I am continuing my series of articles where I share my interpretation of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s special publication 800-145. This week the focus is on the second fundamental characteristic of cloud computing according to the NIST’s definition:
Broad network access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).
This fundamental characteristic is deceptively simple. You might think “As long as my users can access my services via their corporate system on our network I meet this criteria.”
You would be wrong, because cloud knows no “corporate system”. You receptionist better be able to access the phone directory from a Mac or a PC. Your Sales team better be able to get into the CRM system while on the road using the tablet that they just bought from a big box store. Your CEO better be able to review and approve that big deal in a timely and secure manner using a smartphone.
Cloud services go beyond you network, your standard desktop, and your choice of supported browser. Cloud solutions are accessible from any network. Cloud solutions can be used with any desktop, laptop, or computing device. Cloud solutions work on IE, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, and any browser that conforms to HTML standards (or an application provided by the cloud solution to bypass the browser completely). Cloud solutions are designed to be accessed by a new generation of users who may never be provided a company laptop or phone and who were never told which operating system to run.
This is not because company’s should eliminate IT standards, but because technology has evolved beyond the old model of “end-user standardization”. Your users will not tolerate you telling them how to do their jobs. Your end users will ignore your memo saying “iPads only. No Kindle Fire support!” Your users grew up using the Internet on a daily basis and probably have multiple devices that they can perform their jobs with. The luxury of telling the end user how they will do their job is gone forever!
You job as an IT professional no longer includes the dictation of the end user systems. Your job as an IT professional is to build solutions that can survive anything that the end users will throw at you. You are going to have to virtualize your applications, know how to verify anyone’s identity, and secure any network transaction. Cloud computing models do this, and they do it by not defining what is the “official network”. Cloud computing models instead provide broad network access to the right users at the right time every time. Is your corporate network capable of doing that? If not, you have some work to do.
That is all for this week, but my interpretation of the NIST’s definition of cloud computing continues with next week’s article! Be sure to return then to learn about another of the fundamental characteristics of cloud computing!