Serious business generates serious data. Everyone knows this, which makes how to manage and keep that data secure one of the burning questions for me and other CEOs everywhere.
As enterprises of all sizes wake up to the obvious benefits of the cloud-based model for enterprise application delivery — which includes Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS) — the need to retain tight control over large amounts of data has sparked an interest in private, cloud-hosted solutions and new technologies to make them work.
That interest has taken on a sense of urgency in recent months with changes in privacy regulations, including the European Court of Justice’s ruling from October 2015 which annulled the US/EU data-transfer agreement commonly known as Safe Harbor. This means more restrictions and the possibility of fines for those who aren’t careful.
Now, striking a balance between efficiency and security is more important than ever.
Benefits of Cloud Computing for Enterprises
Even in the face of security issues, enterprises are understandably reluctant to turn away from the “as-a-service” model, and for obvious reasons:
1. Reduced costs: The lack of maintenance required for SaaS apps frees companies from the overhead costs of keeping a full-time IT department. Up-front investment for new software is reduced drastically, and paying a regular subscription fee allows firms to budget better and track ROI more easily.
2. Scalability: Growth and expansion are not a problem with SaaS applications. Adding users, storage, and speed are all possible with minimal effort. The predictive nature of the costs involved with cloud computing make it easier to plan for growth and change.
3. Increased time to benefit: Because there is much less setup and configuration and little, if any, installation on individual workstations, users can get started right away, allowing enterprises to implement new solutions quickly.
Development of new features and updates can take place in response to emerging needs, which leads to greater business agility as resources and data can be shifted smoothly to concentrate on specific goals.
These upsides are increasingly colliding with worries about data security, especially when it comes to data being shared with third parties across international borders. This was the problem highlighted in the Safe Harbor ruling.
Industries dealing with sensitive data, such as healthcare and finance, are bothered by some nagging questions:
- How can a company keep track of any and all copies of its data stored in the cloud, especially when they want to delete something?
- What happens when an enterprise wants to change vendors? How will data stored and used in the cloud be transferred? Is there a possibility of blackmail?
- Can data become mingled, lost, or otherwise compromised if it is stored with a vendor’s other clients using the same applications in the cloud?
The answer to some, if not all, of these concerns would seem to be a move to an “on-premises” cloud system, one that offers the best of both worlds — control and efficiency.
Private Cloud with New Technologies
The idea of using a private cloud to keep sensitive data in-house isn’t entirely new.
Already, cloud-software giant VMWare has put out pre-packaged offerings including appliances and storage on demand, and open-source provider OpenStack has become popular as well.
Combining the benefits of cloud-based applications with full data control isn’t easy, however. Companies don’t have the time or capabilities to develop software for a private cloud on their own. Pouring resources into in-house development can be a major distraction from their core business.
Many enterprises also want and need more than the “out-of-the-box” solutions large vendors can provide. Using virtual appliances (from vendors like VMWare) gets cumbersome when it comes to updates, as components can’t be upgraded individually without upgrading the entire virtual machine (VM).
Turning to an outside vendor to build a custom solution is one answer, but without remote access to the system, rolling out updates and providing maintenance becomes a headache, and this offsets the advantages of using the cloud in the first place.
This brings us to container technology and, in particular, Docker for enterprises.
Moving past the benefits of virtualization, in which server and server-side software configuration are no longer important, container technology packages single or multiple apps with binaries and libraries inside a lightweight container that doesn’t require a VM for each application. Multiple containers are powered by a single operating system. This allows for an efficient, multi-tenant environment with multiple apps running at the same time.
The implications for private cloud development are clear.
Vendors can package and deliver applications using containers from Docker, which not only makes them portable across different platforms and easily scalable, but also upgradable. While enterprises may still need a small in-house IT staff for maintenance, the resources necessary are minimal.
Already, many well-known companies have gotten on the Docker bandwagon, including Yelp and Goldman Sachs. Now with the introduction of standardized containers, it will be even easier to develop applications for a whole variety of cloud environments, providing companies with even more options.
All this bodes well for those looking to achieve greater control over their data without sacrificing the agility and scalability of the cloud.