If you haven’t seen it yet, Vint Cerf published a thoughtful piece on Cloud Computing and the Internet on the Google Research blog. In the post, Cerf compares the current stage of cloud computing "Each cloud is a system unto itself” to the state of networking in the 1960’s that led to his and Robert Kahn’s work to interconnect proprietary networks and form the internet.
While the entire post is excellent, and well worth the read, I wanted to call out the questions Cerf raises in respect to connecting the clouds, or as some refer to it, the inter-cloud. Because as every architect knows, the right answers only arise from asking the right questions.
First, the problem as Cerf describes it:
“Cloud computing is at the same stage. Each cloud is a system unto itself. There is no way to express the idea of exchanging information between distinct computing clouds because there is no way to express the idea of “another cloud.” Nor is there any way to describe the information that is to be exchanged. Moreover, if the information contained in one computing cloud is protected from access by any but authorized users, there is no way to express how that protection is provided and how information about it should be propagated to another cloud when the data is transferred.”
Now, Cerf’s questions:
“There are many unanswered questions that can be posed about this new problem. How should one reference another cloud system? What functions can one ask another cloud system to perform? How can one move data from one cloud to another? Can one request that two or more cloud systems carry out a series of transactions? If a laptop is interacting with multiple clouds, does the laptop become a sort of “cloudlet”? Could the laptop become an unintended channel of information exchange between two clouds? If we implement an inter-cloud system of computing, what abuses may arise? How will information be protected within a cloud and when transferred between clouds. How will we refer to the identity of authorized users of cloud systems? What strong authentication methods will be adequate to implement data access controls?”
Instead of answers, Cerf closes by encouraging exploration and creation:
“Because the Internet is primarily a software artifact, there seems to be no end to its possibilities. It is an endless frontier, open to exploration by virtually anyone. I cannot guess what will be discovered in these explorations but I am sure that we will continue to be surprised by the richness of the Internet’s undiscovered territory in the decades ahead.”
Check out his full post.