19 July 2012

Dark Clouds and Hostage Data

Senior IT execs in the travel industry are starting to see dark clouds gather over  the always-on world of cloud computing, mobile apps and big data. Like Cereberus the three headed monster who guards the underworld there are three major threats that are beginning to rear their ugly heads to guard the gates to hell (or is it nirvana?):

·       Shifty Cloud Store Providers
·       Greedy Telcos
·       Data Hoarders

These threats need to be considered when moving travel technology infrastructure away from traditional service capabilities. So lets look at the situation piece by piece, assess the threats and then make smart decisions.

These Clouds don’t have Silver Linings

Part of the problem with cloud stores, which are still relatively new, are bad contracting, poor SLAs and vendors who have not done a good enough job on creating backup paths for the data and apps stored within the vendor’s cloud environment. Further, early cloud vendors have obviously been reading the GDS playbook and created contracts that make exit  or migration to another vendor very tough.

Are you hostage to your cloud computing vendor? The Washington Post's CIO Yuvinder (Yuvi) Kochar thinks you well could be and he is on a mission to get that changed. Three years ago, he spoke  with tech media site CIO Insight about the need for coherent price and license schemes for cloud services  http://www.cioinsight.com/c/a/Expert-Voices/Washington-Post-CTO-Yuvi-Kochar-Wants-Cloud-Vendors-to-Give-Him-an-Exit-Strategy-624540/?kc=CIOMINEPNL07112012  Now as the first few multi-year licenses have come up for renewal, Kochar raises concerns about ensuring open contract provisions are in place, which would help ease a migration from your current vendor to other vendors who may have new and innovative service provisions. We know that these provisions are a sore point for many a GDS user who has tried to ease the currently difficult migration from one vendor to another.

But that is not all, as many cloud users found to their dismay on the night of June 29th 2012, when a violent storm on the US east coast knocked out several large cloud providers. The cloud infrastructure, like any other hosted facility, can and will go down. But wasn't cloud computing supposed to be the end of all that risk, the panacea for users who were sick and tired of the vagaries of computing infrastructure?  So much for non-single point of failure.  http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-57464342-71/modern-life-halted-as-netflix-pinterest-instagram-go-down/?utm_source=Room+77+Newsletter&utm_campaign=db60e7f0ba-Room_77_Outage_Update_6_30_20126_30_2012&utm_medium=email
Hotel newbie Room77 was one of the first to let their customers know about the problem. But this was a wake up call for all concerned that has sent users scrambling to look a their contracts and SLAs, because these contract and service provisions matter much more in a cloud environment.

Telecommunications Vendors as Robber Barons

Mobile users and BYOD (bring your own device) has generated a big swing to mobile (and by that I mean non fixed location) services. Just as everyone gets behind this – the users, the equipment manufacturers and the applications are all taking advantage of an unlimited wireless world. BUT there is that small matter of mobile data plans.

Consumers and business users alike are being besieged by greedy telcos who are  charging exorbitant rates for data roaming plans.  (Albeit this is subtle as most users have not seen the changes occur. The mobile providers change their contracts with such frequency that the users are truly confused and in the end most of them have not cared). This is caused by the twin problems of poor understanding by the user of their data plan pricing and very high levels of expectation set by – yes you guessed it – mobile telecommunications vendors. No TV commercial these days worth its salt will exclude the promise of steaming video to your mobile! How many of you have been stung by the problems of:
·       Slow mobile speeds
·       Blank data spots
·       High data plans costs
·       Usurious rates for international roaming
My point is clear – these are the real world and the promise from the mobile operators is far from realistic and of it can get course VERY expensive.

It's Mine (Data) and You Can't Have It!

The value of mining big data is seeing everyone  who is a data processor (and his mother) trying to get protective about the large volumes of data that passes through their infrastructure. In turn these data processors now think of their custodial duty no longer as just a cost but also as a money spinner for them

Data was once considered to be so difficult to mine that holders of data didn't mind sharing. Now that there are affordable and effective tools for manipulating big data, all of a sudden those controllers of data (note not the owners) are being really protective about access to  this data. They are hiding behind "privacy" and "security" concerns when what they really mean is that they want to get the commercial value from the data, and not give it to the ones who are smart enough to think of ways of using it. I don't want to belittle the issue of privacy and security concerns for personal data but there are very easy ways of managing those concerns.

As an example look at large scale data processors today who make considerable sums from the data they are processing. Imagine the chagrin of the GDS vendors who are about to see their current cash cows of MIDT contracts (the sale of travel agency behavior data back to the airlines) go out the window to newer smaller companies now able for far less cost can both capture and create useful information from this raw data.

So be warned out there. It looks like there is a new set of guardians on duty as a Gatekeeper. And we had all better take care. Be prepared to make the journey through the underworld to the blissful state of contentedness that the promises of Big Data and Cloud Computing should be taking us to. And that nasty looking puppy just might prevent you from getting there.


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