Tag Archives: service delivery

The Cloud is Dead! Long Live the Cloud!

The last few months have presented several large “black eyes” for cloud computing. In March, access to Google Apps (including Gmail) was interrupted for over 136,000 users. Last month, 13% of Amazon EC2 and RDS customers in the US Eastern Region had a complete service outage, affecting a range of well-known companies.

As a result, the cloud computing pundits have brought out the knives, attracting a lot of questions regarding the readiness of enterprise cloud computing. The gist of all of these arguments is that cloud computing is not something for mission-critical enterprise applications.

Many cloud computing advocates have countered these attacks by citing reliability statistics. For example, Google’s outage affected 0.02% of users for five days. This equates to 99.9997% up-time on an annualized basis—a statistic far better than that achieved by nearly all enterprises.

The Cloud: Dead or Alive?

Sunrise or sunset?
Sunrise or sunset?

So who is right? Is cloud computing “dead” for important use? Or is cloud computing better than anything enterprise management teams can provide?

They are both right… and both wrong.

How can this be true? A simple reason: enterprise (or business) computing is not simply provision of processing cycles or storage; it is a provision of a full range of computing services: systems engineering, processing, storage, customer service, technical support, backup and recovery, etc. It not simply a commodity transaction, but instead an ongoing business relationship managed by a human being and bound by service level agreements.

Those that view cloud computing solely as remote provision of computing resources are missing “The Big Picture.” Cloud computing is a service model for delivery of computing infrastructure, platforms and/or software. Those who wish to be successful providers of cloud computing for business need provide everything an internal enterprise computing provider would provide: computing resources and managed computing services—at higher quality and lower price.

The Cloud is Dead

This is why “The Cloud is Dead!” Companies who only provide remote processing cycles and storage are not providing enough for mission critical business use. They are simply providing the asset side of the equation—minus the controls critical for enterprise survival. Many of these providers—especially after the last two months—will soon be “dead” to enterprise buyers.

The Cloud is Alive

However, this is the very reason I say, “Long Live the Cloud!” The recent cloud computing problems highlight the huge market demand to add systems engineering, customer service, technical support, backup, recovery, and other human-oriented services to the cloud. (Imagine the benefits that businesses can gain by being able to “rent” the entire range of services and infrastructure their Internal Computing departments currently provides—but working from a more efficient, higher reliability infrastructure.) Cloud providers who meet the combined demand for lower-cost/higher-reliability computing AND managed services will make cloud computing a reality for big, mainstream enterprises—and do so very successfully.

The New, Complete Cloud

The nice thing—for business enterprises and cloud providers—is that there are so many ways to do this. Cloud computing providers can augment themselves with professional services teams, becoming “all in one” providers. Or they can remain focused on what they do best and partner with IT service providers who already have staff on hand and established procurement relationships with enterprises. Just imagine the ecosystems of cloud provision we will see arise over the next few years, competing with each other to provider better technology and service at a better price.

The Old Cloud is Dead! Long Live the New Cloud!

Skype’s ‘fraud’ problem

Skype is a great technology and compelling product. However Skype has not set up the appropriate protections within their network to make it a safe place to do business (as viewed by multiple major financial institutions). It must address this if it wants to generate a large, recurring revenue stream.

Skype IS a great online conferencing service

200px-Skype_logo2.svg_1Skype is a great online conferencing service. I use it daily to conduct online video conference calls with friends and colleagues all over the world. As long as they have a Skype account and a video camera and Skype software installed, I can see them, speak with them, send them files, and text chat with them—all free of charge. It is far easier to use than services other online teleconferencing services.

Skype COULD BE a great telephone conferencing service as well

Skype provides the ability to do call and conference with telephones as well (landline and mobile). This is where Skype has positioned itself to generate more than simple online advertising revenue. To make a Skype-to-Telephone call, I need to buy and use Skype Credits. Why would I want to do this (instead of using my mobile phone number)? For one major reason: Skype is VoIP-based. As such, I can make international calls much more cost-effectively—and in a more user-friendly fashion—than setting up a separate internationally dialing plan (or separate VoIP account). This prospect becomes even more use friendly as Skype be used from my Smart Phone (as long as I am connected to any Wi-Fi network).

Unfortunately, this theory does not execute well in practice…

It turns out Skype does not have a good reputation with major banks

I travel a lot and have many friends in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. This week, I bought some Skype Credits so I could call them at a low rate and wish them Happy New Year. My plans did not work out well…

nocreditMy first credit card (a major UK-based bank that I use when I travel outside the US) immediately denied the charge. My second credit card (a major US-based bank) also denied the charge. My third credit card (a regional US-based bank) correctly processed the charge and allowed me to purchase the credit. Within minutes, my test call to the France worked (at less than $0.03 per minute). I was a little miffed that it took three card attempts (I pay my credit card bills online monthly in full), but was relatively pleased with the service I purchased. Then I went to the supermarket 2.5 miles from my house…

At the supermarket, all of my cards were turned off due to a Fraud Alert (a rather embarrassing situation). When I called each company, every one said the exact same thing:

“You purchased something on a web site called ‘Skype-dot-com’;
this triggered a fraud alert and caused us to block your account.”

I have been using ecommerce sites since 1997; I have never had this happen with any other web site.

This is a major problem

I immediately turned off auto-replenishment on my Skype account. I cannot risk having them repeatedly shut off my credit card due to a fraud alert. It would take a lot to get me to turn this back on. This is a major problem that limits Skype’s ability to grow recurring revenue.

How Skype can address this

The new owners of Skype should invest in creating a broad human- and technology-based security infrastructure:

1. Enable member policing supported by a Community Action Team

Enable Skype Members to report suspicious or threatening behavior (e.g., all those “Contact List” requests from “SexyBettyXYZ”) to a Community Action Team empowered to review and terminate accounts in response. In addition, Skype should automatically suspend accounts that receive a threshold number of reports within a time window.

2. Create a member security call center

Create a Call Center where Members can call and report problems, ask questions and check to ensure their account is secure. This immediately puts Skype on the level of any other telco. The beautiful thing is that Skype can do this with lower IT costs than any other business.

3. More aggressively monitor and block suspicious IP addresses

Skype probably already has many automated safeguards to protect against password phishing and intrusion detection. It should take this a step further and block suspicious IP addresses from their network. Yes, this is an endless “Chess Game.” However, it will make Skype a less appealing target to many hackers and phishers.

4. Create security threat reporting relationships with “The Authorities”

Create business reporting and forensic information exchange relationships with authorities like the FBI and INTERPOL. Make it easy to escalate suspicious behavior (and electronic evidence) to these authorities to go after hackers, phishers and online-based abusers. This not only makes Skype safer; it also provides Skype access to a broader set of resources to resolve security issues.

5. Create fraud reporting and processing operations in conjunction with financial services institutions

Create business processes, virtual call centers, reporting frameworks, credit and debit processing operations and forensic information exchange frameworks to make it easy for financial services institutions to verify transactions, report fraud and take care of victims of fraud. Without this investment, many people will simply not be able to use Skype for recurring paid transactions.

None of these approaches are new. They were all pioneered in the early days of the Business-to-Consumer Internet where they were critical to establishing safe, online business environments.

Yes, these investments are expensive. However, they will pay off in the long run by enabling direct consumers, small businesses and large enterprises to use Skype as an all-in-one telephone and video conferencing provider.