IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

CompTIA Supports Cloud Education Event

With SaaS and cloud computing capturing the attention of the IT industry and the community at large, significant issues are moving to the forefront. Security, downtime, connection speeds, and legal compliance concerns all need to be addressed while adoption continues to climb. In order for the IT channel to provide quality service and support of cloud computing, education and related resources must be developed, and a dialogue among industry constituents is a great place to start.

CompTIA and its members already started that discussion earlier this year, with the formation of its Cloud/SaaS Community. That group is hard at work developing best practices, education programs, industry standards, and member driven initiatives for these Web-based technologies. But last week, the association took it to the next level with its first ever two-day Cloud Computing Workshop at the Cloud World Forum in London.

Microsoft kicked-off the workshop with an overview of the computer evolution, a presentation on where we have been and where we are heading with the web-enabled computing. Establishing this base line, the software pioneer highlighted how it intends to lead the way in cloud computing. But what exactly is the cloud computing? Microsoft claims it’s time provisioning & scaling of resources on shared hardware, ten times more efficient than the traditional hardware model and 1/10th the cost to operate.

One of the largest challenges cloud computing faces is vulnerability – is the cloud secure? There are other issues as well, such as using a public or private cloud (or both), managing compliance, and addressing other customer concerns. But the industry is not being complacent; lobbying for enhancements to data protection regulations to ease some of the apprehension about security. In addition, third party audits are enabling providers to address compliance issues and SLAs help alleviate control concerns for end users.

Another way to help speed the adoption and quality of cloud computing is through an industry-recognized accrediation process. EuroCloud, a network of cloud computing businesses from 22 countries, is currently developing an affordable program for SaaS providers, including an audit by independent auditors. There are many questions surrounding Web-application delivery, which is why the industry needs to collaborate on universal terminology and standards.

A lively panel discussion around security concerns was lead by representatives from Microsoft, McAfee and the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA). There was agreement on several cloud computing issues, including a need to address security concerns and develop consistent regulations. One point was emphasized by the panel; data is typically more secure offsite (in the cloud) than at smaller companies’ locations. Transparency is the key, as information on location of the data and jurisdiction needs to be clearly communicated to customers. The audience was also interested in contracts between cloud providers and customers, which need to be adaptable to various international laws. Interoperability–the ability to move smoothly from one cloud provider to another—is another area to be investigated and addressed before consumer angst can be alleviated.

The cloud computing model achieves its economy of scale by using a shared platform, leveraging the Web to access applications. This allows organizations to shift capital expenditure to operating expenditure and, on average, creates applications that are five time faster and 50% less expensive than traditional software. SalesForce.com demonstrated five hybrid models of cloud computing, varying from the use of applications straight off the Web to a government agency building out custom applications using the online delivery method.  

Todd Thibodeaux, the president and CEO of CompTIA, highlighted what the association is doing in the cloud space during the workshop. In addition to discussing the Cloud/SaaS Community developments in the US, he identified initiatives they are driving, including: defining common nomenclature for cloud computing, mapping the cloud ecosystem and developing certification credentials. Members in Europe interested in providing their feedback are welcome to join the group. For more information, please contact me at [email protected].

The two-day workshop concluded with Salesforce.com, Servoy, EuroCloud and CompTIA executives leading one final panel discussion centered on the people side of the cloud. Are new skills required for this technology delivery system? The cloud model requires knowledgeable and trustworthy employees who can predict security breaches and provide measures before incidents occur.

Younger customers, social networking generation, are usually more conscious of and confident with cloud-based solutions. It’s also helpful if SaaS providers show reliable statistics and related information to prospective clients, such as disaster recovery details. One thing attendees learned at CompTIA’s first Cloud Computing Workshop; providers that successfully address the customer concerns around this technology will be way ahead of the pack.

About the Author

With more than 2,000 members, 3,000 academic and training partners and tens of thousands of registered users spanning the entire information communications and technology (ICT) industry, CompTIA has become a leading voice for the technology ecosystem.

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