|By Mala Ramakrishnan, Sriram Chakravarthy, Srini Vinnakota, Chris Nguyen||
|July 21, 2009 08:15 AM EDT||
Cloud computing is slowly gaining credibility and traction in the enterprise world. As giants such as Google and Amazon productize their massive cloud infrastructures, moving enterprise applications to the public cloud seems a more realistic possibility. The advantages of an enterprise application leveraging the public cloud sound like utopia - lowered total cost of ownership and overhead costs, ease of maintenance, inherent high availability and scalability that is built into the infrastructure. Yet when the theory of moving to the cloud is put into practice, the biggest hurdle that stalls the success of the transition is governance. This article analyzes its importance and the various aspects of governance in the realm of cloud computing.
Governance in the Cloud
Many organizations are reluctant to move forward with a cloud computing strategy because of justified concerns related to security, compliance and control. Without a doubt, information is the biggest strategic asset for any organization. The fear of compromise can throttle the transition of enterprise applications to the cloud. In the cloud, governance must be treated as a first-class citizen. The threats are greater and the stakes are higher when information is not in direct corporate oversight. Commitment to the rigors of governance will bring freedom in leveraging the advantages of the cloud paradigm.
Here are some of the key aspects to consider around governance in the cloud.
Answering the 4 Ws: Enterprises need to have fine-grained control to answer the 4 Ws:
- WHO can access the application, data and resources
- WHAT permissions a specific user has
- WHERE is the application and the data
- WHEN was the application accessed
To exercise this level of application control, it is mandatory to have a well-defined mechanism to define these security, auditing, and compliance policies. In addition, defining and managing policies should be decoupled from the development of the service and the underlying distributed cloud infrastructure so they can change independently of each other. For example, a new regulatory requirement may need to be enforced through a policy on an application. However, changes in the policy should not require rewriting the application. Also decoupling a policy allows it to be applied to multiple applications or services. While design and development of the policy should be decoupled from the application, the actual enforcement should be part and parcel of the actual application so there is a reduced chance of breach of contract. These seemingly contradictory requirements need to be met for successful governance of the enterprise application in the cloud.
- Managing Service Level Agreements (SLAs): It is one thing to have raw computing power at your call and another to leverage it to meet service level agreements through peak application performance. This is an aspect of governance that is intensified with the transition to the cloud. Users move enterprise applications to the cloud with the hope of leveraging the infinite computing power of the distributed world. However, visibility into how the cloud is being leveraged to meet SLAs, whether they are indeed being met, and how easily the cloud can be set up to deliver on this are all requirements to consider as part of the governance of SLAs on the cloud. In addition to the infrastructure-level SLAs (CPU usage, memory utilization, etc.), business-level SLAs also need to be defined. For instance, your business SLA could define a response time for an order processing application. The order processing application can in turn be comprised of various intertwined distributed service interactions. It is critical to be able to manage the performance of the entire application and be application aware to dynamically deploy additional instances of services to meet these business SLAs.
- Application Lifecycle Management: Lifecycle governance focuses on the entire lifecycle of an application or service, from design to development, to test to deployment and maintenance. It also involves assessing and managing change impact on operations and services. When you factor in the cloud, this involves end-to-end lifecycle management across distributed computing boundaries. This implies the need for very selective transparency of the underlying infrastructure for management of the enterprise application. Where exactly the application resides should not be visible while considering the processes around design and development of services. On the other hand, during phases in the lifecycle such as deployment and management, it should be possible to seamlessly leverage the power of the cloud without needing to figure which exact node or machine in the cloud the application needs to be deployed to or what the underlying software is at the node of execution.
- Governance Body: In addition to ensuring you have the right tools in place to effectively deliver a secure, governed application in the cloud, it is important for the organization to establish a regulatory body. This is imperative in any organization that wants success with their SOA, even without the cloud paradigm. Factoring in the cloud makes the need for a regulatory body that much more important, as the parameters that affect the success of SOA become more complex. The regulatory body should be responsible for the success of governance; establishing guidelines, principles and processes; and foreseeing the overall enforcement of governance.
Governance is the key for enterprises to successfully deliver applications in the cloud. All aspects of lifecycle and operational governance assume a level of complexity when considered for the cloud. As the industry recognizes the need for governance as an enabler to successful adoption of the cloud, and the unique set of challenges associated with the cloud deployments, we see new offerings emerge across the spectrum. Considering the nascency of the market, most offerings address only a few of the aspects discussed in the previous section. It is imperative to consider a holistic approach to governance that addresses all aspects of it rather than just one or two criteria. To get an enterprise application up and running on the cloud, there is a need for opaqueness on the underlying infrastructure so that the users can focus on the business use that the enterprise application is meant to address.
Cloud platforms have emerged as the solution to this problem where the personnel associated with the application such as developers, business, operational and administrative users can focus on their specific use while the cloud platform leverages the power of the underlying distributed system. A cloud platform that provides comprehensive coverage of lifecycle and operational governance and addresses all the obstacles discussed in the earlier part of this article can be a powerful ally in making enterprise applications successful in leveraging the infinite computing power of the cloud.
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