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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Sanjay Mirchandani, CIO of EMC (Part 4)

Posted on Monday, Nov 29th 2010

By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini

Sramana: The next topic that I would like to bring up in this discussion is security. What is your perspective about security in the cloud?

Sanjay: Security has always been on the top of CIOs’ minds. It will continue to be the top priority and needs to be on the top. In terms of security in the cloud, I think there is a fundamental shift in the way we approach security. Historically, we have bolted on security into our canvas, into the landscape. Every time there is a vector exposed, we have bolt on some level of security with it, and that is how the industry has evolved. With the cloud, I think we have a chance to build security into the cloud infrastructure as opposed on bolted-on security. So, fundamentally, I think the way technology is evolving in clouds, security has been plugged through right at ground zero so to speak and built in as opposed to being bolted on. People say security is also different in the cloud. Well, the approach may be a little different but the fundamentals don’t change much. I think you don’t lose your habits going from a physical world to the virtual world or into the cloud world when it comes to security hygiene. As a cloud adopter, you going to keep doing the smart things and the right things that you did for security. It is just that the technology and the process is more built-in. In the cloud paradigm, it has the potential of getting built in from the ground up.

Sramana: When you talk about built-in security in the cloud, is this something coming from vendors, or is it something that you see as a blue-sky opportunity?

Sanjay: No, I think we are seeing it happen. At EMC, we have RSA as our security division, and the line I have just shared with you about building in versus bolted-on security is the fundamental premise of how RSA is thinking about the cloud and about security in the cloud. It has to be integrated tightly into the virtual environment. It has to be managed in a certain manner; it has to be completely integrated into its landscape. We are doing it, and I’m assuming others are doing it, too.

Sramana:How much of your infrastructure are you using in a fluid mode? Are you using any Amazon AWS or another infrastructure service in a fluid provisioning mode?

Sanjay: I am focused on building a private cloud infrastructure model. At this point we are trying to get, as I said earlier, as much as we can in a private cloud. I’m providing infrastructure and platforms on different levels within the enterprise through a cloud-like infrastructure, so I’m focused on the private cloud.

Sramana: I see, so you are not using any public cloud infrastructure at all. Where do you see blue-sky opportunities for entrepreneurs to focus on what is happening in cloud computing?

Sanjay: That is a tough one. I think it is a nice emerging space, it is a space where a lot that is changing. I would say there are charge back and show back features that are opportunities or gaps to fill in. Also, there are areas in management. The area I am personally very excited about, although I don’t know if it is an entrepreneurial opportunity or more of cloud leadership opportunity, is how the coud affects IT professionals. I am interested in exploring what opportunities the cloud provides for IT professionals. This is because we have a challenge in IT in terms of the cloud. We are in throes of it ourselves in terms of changing the dialogue between the business and IT and within IT. Let me share both perspectives. How do business and IT domains interface when you move to, say, catalogues of infrastructure or platforms and applications? The way in which you engage between businesses, the way that you charge for business, the way that you build these applications, the cloud changes these conversations that you have within the IT and also with the business. The conversations are very different with the cloud in the picture. So, the methodology, the approaches, the process, the tools that may support that conversation, I think are incredible opportunities for folks who want to take that on and really make that space evolve.

Sramana: It is interesting to note this change. Earlier, in another interview that is part of the Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing series, I was talking to Rick Telford of IBM. He brought this up as well, that there is a gap in being able to do charge back in a private cloud environment or even just internally, that no one has a solution to address, both in case of charge back or show back.

Sanjay: There is an opportunity to really do it well. I think that is just one element of it. I think that the tools and the conversation and methodologies that are in IT and the business today to get the job done in a cloud-like infrastructure and environment will change because of elasticity requirements, analytics, and even requirement gathering, and so on. It needs to be more interactive and smarter. Also, it requires a lot more accountability. So the tools and approaches will change. I am a big believer in that. I also think the conversations within IT will change. We have experts in storage, experts in network, experts in security, systems, databases, and so on. Things will evolve from having only those who have traditionally been deep experts in their spaces to multi-domain know-how. In addition, you will have processes and methodology and hand-offs between the tools that allows us to get the job done.

In the cloud, especially when you bring in public-private hybrid clouds, pick your poison. As you get into the cloud and you get a converged infrastructure, these rules blur, so there is an opportunity for folks to go across to different domains. But there is also opportunity for technical teams to go deeper because you are no longer provisioning for one application stack or two application stacks or, say, for 100 terabytes. You are now provisioning for the enterprise. So the way in which you think, the approach you use and the scale of addressing these things across the enterprise dramatically change. Here is an opportunity for those who are looking out for blue skies. The third piece is where you manage the enterprise’s IT assets. How do you treat those problems; how do you get to the root cause of the problem of cloud-based enterprise systems? There are emerging skills that we need to grow into and help our people with. I see it as an incredible opportunity for IT professionals, even in the entrepreneurial white space and blue skies. I think people can pick up lots of niches and areas that are not filled in completely and do well in these spaces.

Sramana: Have entrepreneurs approached you to have these conversations, to figure out what the real opportunities in cloud are?

Sanjay:As long as they don’t ask me if I know the answers, then yes! [Laughs.]

Sramana:I won’t ask the specifics.

Sanjay: Well, the answer is yes!

This segment is part 4 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Sanjay Mirchandani, CIO of EMC
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