Archive for June, 2008

Taming the Dragon

June 9, 2008

Nicholas Carr writes of the dangers of Cloud Computing. ‘Beyond Here There Be Dragons’ he warns, pointing at the empty space on the map marked THE cloud. And he’s right. Bill Thompson notes that ‘in the real world national borders, commercial rivalries and political imperatives all come into play’. Who is going to send their applications, and more importantly their data, into this uncharted territory?


The answer of course is that no-one will. People won’t commit to THE cloud – but they would commit to A cloud. They’d commit to a cloud that they could trust, and in the absence of implicit trust, to one they could hold accountable. They would, for example, let their applications execute in their own department’s cloud – one that managed the departmental resources and provided its users with services and supported their service requirements, without the users needing to concern themselves with the IT mechanics involved. They’d do so if they could have clearly defined Service Agreements with that local cloud and insight into the Policy operated by that cloud.


At some point the local cloud might be connected to another department’s cloud within the same enterprise (so that resources can be shared) and this would require the creation of Service Agreements between those departments. If this happened the users wouldn’t care – or rather they wouldn’t care so long as their Service Agreements and the local Policy (the embodiment of the things they DO care about) were maintained. And when the enterprise connected to other enterprises or to some external cloud they still wouldn’t care. If concerns were present, or if new concerns arose, then the cloud user would need to:

  • be sure that their Service Agreement (or the Policies enforced by their department, enterprise or government) clearly specified what was, and what was not, acceptable and
  • place sufficient trust in their local cloud provider – sufficient that is to believe they could sue, fire or imprison the provider for breach of contract.

Does such a Cloud exist? A Cloud that respects Service Agreements and policy? A Cloud that can be formed from internal resources? One that can be federated with Clouds in other parts of the enterprise, or even with an external Cloud such as Amazon? I’d not found one, and so we at Arjuna have designed and built one – Arjuna Agility.


So, returning to Carr’s metaphor, if you want to use the cloud then you’ll need to tame the dragons. How do you tame a dragon? My advice is to start with a small one and right from the get go, make it clear who’s the boss! Impose a set of rules regarding its general behaviour (Policy) and give it clear instructions (Service Agreements). The dragons may be stirring but if you’ve got one on your side there’s no stopping you.