Horror from Beyond the Cloud (with caffeine)

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Let me tell you what the work of a reclusive horror writer and a morning cup of coffee can teach us about attitudes toward cloud computing.

The horror writer is Howard Phillips Lovecraft (known by his initials “H.P.”). In his short, but prolific career at the turn of the 20th century he introduced the world to such horrors as The Call of Cthulhu and The Shadow out of Time. And while his stories were filled with such oddities as fish-men and time-travelling hounds, they often returned to the theme of dark horrors lurking beyond the knowledge of mortal man, somewhere “out there.”

Yes, I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.

Coffee?  While a morning cup of Joe doesn’t usually stir feelings of unease, it’s probably because we’ve had plenty of time to get used to it. Not so our ancestors. In fact, when coffee was first introduced to Western Europe, back in the 16th Century, people weren’t entirely sure what to make of it. No lesser light than Sir Francis Bacon, founder of the modern scientific method, examined the mysterious drink in the hope that it might cure any number of ills, referring to it as “The drink that comforteth the brain and heart and helpeth digestion.”

While hopes that coffee might cure gout and smallpox were found to be, sadly, rather optimistic, it’s fair to say that the world would be a very different (and somewhat slower paced) place without it.

What does this have to do with cloud computing? It’s safe to say we’re getting close to the point where cloud computing is moving from the realm of the “unknowable horror” to a perception that, while not entirely the every-day cog in the engine of western civilization (a place firmly occupied by coffee), it is at least something that may be safely harnessed for the greater good.

It’s been a difficult journey so far. Not without reason; cloud is a concept likely to evoke fear in many. We’ve moved quickly from initial euphoria to profound concern, and we’re still trying to decide what, how and when to safely use cloud for business. I think there are huge opportunities; in fact we’ve just begun to scratch the surface of the opportunities that cloud presents. Thankfully, the work of organizations such as the Cloud Security Alliance continues to illuminate and extend the bounds of best practices. As a member, I’m closely involved with the work of helping define the ways that cloud can be used, not just safely and securely, but to actually deliver security services.  It’s a tantalizing prospect; one that is already seeing some initial promise.

Cloud may not be the cure all, but I don’t doubt for a moment that a day without cloud will soon be as unthinkable as a morning without coffee.  (I’ve tried – the results weren’t pretty.)

In the face of the explosion of consumer cloud services infiltrating the enterprise, often without adequate oversight or controls we need to remain cautious and vigilant. Yet the promise of cloud is so exciting, I have no doubt we should expect this year to be equal parts evolution and revolution.  
I’ll be at RSA in San Francisco looking for signs of both, with coffee in hand of course.

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