Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What do you see when you gaze into the clouds?

When I was young, I would gaze up into the clouds and see white fluffy shapes against brilliant blue sky, floating gently across my sky. When I read and hear the 'cloud' ads these days, they seem to paint this same image in my mind-- just put your stuff in our cloud, and you never have to worry again.

Which is why I like this painting that hangs in my study by Howard Finster, "...a backwoods Baptist preacher inspired by the Gospel, visitations from the dead, and visions of extraterrestrial life."[1] Finster had a different way of looking at everyday things, and often provides more truth than a first glance reveals. While Finster painted this well before internet marketing types renamed their data centers as 'clouds', his view of the same clouds I looked at in the sky bears quite the similarity to what I see when I look at the current state of cloud computing.

While I love the fluffy whites and brilliant blues of today's cloud marketing hype, which include cost savings, elastic capacity, mobile leverage, and customer self-service, I see the technological equivalent of his angels and demons floating around happy and sad clouds, as well as hosts of other risks in and around that are all too real.

I love the benefits the cloud offers us all, and want to ensure we look clearly at what it takes to move our business or personal data into it, so those risks can be addressed and the benefits securely gained. Most board directors I talk with first see the fluffy side, and can't wait to gain all those advantages. Sometimes it's difficult to explain why they should integrate a cloud security plan into their transition, which lowers their costs and risks, when they don't hear or see about these risks in the airport posters. It turns out there are great new products available that can be used to establish manageable risk in the cloud, but it must be architected and planned before you throw everything up there. Advances in encryption and key management, audit-ability, constant vigilance, advanced threat detection, and more are all tools that can be brought to bear in the cloud now.

It's possible, but not automatic, to work more safely in the cloud that in your old data center!

Maybe if we all share the wisdom of Howard Finster that he saw and painted all those years ago, people will think about the true picture of the clouds today, and then take the available steps to paint their own picture.

[1] Howard Finster, Stranger from Another World: Man of Visions Now on This Earth by Howard Finster, Roger Manley (Photographer), Victor Faccinto (Photographer), Tom Patterson {no relation]