Cloud computing provides the capability to use computing and storage resources on a metered basis and reduce the investments in an organization’s computing infrastructure. The spawning and deletion of virtual machines running on physical hardware and being controlled by hypervisors is a cost-efficient and flexible computing paradigm.
In addition, the integration and widespread availability of large amounts of “sanitized” information such as health care records can be of tremendous benefit to researchers and practitioners.
However, as with any technology, the full potential of the cloud cannot be achieved without understanding its capabilities, vulnerabilities, advantages, and trade-offs.
With all its benefits, cloud computing also brings with it concerns about the security and privacy of information extant on the cloud as a result of its size, structure, and geographical dispersion. Such concerns involve the following issues:
1. Leakage and unauthorized access of data among virtual machines running on the same server
2. Failure of a cloud provider to properly handle and protect sensitive information
3. Release of critical and sensitive data to law enforcement or government agencies without the approval and/or knowledge of the client
4. Ability to meet compliance and regulatory requirements
5. System crashes and failures that make the cloud service unavailable for extended periods of time
6. Hackers breaking into client applications hosted on the cloud and acquiring and distributing sensitive information
7. The robustness of the security protections instituted by the cloud provider
8. The degree of interoperability available so that a client can easily move applications among different cloud providers and avoid “lock-in”
Cloud users should also be concerned about the continued availability of their data over long periods of time and whether or not a cloud provider might surreptitiously exploit sensitive data for its own gain. One mitigation method that can be used to protect cloud data is encryption. Encrypting data can protect it from disclosure by the cloud provider or from hackers, but it makes it difficult to search or perform calculations on that data.
Cloud computing evokes different perceptions in different people. To some, it refers to accessing software and storing data in the “cloud” representation of the Internet or a network and using associated services. To others, it is seen as nothing new, but just a modernization of the time-sharing model that was widely employed in the 1960s before the advent of relatively lower-cost computing platforms. These developments eventually evolved to the client/server model and to the personal computer, which placed large amounts of computing power at people’s desktops and spelled the demise of time-sharing systems.
The realization of cloud computing was affected by a number of architectural developments over the past decades. These influences range from advances in high-performance computing to scaling and parallelism advances.