Redress your apps for Cloud

This week, Alex Stamos of iSEC Partners visited and gave a great talk titled “Securely Moving Your Business into the Cloud”.  Much of that material is publicly available here. Alex is a straight shooter and a straight talker.  By the second slide, he’s already warmed up and delivers quite a punch line:  You cannot securely move into the cloud without re-writing your software.

I subscribe to that line. And there’s more to it than security. Earlier on, I’ve reached the same conclusion when thinking about availability and all the *-abilities that an enterprise needs for its business-critical operations.

Every so often, the IT industry falls for the holy grail of horizontally scaling applications, blindly and effortlessly, without touching a line of code. It happened with Grid Computing before Clouds. The early wins in their respective stomping grounds (HPC for Grids, entrepreneurs for Cloud) don’t necessarily scale to become F500 wins. Rather, reality sinks in, that one needs to rework the application stack and, worse yet, needs to recruit several PhD types to do that. We cannot defy gravity nor the laws of distributed systems.

In learning this all over again, there’s some forward progress. Those who venture into retooling their stack will most likely achieve superior security and *-abilities in general. In their dollar and sense considerations, they will have to contrast Cloud savings with the budget and timeline to implement and operationalize the new stack. Some others will justifiably punt and wait for a Hail Mary pass* by whatever will come next after Grid and Cloud.

*Not quite Dave Patterson’s Hail Mary pass, even though there’s a striking similarity with what’s happening with multi-core at micron scale and the annex arguments pro/con application re-write.

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