Ian Osborne is the director of Intellect’s digital systems knowledge transfer network, in which capacity he has had some involvement in the government’s as yet putative project to build a shared computing cloud for the UK public sector, the so-called G Cloud. As such, his assessment of the benefits and pitfalls of cloud computing carries more water than many.
Some benefits, such as elastic scalability and ‘all-you-can-eat’ pricing, are well understood. “The big [cloud providers] have incredibly efficient infrastructure that’s hard to ignore if you’re a financial controller,” he said.
Another advantage is ‘cloud bursting’, Osborne observed, whereby businesses are “using public clouds for peaks in demand”. He cited the example of fast food retailer Pizza Hut, which deployed additional capacity during the US Super Bowl sporting event.
But Osborne also raised some concerns. Cloud is being “sold to the business rather than IT”, he claimed, and it allows non-IT employees to purchase infrastructure on company credit cards without the knowledge of the IT department. “If you’re IT, you’ll get the legacy problem of this later,” he warned.
And he added a new wrinkle to the familiar cloud security fears, introducing the concept of a “Trojan cloud provider” – a data centre operator that obstensibly offers computing services but instead steals corporate data and hijacks infrastructure.
However, he also indicated that the security fears around cloud computing have been exaggerated. “Just because it’s outside the firewall, doesn’t make it inherently more dangerous,” Osborne noted.