Scott Fulton | RSS

Scott M. Fulton, III is publisher and general manager of Ingenus, LLC, an online publishing firm for developers, technology experts, and educational institutions founded in 1994 with his wife, Jennifer. Over a 26-year career, Scott has published 17 books and over 3,500 articles, and edited thousands more. He has been the leader in charge of several of the first, and best, technology news and analysis sources on the Web, most recent among them being the new Net1News.

Jul 30, 2010

For a while, “disruptive” architectures were said to be a good thing. But a clash between the way cloud applications want to work, and the way the Web was designed to work, could create a disruption so massive that you’ll need to rethink the way your enterprise licenses its software.

The most distinct architectural difference between “the cloud” and “the Web,” as we have come to understand them, is this: The cloud is a realm of distributed applications that demand identity. The Web is built atop a transport protocol that thrives on anonymity. This fundamental distinction renders the two constructs as separate as oil from water. READ MORE

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Jul 30, 2010

If federated identity protocols can’t agree upon a uniform token format, or even standardized processes to arrive upon such a format, then perhaps they could agree upon a set of fundamental terms and concepts they all share. This may be the only key to resolving a major roadblock for enterprises.

Of all the problems with making the twenty or more user identity federation protocols in active use today work together, the most prominent is this: The standards upon which all those protocols are based are themselves moving targets. Thus a fixed solution one month may fail to work next month.

“In order for us to build interconnected systems, we need to have some agreement between all of the people who are going to be using this software and the vendors, on what the standards are for interconnecting identities,” said Stuart Kwan, Identity and Access Group Program Manager for Microsoft. “I don’t know if I would characterize it as any one vendor who is leading here. We all have to work together to make things happen, and Microsoft has been involved with a lot of the standards bodies in this area, in OASIS, in the IETF, and increasingly, other places where these standards have been advancing. . . We’ve been making a pretty major investment in engaging in these conversations, both in the industry and in standards bodies, to help move the ball forward with everyone else.” READ MORE

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Jul 29, 2010

With high-level applications taking to the cloud, enterprises face a critical decision. They can invest in a new class of applications that handle corporate users’ identities more securely, or invest in the resources necessary to rewire their existing apps. Either way, the identity problem may be theirs to solve.

Today there are no fewer than twenty separate, if not altogether different, active protocols for secure identity representation over the Internet, according to a recent projection by security firm Ping Identity. The way to make these protocols work together is through identity federation: a protocol of protocols. READ MORE

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Jul 26, 2010

You can provision and deploy entire cloud-based Windows Server images in just minutes with services like Amazon, GoGrid, and BlueLock. That’s nice enough if you need one or two images. But what if you’re a burgeoning data center cluster?

Although it was born of the need to relocate existing resources seamlessly, the category of cloud computing services called Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) manages on its own to change the characteristics and texture of an enterprise network. Businesses now have both the means and the incentive to subdivide their server functionality into discrete roles rather than physical boxes. They can then deploy, using IaaS, roles that can reliably be managed remotely — for instance, the customer-facing Web server and the SharePoint server. That’s a fundamental architectural difference from the days when businesses had 16 or so processors here, and 10 or so there, distributed the functions among them as evenly as possible, and used load balancing techniques to make sure none of the servers were overworked.

As a result, the emerging image of the server image — that virtual, entirely digital, construct that’s the principal agent of cloud-based functionality — looks altogether different from the server that once resided on premises, even after the server started becoming virtualized. Unlike a typical virtual processing cluster in data centers today, an IaaS cluster of server images is apportioned and managed entirely differently, with the objective being to enable the customer to administer the business function assigned to the server image, rather than the server itself. READ MORE

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Jul 26, 2010

If you’re an enterprise considering “Windows Server as a Service” you need to be aware of how IaaS vendors would prefer you to deploy and provision your server images. It’s not just a technical issue; it’s a change in market philosophy. We examine this change from a business perspective, to help you estimate the real costs of cloud deployment. READ MORE

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Jul 26, 2010

Now that more software in the cloud and the enterprise requires interoperability, single sign-on (SSO) is the one way every application can ensure its data is properly authorized. But a proliferation of competing Web services models and security vendors have inadvertently managed to move enterprises away from this goal.

On second thought, perhaps the stateless model for the Web wasn’t such a good idea. Sure, it made serving up hypertext easier. And it enabled the first model for distributed applications on a global scale that actually worked. But it’s left us with a significant problem, one so unique and complex that inevitably, enterprises like yours may need to solve it by making tough choices and rolling their own solutions. READ MORE

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Jul 20, 2010

While small businesses led the charge into the new era of cloud computing, it’s the entry of bigger customers that could redefine the meaning and purpose of the server operating system.

Let’s be certain of our topic first:  When I refer to “cloud computing,” I mean something very specific — in fact, something not even the least bit cloudy.  I’m referring to the ability of a contracted service provider to sell you raw computing power and bandwidth incrementally rather than by consignment.  Instead of purchasing servers or the space in which to run them, you purchase the work they produce.

I point this out in light of an Osterman Research / Proofpoint poll conducted last November, which asked 200 IT professionals their opinions of cloud computing.  Some 40% of them weren’t certain just what the cloud is, and nearly half concluded that, whatever it might portend to be, it’s probably just another excuse for businesses to lay off their IT staff.  Which it may very well be for a few, but the real appeal of cloud architectures for businesses lies in cost control. READ MORE

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Jun 2, 2010

Although some believe Google Apps has just now sounded the battle cry for desktop applications, Microsoft may already have won round one.

Whatever happened to the next wave in enterprise knowledge management, the one that was destined to disrupt old business models and leave behind a new world of collaboration-based tools? It shouldn’t be any surprise that when the tide subsided, Microsoft Office remained standing right where it was.

In the evolution of every class of tool in human history — the washboard, the six-pounder cannon, the oil lamp, the flint knife — there is one common element: It was rendered obsolete by the sudden and welcome appearance of something better, more efficient, more adaptable, more relevant, more practical. Marginal improvements to a tool — anti-lock brakes, Touch-Tone dialing, the “mute” button — typically take longer to phase in. Despite all efforts devoted toward evangelistic offensives, markets have more difficulty embracing something that’s slightly better than something that’s obviously better.

Case in point: Microsoft Word. You may not recall that Word spent the first ten years of its existence languishing behind WordPerfect, whose place in the workforce throughout the 1980s (at least among smaller businesses that had adopted PCs and the first LANs) appeared unshakable. This despite the fact that with Word, you could actually see italic text as italic (albeit with a special switch), and make swift corrections using on-screen menus that guided your keystrokes. Most every businessperson to whom I demonstrated Word versus WordPerfect during the ‘80s declared Word easier to use. READ MORE

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May 11, 2010

Ever thought a product or a platform could “give you scalability?”  Now the availability of cloud computing is compelling IT shops to plan for new architectures.  And suddenly those who thought they had scalability, don’t.

If you believe that a scalable architecture for an information system, by definition, gives you more output in proportion to the resources you throw at it, then you may be thinking a cloud-based deployment could give your existing system “infinite scalability.”  Companies that are trying out that theory for the first time are discovering not just that the theory is flawed, but that their systems are flawed… and now they’re calling out for help.

“Tell you what,” the development tools vendor told me on the day Microsoft officially launched Windows Azure, “This solves the whole scalability problem forever, doesn’t it? Just stick your application in the cloud. Infinite scalability!”

Scalability, we’re told, is the inherent ability of an information system to acquire more resources and continue to perform normally. But before a business invests in any bigger or better resource, such as Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, or Windows Server, it’s sold on the premise that the resource can grow as the business gets bigger. The system will be just as affordable, efficient, and practical in five years’ time as it is today. For years, that premise seemed reasonable enough. READ MORE

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