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Cloud Concepts and the Impact on Business Analysts

By Steven Woodward, CEO and Founder Cloud Perspectives, Contributor to the NIST Cloud Computing Reference Architecture Working Group and international cloud standards leader.
 
Cloud Computing is generating significant interest and momentum. The cloud eco-system requires new considerations for the business analysis community to fully take advantage of cloud computing opportunities.  

This article provides links to key NIST Reference Architectures to provide a stable cloud foundation, identifying just some of the key considerations for business analysts in a “cloudy world”.
 
Cloud Basics
 
Almost all cloud computing approaches use the National Institute of Standards for Technology (NIST), an agency under the U.S. Department of Commerce, as a core foundation from which solutions are defined. 
 
The NIST SP 500-292 contains the key concepts and definitions that align with this paper. I encourage using the available NIST documents to help consistently communicate and use key cloud computing concepts.
 
The accepted NIST definition for cloud computing is: 
 
“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.” 
 
Figure 1.0 represents a simplified model, containing the characteristics, service models, deployment models and very important hosting options that also need careful consideration for business analysts.
figure 1
 
Figure 1.0 NIST Cloud Basic Core Terminology
 
Hosting considerations are separate from the deployment models. For example, you can have a Private Deployment that is hosted internally, within your organization OR hosted externally by a third party. This is a critical consideration when the organization may desire a private cloud, but does not want the physical infrastructure within their facility.
 
The NIST Cloud Computing Reference Architecture is a “role-based” perspective. There are five basic roles: cloud consumer, cloud provider, cloud auditor, cloud broker and cloud carrier.
 
Business analysts can provide valuable insights to clarify opportunities and identify associated risks that require consideration to optimize the solution.
 
Most frequently, the business analysts will clarify the business requirements for the cloud consumer and help identify the “best fit” cloud provider. The business analysts may perform “functional fit” analysis to determine the configuration, customization and acceptance testing efforts for the selected solution. Business analysts may also participate in value, pricing and costing analysis.
 
That brings us to a common concern that impacts cloud adoption: “security and privacy”.
 
Security and Privacy are of Everyone’s Concern
 
In 2013 the updated NIST Reference Architecture evolved to clarify that security and privacy are not just of concern to the cloud provider, but to all the roles in the cloud ecosystem. 
Therefore, figure 2.0 represents a draft model, better communicating that privacy and security are “cross cutting” considerations.
 
fig 2
 
Figure 2.0 Draft Updated NIST Cloud Computing Reference Architecture for 2013
 
NIST is also generating a Cloud Computing Security Reference Architecture that is due for release April 2014.
 
Other NIST Cloud Computing publications available or being worked on include: Cloud Roadmaps, Security & Privacy, Service Level Agreements, Cloud Carrier, Metrics and Standards. Many documents are available and free for download from www.nist.gov.
 
Pricing and Costing
 
Cloud computing solutions can result in tremendous cost savings when planned and implemented properly. When poorly planned and/or pricing is blurred (obscured due to clouds), then cloud computing benefits may be realized, or it may result in higher costs than traditional solutions.
 
Pricing and costing of cloud computing solutions is often complex with various pricing options, service levels and terms and conditions that directly impact core decisions moving forward.   
 
Business analysis can help provide core context and considerations that help estimate the Total Cost of Ownership, which is a core measure to help focus value and cost discussions.  
Of course, many other benefits exist from cloud, but price is often at the forefront.

Summary
 
Value-focused business analysis will remain a core and necessary activity to balance business needs and the technical solutions. However, the role will evolve to analyze cloud computing solutions in conjunction with business objectives, opportunities and risks.  
 
A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) already contains the basics for cloud computing analysis. Some extensions and clarification will be developed as the cloud eco-system becomes more accepted and common place. Many organizations such as NIST are clarifying the cloud models, opportunities, risks and plans.  
 
I have written and contributed to documents hosted by: NIST, Cloud Standards Customer Council, IEEE, TM Forum, ITU-T, and the Canadian Cloud Council. The key is using documents and approaches that fit your specific situation, and of course, good research and analysis is required.
 
The cloud computing market share will continue to increase, therefore business analysts will need to be comfortable with the cloud eco-system, recognizing specific opportunities and challenges in the cloud.
 
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