By Stuart Boardman, Getronics
Today was a dream day for cloud spotters. In the course of a 90-minute drive I could have ticked off at least 10 of the distinct cloud types documented in my “Cloud Collector’s Handbook” (No, I’m not a cloud nerd – it was given to me as a joke). It doesn’t do to stretch a metaphor too far but it’s quite interesting how what I saw could reflect the variety of situations with which a consumer (or even provider) of Cloud services might be confronted: well-defined shapes with a clearly substantial content; fine-grained but still well-defined little packages; vast, vague shapes that require great expertise to understand what they promise; thin, wispy layers linking other things together; but also every type mixed through and layered on each other. At the end I experienced (thanks to an immense downpour) what it’s like to be right inside a cloud – you can’t see a damn thing – including the other folks you’re sharing the service with – but they’re there and one way or another they might have an effect on you.
What I really want to talk about is The Open Group’s new book, Cloud Computing For Business, which you can download from The Open Group online bookstore or buy in hardback from van Haren Publishing. There’s no shortage of books about Cloud, so you might reasonably ask what could make this one so interesting. Well, that’s partly down to what it is and partly to what it isn’t. The title ought to give a clue. It’s not a Cloud collector’s handbook. It’s not interested in tying down the fine-grained differences between different types of Cloud service. It’s not concerned with marginal decisions about exactly what is and is not a Cloud service.
It IS concerned with helping you understand what you might be able to get out of a Cloud service, and how to ensure that it really delivers what you expect.
This book is concerned with value, as you might expect from a book with the word “Business” in the title. The sub-title is “The Open Group Guide”. That word Guide is also important. The book’s goal is to be a guide that will help you make your own decisions. It doesn’t offer potted solutions. It looks at the different kinds of value you could obtain from the Cloud and how to develop a strategy for Cloud that is correct for your own organization’s specific situation and goals. The main sections are about understanding what your organization might gain from using Cloud services (and why), how to select the right service (and provider), how to identify and manage risk and how to go about setting, measuring and assuring ROI expectations. There is, of course, an introduction explaining the key features of Cloud. The basis for this is the NIST definition. The Open Group promotes standards, so it’s natural that it makes the maximum use of standards developed elsewhere. In this case that’s the NIST definition – the models and characteristics. What the book adds to this is an exploration of what the different elements of the definition actually mean to Cloud users – why you should care, and also where you should not care.
What makes this book special, though, is the fact that it pulls together the knowledge and experience of a broad group of people from provider and consumer organizations, from business, government and education and from multiple geographies. It’s a product of The Open Group Cloud Computing Work Group and has therefore been the subject of discussion, review and improvement even before it appeared in the book. The Work Group is a focus for exchange of experiences and insights, for collaborative development of practical material and a forum for good, honest debate in a non-partisan environment. Its various projects have produced a series of white papers and reference documents, which in turn have contributed to the development of the book.
The book itself was actively reviewed by an even broader group. So what you get is something that reflects the experiences and opinions of a considerable number of people, who have nothing to gain from these activities apart from what they learn from each other in the process. There aren’t many books of which that can be said and certainly not your typical technical book.
And what I also admire is the refreshing lack of fluff. So many technical books seem to suffer from a need to be priced by weight. The result is that you might as well start reading at page 100, because you won’t have missed anything. This book get straight down to business.
If you’ll bear with me stretching my metaphor a bit further, in the end there is perhaps a similarity to the Cloud Collector’s Handbook (really a rather admirable and amusing little book, by the way) because both will help you to read the Cloud landscape and know what to expect – and that’s what really matters, isn’t it?
Stuart Boardman is a Senior Business Consultant with Getronics Consulting where he co-leads the Enterprise Architecture practice as well as the Cloud Computing solutions group. He is co-lead of The Open Group Cloud Computing Work Group’s Security for the Cloud and SOA project and a founding member of both The Open Group Cloud Computing Work Group and The Open Group SOA Work Group. Stuart is the author of publications by the Information Security Platform (PvIB) in The Netherlands and of his previous employer, CGI. He is a frequent speaker at conferences on the topics of Cloud, SOA, and Identity.