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A Swiss Army Knife for the Cloud

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By Alessandro Sorniotti, cloud security scientist, IBM Research – Zurich

In the late 1990s, few people quite recognised the enormous potential of the Web or how it would transform the way we live and work. Cloud computing is similarly at an early inflection point today, and we are staring up at a “hockey stick” shaped growth curve. In fact, according to Gartner Research, more than 60 percent of all enterprises have adopted some form of cloud computing this year.

But even with the growth, cloud’s potential as a business innovation tool still remains virtually untapped since most organizations see cloud as an IT tool. But the reality is different. The idea of tapping into pools of computing resources has firmly caught hold and is becoming more and more part of the overall vernacular of the c-suite including CIOs and Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) who need to drive new revenue opportunities using technology that can be activated at a moment’s notice. As a side note it’s estimated that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs.

IBM has invested more than $6 billion in more than a dozen acquisitions since 2007 to accelerate cloud and to provide higher value offerings that give these line of business leaders the expertise rich solutions they need. And today we are adding a new technology from IBM Research into this portfolio called Intercloud Storage or “cloud of clouds toolkit”.

Cloud of Clouds

Some of the biggest hurdles to cloud adoption are reliability, security and vendor lock-in. If a cloud is hacked, goes out of business or a power failure occurs it could be devastating for a business. On the flip side, if the vendor decides to increase its rates or fails to meet certain obligations the client may want to switch to another vendor.

The main idea behind the intercloud is that its security and reliability exceeds that of the single clouds that make it.
An approach to remedy this situation is based on what we call an intercloud or “cloud of clouds”. The main idea behind the intercloud is that its security and reliability exceeds that of the single clouds that make it.

Let’s take security as an example. The platform of a cloud provider is usually treated as a single security domain, typically built using homogeneous components with little internal diversification. The intercloud provides heterogeneity by leveraging multiple administrative and security domains, which is important for building intrusion-tolerant systems.

The intercloud concept is implemented on top of multiple, separate cloud providers, for example using Softlayer, an IBM company; Amazon, or Microsoft. The idea being that if one fails for whatever reason the other takes over, transparently to the user.

Developed at IBM’s lab in Zurich, the “cloud of clouds toolkit” is basically the “Swiss army knife” for cloud and intercloud storage, providing data replication and dispersal, encryption, integrity protection and compression for more than 20 supported cloud storage backends.

Through the “cloud of clouds toolkit”, we have opened the gates to the intercloud for a number of IBM storage systems; in our prototypes, single files, whole filesystems or snapshots of volumes can be migrated, backed up or shared on the cloud(s) — independent of the vendor. InterCloud Storage explicitly addresses space efficiency, data synchronization, and metadata coordination when storing data redundantly on object storage. Once a cloud fails, the back-up cloud immediately responds and ensures data availability — transparently to the user. No synchronization or communication among cloud clients is needed due to the innovative approach that adds redundancy and tolerates failures.

Lastly, InterCloud Storage features a modular, layered, and highly configurable design. Layers are switchable, and can be adopted to a variety of different configurations (single-, multi-cloud, etc.). The implementation and use of layers in InterCloud Storage is transparent to the client.

More details on the patent-pending algorithms in the cloud of clouds toolkit read this published paper titled “Robust data sharing with key-value stores”.

InterCloud Storage will begin pilot testing in early 2014.

Excerpt: Alessandro Sorniotti of IBM unveils the InterCloud Storage – cloud of clouds toolkit promising seamless migration and backup across clouds.. In the late 1990s, few people quite recognized the enormous potential of the Web or how it would transform the way we live and work. Cloud computing is similarly at an early inflection point today, and we are staring up at a “hockey stick” shaped growth curve.