Cloud Computing Interoperability Presents Greater Challenge to Adoption Than Security: Report

By Nathan Eddy  |  Print this article Print

The IEEE said cloud providers could reassure customers by improving the tools they offer enterprise customers.

The greatest challenge facing longer-term adoption of cloud computing services is not security, but rather cloud interoperability and data portability, say cloud computing experts from IEEE, a technical professional association. At the same time, IEEE's experts say cloud providers could reassure customers by improving the tools they offer enterprise customers to give them more control over their own data and applications while offering a security guarantee.

Today, many public cloud networks are configured as closed systems and are not designed to interact with each other. The lack of integration between these networks makes it difficult for organizations to consolidate their IT systems in the cloud and realize productivity gains and cost savings. To overcome this challenge, industry standards must be developed to help cloud service providers design interoperable platforms and enable data portability, the organization said.

"Security is certainly a very important consideration, but it's not what will inhibit further adoption," said Dr. Alexander Pasik, CIO at IEEE and an early advocate of cloud computing as an analyst at Gartner in the 1990s. "To achieve the economies of scale that will make cloud computing successful, common platforms are needed to ensure users can easily navigate between services and applications regardless of where they're coming from, and enable organizations to more cost-effectively transition their IT systems to a services-oriented model."

According to industry research firm IDC, revenue from public cloud computing services is expected to reach $55.5 billion by 2014, up from $16 billion in 2009. Cloud computing plays an important role in people's professional and personal lives by supporting a variety of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications used to store healthcare records, critical business documents, music and e-book purchases, social media content, and more.

However, the IEEE said lack of interoperability still presents challenges for organizations interested in consolidating a host of enterprise IT systems on the cloud. According to IEEE Fellow Elisa Bertino, professor of Computer Science at Purdue University and research director at the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance, the interoperability issue is more pressing than perceived data security concerns.

"Security in the cloud is no different than security issues that impact on-premises networks. Organizations are not exposing themselves to greater security risks by moving data to the cloud. In fact, an organization's data is likely to be more secure in the cloud because the vendor is a technology specialist whose business model is built on data protection." 

However, Steve O'Donnell, an IEEE member and former global head of Data Centres at BT in the United Kingdom, suggested much of the concern is about control for IT managers. "There's a lack of enterprise tools that enable management of security and availability in the cloud in the same way as in a data center," he said. "Enterprises believe their own data centers are secure and available, and want to own the management of cloud security and availability rather than outsourcing it to a third party."