed, or expanded on, by speakers at other relevant events I attended this month, notably:

  1. Google Apps Seminar – This event, hosted at Google’s office near Buckingham Palace, addressed four key trends (i.e. innovation, collaboration, social and mobility) and provided insight into what it takes to migrate from hosted services to Cloud based enterprise applications services, including real life examples from companies such as Jaguar Landrover and Ladbrokes.
  1. Mobile Privacy – Another excellent Mashup Event which dealt with various privacy issues thrown up by mobile services, as well as the implication of ‘giving a user control over their data’. This session boasted a good cross section of industry players, in addition to a pretty knowledgeable panel, which made for some intelligent exchange of views on such things as the meaning (or meaninglessness) of Privacy in a mobile and global context.
  1. CW5000 Club – This was a networking event for CIO and IT leaders to discuss the Web’s Next Generation, and featured speakers from Betfair, BBC Worldwide, Net-A-Porter and Interactive Media in Retail Group. Key high-light for me was that discussions consistently returned to the theme of customer centricity. Progress, IMHO!

It’s all IP in the Cloud

March 31, 2011 Leave a comment

All the hype surrounding Cloud computing, coupled with the mandatory cautionary tales around security and control, or the lack thereof, makes it is easy to overlook a small but significant component of the cloud proposition i.e.: Who owns what Intellectual Property in the Cloud?

If we take as an example, a simple cloud-based application or service, (i.e. one that is developed, hosted and operated in the Cloud), which enable users to create mash-ups of information and content derived from other cloud services and web applications, and which may be physically located in various other parts of the world (remember this is Cloud we’re talking about), who should be held responsible for any infringement of confidentiality or Intellectual Property such as: copyright, trade secrets, designs or patents, in such an environment?

The elephant-in-the-room answer to that question is how to go about establishing the correct chain or web of responsibility – Ergo:

  • Is it the cloud service provider, (with their hermetically sealed and caveated contracts)?
  • Is it the cloud-based service operator (again with their watertight EULAs)?
  • is it, as often tends to be the case in these things, the hapless end-user / consumer who in effect has directly infringed someone’s IP by using that service in the first place (i.e. assuming they did not intend to infringe anything at all)?
  • Or is it all of the above?

The above scenario clearly speaks to the heart of the matter with IP in the Cloud; i.e. there is an alarming lack of transparency with respect to data, information, content and their different usage and ownership models in the Cloud context. Furthermore, when one adds in other constraints (e.g. annoyingly out-of-step, geo-political territorial restrictions on mobility) to such innovative Cloud based services as Amazon’s Cloud Drive , one could easily end up with a truly formidable challenge that defies any simple or simplistic resolution scenarios.

An army of lawyers, (even ones improbably well versed in computer technology and programming), could not hope to decipher such puzzles in a month of Sundays. So where does that leave us? Luckily nowhere too nasty yet, as sparse incidents of cloud related IP infringement cases can attest. Fortunately, the seeds of potential solutions may be found in the foresight of initiatives like Free and Open Source Software, with their liberal licenses, or the Creative Commons which provide appropriate interfaces for human, machine and the legal systems to use and re-use digital content legally (See my separate blog article for more information about the Creative Commons).

In conclusion, at this point in time a lot of attention is being paid to such cloudy issues as: Cloud security, data access and controls, as well as service assurance and business continuity; but once these are resolved and have become Business-as-Usual, the lack of clarity around IP in the Cloud may surface to negative effect. The time is right for all stakeholders (i.e.:  Cloud service providers and operators; business and consumer end-users; Policy makers) and their trusted advisers to start thinking about addressing and influencing the potential outcome of a major IP meltdown in the Cloud.

There’ll yet be music in the skies!

December 23, 2010 2 comments

It’s been a long time coming, and probably still a long way to go, but the vision of a celestial jukebox for music “anywhere, anytime and on any device”, is creeping ever closer to becoming reality. A couple of interesting, if unrelated, developments provide support for my optimism.

Ok, first of all, the means to access music, anywhere, anytime and on any device is already available (and it’s called the Internet). Thanks to file-sharing, P2P, Torrent and streaming technologies, anyone with a decent connection can do just that. However, it is not always legal, nor in the best interests of creative industries and their artistes. Therefore, the solution must be to find a legal way to harness that capability, right? The answer is yes, but the challenges are enormous for any one entity to bear alone. Imagine a target scenario whereby anyone can identify, acquire and play any song wherever, whenever and on whatever device they chose. For example, won’t it be great, if/when you hear a new song you like on the radio, TV, or anywhere else, you could seamlessly add it to your collection, or playlist, for immediate listening or later reference.

Well a colleague suggested that such identify-and-acquire services already exist with the likes of Shazam, but such services don’t deliver a truly seamless experience for many reasons e.g.:

  1. the user has to know to go to Shazam, or some other such service,
  2. she’ll need an account on iTunes or similar in order to purchase that track, and finally,
  3. She must have an appropriate device with which to play it.

Oh, and heaven help her if there are legal restrictions on that purchase, e.g. if she happens to be in a region or territory where that song is not licensed, for whatever reason. See the pattern?

There are simply too many hurdles to jump in order to satisfy an immediate desire or impulse purchase. To my mind, instant gratification is not unreasonable given that the tools with which to make it happen are already available. The following are some key pieces of the jigsaw which might just help address such a challenging picture:

1. Music in the Cloud – There already exist various services / providers like Spotify, Pandora (i.e. streaming); Omnifone, Nokia (i.e. mobile); as well as rumoured propositions from high tech players like Google and Apple. However, it’s always been a challenge to negotiate with music labels, so when a newly launched service claims to allow users to upload their music to the cloud with access any place / time / device, one starts to wonder how long it will take for the law suites to start happening.

2. Global Repertoire Database (GRD) – The GRD is a major initiative to create a single, unified database of musical works that will facilitate music licensing right across the globe. It was launched by an eponymous working group of key industry players including music publishers (i.e. EMI and Universal); collecting societies (i.e. PRS for Music, STIM and SACEM); and major digital / mobile players (i.e. Amazon, iTunes and Nokia). More information on GRD can be found at: http://globalrepertoiredatabase.com/faq.html.  So how does GRD help make the celestial jukebox a reality? Why, by reducing the burden of cross border licensing (i.e. tracking and sharing music royalties and revenue across various territories and regions) which is currently a major headache for the industry.

3. Music Ubiquity – This is the theme for next month’s MidemNet conference, and which hopefully means that we’ll all be singing from the same hymn sheet, at long last, (assuming the twin devils of profit margins and competitive advantage do not get in the way as always). With the appropriate technology available, it has become even more urgent for commercial and legislative stakeholders to deliver the primary desire, of both artistes and consumers, for easier access to music anytime, anywhere and on any device.

Have a wonderful holiday / festive period, and here’s looking forward to an even more productive and progressive 2011!

IT Security is Hot & Cloudy!

September 17, 2010 2 comments

Wednesday’s BCS event on IT security certainly made that point on many different levels. If I was a betting man, I’d wager that the IT security industry is on the brink of a major revolution, on the back of that vague and fluffy thing called the Cloud.

Case in point, my question of how many people in the audience actively use the Cloud saw only a pitiful couple of hands raised. However when put in another way, by one of the presenters, i.e. how many people used Android phones for example; a few other hands went up along with looks of dawning comprehension. The Cloud rightfully exists behind the scenes, powering various services that are often taken for granted by the consumer, and the Android example simply confirms that in spite of all the buzz, your common, garden variety, consumer has little understanding or interest in this techie catnip known as cloud computing. And who can blame her, after all was it not the same geeky fads that brought us other similar buzzwords as: Application Service Provider (or ASP), Grid computing, and heck even Web 2.0?

But I digress, what’s this got to do with IT Security you ask? The answer is very simple, if the Cloud is really a behind-the-scenes enabler, then Cloud security should also be behind the scenes; but I get this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach (no, not from eating too many nibbles after the event), that it won’t be long before someone gets sued over some security breach emanating from the Cloud. How long before we get Cloud Compliance and Cloud Security Risk Assessment models, regulations and perhaps even some exotic insurance policy for Cloud based services? Furthermore, the Internet (and consequently the Cloud) is essentially borderless technology, which means that various national and international data governance regimes may have a thing or two to say about where data is stored – assuming it can be found in one place!

Finally, we also learnt that some clever Silicon Valley types are actively seeking ways to commoditize The Cloud, and Cloud based services, such that it can be traded as a financial instrument. Now where have we seen that one before – does Collateralized Debt Obligation ring a bell? Suffice it to say there’s a lot of food for thought when it comes to Cloud Security, and far better qualified people than I have pondered, spoken and written about it (e.g. see my  review of an excellent book about Cloud Security), so I shall just leave well enough alone.

Aside from the cloudy issue of cloud security (sic), the event provided many opportunities for attendees to hear and debate other key topics of interest in IT Security, and our four speakers did a great job of keeping people engaged throughout. More information, including presentation slides, can be found on the BCS NLB website.

Categories: BCS, Capgemini, Cloud, Security Tags: , ,