FAQ Check – Cloud Computing & SWID Tags

Cumulonimbus-tavFor most people familiar with the Internet, the term FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Questions. Often these questions are fairly simple and easy to respond to (i.e. what’s the phone number, how do I sign up to be a member, how much does membership cost, etc.). These FAQ Check articles will respond to more complex questions that require more detail than a typical FAQ response requires.

Question: TagVault.org representatives are often asked – why do we need Software Identification Tags when all IT operations are going to be moving to the cloud?

There are three answers to this question – each one focusing on a different segment of the software ecosystem.

The Software/Services Buyer

Yes, there is a lot of discussion about cloud based services in the press lately and yes, there will be more information about these services in the future. Why is that – these services are brand new and present a new revenue stream to software and service providers. We’ve seen this cycle many times before

  • Mini’s are going to replace Mainframes
  • PC’s are going to replace Mini’s and Mainframes
  • Java is going to replace all other programming languages
  • Smart phones will make PC’s obsolete
  • The tablet will make PC’s obsolete
  • The Cloud will replace all Mainframes, Minis and every traditional application known to IT

The reality is that the Cloud environment is going to excel at delivering a set of business benefits faster, easier and cheaper than other solutions. However, we’ll still have the complexity of the Mainframes, Minis, PC’s, Smartphones and Tablets to deal with and guess what – all of those devices will need to work with cloud based tools and services! The cloud simply adds more diversity to an already diverse range of IT services that are continuing to stretch limited IT resources.

Since cloud based services vary in what they deliver, tags are still very much required. All cloud service users should:

  • be able to identify the exact version of the services running on the remote system
  • must have IT resources that can ID if there is an incompatibility between a cloud service and devices in the IT infrastructure
  • If running in-house developed services on a cloud based environment, you must know the various underlying infrastructure products installed on the service
  • must be able to reconcile that the services you order match the services you’ve purchased

Basically, software and services still need to be identified – the cloud only makes it worse since there may not be any way to inventory the system… SWID Tags fix these issues.

The Publisher/Provider

Software Publishers would love to have a single cloud environment they can setup and continue to upgrade, manage and operate without any need to support installed software titles installed on customer systems. If all publishers move 100% to the cloud, they will become service providers instead of software manufactures. Although some companies will make the transition to being a 100% service provider, most won’t. Regardless, there will still be issues to resolve either way, including:

  • Customers will still want to have some titles that are installed on local devices for any number of reasons – these installations need to be tracked.
  • Customers will want their own internal version of the cloud based service. This internal service will need to be installed, managed and upgraded. Identification of these details will still be important.
  • Publishers/Service providers will need to upgrade and manage their servers – to do this effectively the provider needs to know what is currently installed in an efficient and authoritative manner.
  • Transitioning customers from one version of a service to another requires parallel execution paths, tracking when an upgrade has been completed properly, and being able to provide identification information to the customer.

Tags help with all of these issues. These systems still need to be managed, they will also have their own compliance issues as 3rd party software is installed and updated on the servers. The burden in this management situation has simply shifted from the customer to the provider.

The Practitioner

The practitioner is an IT resource that may be focused in one of many different IT process areas. As more and more devices are added to the business, it’s likely that additional IT issues will arise while budget and/or resources may not be increased to cover the new responsibilities. The practitioner will have to manage all existing systems, new devices with different OS’s that are being brought into the company and may very well have to field calls or deal with issues when a cloud based service stops working. This is impractical if the IT resource needs to use multiple different sources of information for all the different devices and services.

The practitioner needs one single source of truth for what’s installed where (including on cloud based systems). These IT resources require a CMDB that has authoritative information they can use to cross reference between systems and processes. The software identification data needs to be consistently structured, normalized, and must be able to be validated. In short, the data going into the CMDB for their use should be based on certified tags.

Summary

Cloud computing will change the landscape of the IT environment as we know it today – we’re already seeing that happen. However, IT operations are not going to throw out all existing infrastructure and process capabilities they have today – instead, they will augment those to support the new capabilities cloud computing brings to the table while continuing to support the environment that exists today.

Cloud computing will make some aspects of IT easier (supporting remote and roaming users, enabling a scalable solution to a business need, off-loading some IT operations to other organizations). However, it will bring with it complexities as well. Many of these complexities will be made easier to identify and avoid if the data an IT organization receives for an application installed on an iPhone is the same structure and uses the same normalized terms as software on a PC, Mini, Mainframe or cloud based system.

By looking to the past we can see that the only constant we can rely on is change. With change IT organizations will see many challenges. Having SWID tags in place on all the various devices in use within the organization (even if those devices happen to be based somewhere across the Internet) will only make supporting these changing environments easier.

So the real answer to, “why do we need tags if all IT operations are moving to the cloud” is that organizations will want to validate that they are getting the services they pay for, management of the cloud based systems is still required (and needs to be reported to the customer) and management of existing systems is still required. SWID tags help with all these various aspects and implementing SWID tags now in a cloud or even virtual environment will ease the burden of management in the near future.

Make sure that when your organization purchases software or signs up for a cloud based service that you require certified SWID tags that allow your IT operations to authoritatively identify exactly what software is installed from the publisher and/or what software is running on the cloud based service. This way, your IT operational efforts can be managed in a much more streamlined fashion, potentially with fewer resources.