Dispersed Clouds and Loss of Control

Chuck has written a quite thought provoking article on his blog about the emergence of dispersed clouds and the need for a new computing model to build and manage them.

The Terminator.

The Terminator. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My first thought on reading this was of battling Arnie in a post-apocalyptic future where the machines had taken over. A future in which consulting would probably not be the most sought after profession.

Instead of giving it all up, growing a (bigger!) beard and building Dubai’s first underground bunker, I’ve had a think about why the topic of decentralised control is often an emotional one, especially in the Middle East. Many IT organisations over here are very tightly controlled with a central command structure. This has been greatly beneficial in developing standardised and integrated technology solutions within these IT organisations, however the phenomenal growth of the number of services and the amount of users that a typical IT department has to cater for is pushing the hierarchical service management model to it’s breaking point.

Chuck wrote that a “cohort” model would be used to allow cooperation between nodes in a dispersed clouds, with a global policy used to keep their actions within acceptable boundaries. This global policy is something that really got me thinking. To use my “Rise of the Machines” Analogy, the global policy would be akin to Asimov’s three laws of robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law

With the three laws as a global policy, the robots would be free to act and cooperate independent of a central command structure without doing something that would end humanity.
Great! That should keep the metal thugs in check.

Taking it back to dispersed clouds, what is needed to get everyone more comfortable with the perceived loss of control is a common language or framework for defining these global policies and I’m afraid it will probably be a bit more complex than Asimov’s three laws.
In order to define a global policy for a cloud the following would need to be taken into account:

  • Localisation – Where processing or action would be allowed to take place
  • Trust within the cloud – Services with which interaction or integration would be allowed
  • Trust outside the cloud – Other clouds that would be allowed to integrate
  • Scale of action – Metrics defining how much action a service can take in carrying out its tasks
  • Task blacklist – What tasks a service should never carry out

Structuring a conversation around a framework like this will help me to have a much more fruitful discussion with clients and I will try to play down the post-apocalyptic connotations.

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