Calling for a common cloud architecture

By Kathy L. Grise

The overarching theme around cloud computing is truly ubiquitous and reaches across not just the computing industry and professionals, but really touches across academia, government, and industry, plus the average, general consumer.   

A successful cloud implementation happens when it all functions effectively and is transparent to the user. The user should not have to worry about the where, how, or what behind the cloud. Issues like privacy, security, reliability, and accessibility should be transparent. Naturally, the success is based upon a sound architecture(s) behind cloud computing.

There are numerous pieces and parts that host, drive, and support cloud computing, ranging from its SaaS, PaaS, etc. to the basic and fundamental physical components.

To use the "drive" analogy, let's think about what drives an automobile. For the purpose of this analogy, if you are a collector of cars for display only stop reading, but if it’s important that your car runs then read on. A functional automobile implies it has to be usable, e.g. drivable, and normally requires an engine. Typically, an engine needs six cylinders and pistons. Also needed are a crankshaft and connecting rods. In terms of driving the cloud, the cloud engine needs software, services, networking, storage, and platform(s) to operate seamlessly.

The cloud provider should ensure that all these pieces and parts fit nicely together, and that all issues are covered. Additionally, it is not necessarily a requirement that a single cloud provider carries the full burden of providing and servicing all the pieces and parts, but does have to ensure that each piece or part can communicate and function together. This drives demand for a common platform that can be interchangeable, interoperable, and interconnected.

It is critical to have common architectures that are interchangeable, interoperable, and interconnected for successful cloud services and applications

For example, a cloud provider could develop and offer a competitive solution on cloud security that differentiates itself among its competitors. As part of that solution, the provider would pull together an overall package from other specialised providers.  As a result of a shared burden, the provider can minimize their overall costs and advance in their field of security. 

This common platform has enabled the rapid startup of literally hundreds of new companies advancing cloud security for a multi-billion dollar industry, resulting in the creation of new jobs, opportunities, and advancements in technology.

The IEEE has a global initiative to develop interoperability between cloud to cloud, and its federation. Its P2302 draft standard defines topology, functions, and governance for cloud to cloud interoperability and federation. Topological elements include clouds, roots, exchanges (which mediate governance between clouds), and gateways (which mediate data exchange between clouds). Functional elements include name spaces, presence, messaging, resource ontologies (including standardized units of measurement), and trust infrastructure. Governance elements include registration, geo-independence, trust anchor, and potentially compliance and audit. IEEE’s Intercloud Testbed provides for a practical application and verification of P2302.

Overall, it is critical to have common architectures that are interchangeable, interoperable, and interconnected for successful cloud services and applications. Common architecture translates into real business, real jobs, real dollars, real advancements in technology, and ultimately benefits the end consumer. So let us all move towards a more interchangeable, interoperable, and interconnected environment for cloud computing.

About the author

Kathy Grise, IEEE Future Directions Program Director, works directly with IEEE volunteers, IEEE staff, and consultants in support of new initiatives, and is the IEEE staff program director for the IEEE Cloud Computing Initiative, Big Data Initiative, Green ICT Initiative, and the IEEE Technology Navigator. Prior to joining the IEEE staff, Ms. Grise held numerous positions at IBM, and most recently was a Senior Engineering Manager for Process Design Kit Enablement in the IBM Semiconductor Research and Development Center.

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