Some interesting ambient cloud news came out on January 1. Internet Explorer is continuing its decline and Google Chrome is benefiting. (And my old, formerly trusted Firefox is declining too – maybe I’ll switch back if they ever fix that memory fragmentation problem…)
At 1st blush, it’s hard to see how this has much to do with cloud computing except for the fact that browsers are used to access SaaS applications. But when you look at it from the perspective of the ambient cloud, browsers are themselves a cloud.
Think about it: what if you had an application running on tens of millions of processors with terabits of available bandwidth that you could update at will in order to do whatever you wanted. There are only a few cases like this. The 1st one is a botnet or collection of computers that have been compromised by a cyber criminal. The 2nd one is a collection of computers running an operating system that is continuously updated or remotely managed by an OS vendor or any centralized management system. The 3rd example is a collection of operating systems running applications that are continuously updated or remotely managed by an application vendor or a centralized management system. You know, like browsers.
I’ve made the case that this is the only possible future for cloud computing over the long haul because we simply don’t have enough power, bandwidth, or data center space to provide Internet access to everyone on the planet using centralized cloud computing.
The browser wars are particularly important to ambient cloud, and I think Google and Microsoft really understand how strategic it is. Google has a strong centralized cloud that runs search and apps and mail and whatnot, but they recognize Microsoft’s strength in distributed clouds, namely Microsoft OS, apps, and browser. It’s that dynamic that drove Google to release Chrome and Android – it’s their way of establishing ambient cloud power. It’s also why Microsoft is pushing hard on the virtualization and Azure fronts; they realize they need more centralized cloud footprint to compete with Google.
The browser wars are just one battle in a much larger fight as giant tech vendors struggle to adjust their company strategies to account for both centralized and decentralized cloud power. The more Microsoft fumbles on IE, the more Google gains – not just in cloud computing, but across the entire strategic landscape.
We have yet to address the security implications of ambient cloud. When your PC or tablet or even phone is simultaneously a member of many different ambient clouds run by a combination of software companies and service providers, what are the implications for your data security? Are you liable for something your machine does on behalf of another entity that has an ambient cloud footprint on your machine?
Here’s a real world example. Look at Plura Processing which is developing the world’s largest distributed computing network. Instead of establishing a footprint in the operating system using an application (like we do with Trend Micro’s Smart Protection Network, an ambient cloud with 100 million nodes that is itself a core part of IaaS security in the form of Deep Security, our virtual server protection suite), Plura Processing establishes their footprint on Web servers. Each time you visit a Plura-enabled site, your browser downloads a bit of code and crunches that code as you look at the page. The results of your crunching are returned to Plura, which then assembles your results with millions of others to solve complex computing problems.
This is awesome – they are using what is essentially wasted electricity powering your PC to solve problems that would have sucked a lot more centralized power in a data center. It’s good for the environment and simply more efficient. But what if your machine was crunching a protein folding sequence designed to sterilize seeds for Monsanto? Maybe that’s not a big deal for you, but then again it may conflict with your goals if you do your best to eat an organic diet. Would you even know that was happening? Would you care? What if it was porn?
I’m not picking on Plura Processing at all, and as far as I know they have supported very noble and noteworthy projects and support nonprofits. Nonetheless, the security and privacy questions around ambient cloud have not been even considered in most ambient cloud architectures.
If you have thoughts or ideas about what to do with ambient cloud and security, I’d love to hear them.