May 23, 2011, 1:44 AM — Network World has conducted multiple tests of cloud-based services over the past year, and our overarching conclusion is that shifting compute processes to the cloud can help companies save money and become more flexible.
What's even more potentially game-changing is the attitude of cloud proponents, who view compute power as just another disposable commodity. In other words, hardware, and to an extent, software and applications, are just a means to an end, rather than hallowed and holy platforms to be venerated through long and arduous life cycles.
The interesting question going forward will be what effect this transformation in how companies acquire and consumer compute resources will have on longstanding relationships between traditional IT vendors and their customers.
Our overall conclusion, after conducting a variety of tests, is that the cloud services providers currently do a good job of delivering on their promises. One area they could improve on is security.
What our testing revealed
In our initial tests of private external clouds, we reviewed these secure connections to privately hosted external resources. The prices were high, we felt, compared with simply buying supplemental hardware. Yet expanding needs and crimped budgets can also make the convenience of expanding internal resources externally, attractive.
We wondered as we reviewed products in this grouping, about security within the privately connected expansion 'cloud.' We negotiated a VPN connection with each of the vendors in the review, as a VPN offers an encrypted communications path link between an organization and its external cloud resources.
Each of the vendors was able to help us connect to our admittedly non-Cisco-like virtual appliance router, from Vyatta. That covered the data link, and ostensibly, data flowing across a cloud hosting facility's network backbone.
Another type of data, however, flows across cloud instance storage resources. If the instance boots on a SAN, there aren't easy ways to ensure that iSCSI, Fibre Channel, or other externally connected storage resources are encrypted and secured.