Cloud computing is driving change in how IT services are delivered. Over the last few years it has been the subject of much debate within both the information systems and business communities. The speed and flexibility of cloud resources can shorten time to deployment in development and production environments. Researchers are increasing their use of cloud-computing resources for computationally intensive research and analysis of large data sets. Faculty, students and staff are embracing easily accessible and low-cost cloud-based services such as file storage and synchronization. SFU needs a strategy to address how it will approach this changing environment.
Essentially, cloud computing is a group of servers running software used by a community of users. While there is nothing special about the technology itself, the physical deployment and ownership of the technology presents a more challenging debate. There are several different ways of deploying cloud computing:
A locally hosted offering where the data and services reside on servers that are located on the physical premises of the client organization. The services and data are accessible by any authenticated user located on the organization’s network or through secure access to the organization’s network. For example, SFU’s private data storage cloud service, SFU Vault, runs on servers that are managed in our IT Services data centres.
An externally hosted offering where the data and services reside on servers that are located outside the physical premises of the organization. These services and data are accessible by users that belong to a specific group of related organizations. The community is a group with shared interests local to a specific area, such as a province, and so would not be constrained by provincial legislation. An example from British Columbia would be the cloud services developed by BCNET. All the services are hosted within the province and are managed by a provincial non-profit organization. A broader geographic example is WestGrid (hosted and supported by SFU), which provides a community cloud service for the western provinces.
A combination of locally-hosted and third-party-hosted cloud services. Typically, data is stored locally and processed somewhere else. An example is what IBM is attempting in Canada to avoid the distribution of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) outside of Canadian boundaries.
Services and data reside on servers located in data centres managed by a third party or publicly owned company. These services and data can reside anywhere in the world. An example is Google’s Gmail service.
Of these four models, the community, hybrid, and public clouds are all explicitly outsourcing strategies. In these models external organizations do work previously performed inside the University on a fee for service basis. We need to be cautious about staffing and union issues when moving work to external organizations.
Each cloud deployment model can provide three different types of services: software, platform, and infrastructure.
Cloud based software services provide software on a subscription model. The service provider owns and hosts the software and provides it to users on a subscription basis. This model is the all-in-one cloud computing service. In this case the outsourcer manages all aspects of the information system; the client does not do software development and does not need a data centre. An example of this model is SFU’s FluidSurveys service.
Cloud based platform services provide computing resources and tools to enable software development. These services include operating systems and hardware. The service provider owns and hosts the equipment and development tools. Clients use these resources to create their own software applications. We do not have an example of this type of system at the University, but Amazon provides this type of service.
Cloud based infrastructure services provide access to data centres with servers, storage, backup, operations staff, and networking technology. The service provider owns and manages the equipment and provides it to users on a subscription basis. In this model the outsourcer manages the basic technology infrastructure and does not manage any application or operating system software. These types of service providers have been available since the 1960s.
Next section: Cloud Computing Risks