My Point of View

It was just another Christmas back in 2007. Always viewed as a progressive organization, despite being located in the nether reaches of the North Pole, the board of directors for "The Workshop" proposed an idea that would change modern computing forever. Looking for a solution that would enable them to streamline data processes and costs, increase the leverage of their data across global networks, make the audit process more efficient, and increase their ability to implement increased security for both physical and logical functions - they studied the clouds.

As virtualization becomes more of a mainstream practice, history has been rewritten to credit companies like IBM, Cisco and Microsoft with stimulating the evolution of outsourced computing - that has morphed into one of several Cloud Computing models such as Software as a Service (SaaS).

Truth be told, however, Santa and his nephew Nestor were the first adaptors and the pioneers of what is now called "Cloud Computing." The ability to deploy a complete, load-balanced scalable infrastructure and dramatically reduce their data and operational costs convinced this North Pole corporation it was smart business.

You see, back in the early 1940s, some of the toy designers at The Workshop - especially those in charge of the Lincoln Log section and Ming the Merciless action figures - inspired concepts that would eventually evolve into the mainframe computer and the six-flipper pinball machine. These engineers were keen on anything that was big, made lots of noise and had a myriad of blinking lights.

Although the organization was a paragon of efficiency, business was conducted in a frenzied, decentralized environment that counted on traditional methods of information dissemination. You had written communication streaming in on almost a daily basis to the corporate headquarters in the "Naughty & Nice" department. The tedious task of sorting the mail manually was back-breaking, but not as laborious as the audit process when ensuring compliance with the NoN list was being met.

According to Nestor Claus, VP of operations for The Workshop at the time, the high volume of data flowing into the company forced his uncle's capital expenditures to almost triple during the holiday season when the workload was most fierce. Additional sorting machines, temp workers and increased overtime for managers. What was an elf to do?

It was in the 1980s that The Workshop implemented an incentive-based strategy and married that with an aggressive build-out of an IT infrastructure. Nestor was appointed the CISO and his newly formed IT team saw the value of moving the organization to a client-server environment, where they developed the first PCs. Because it took more time than expected to get the PC line up and running, Nestor divulged a company secret that has haunted him for years. All the children that had put PCs on their wish lists for Christmas that first production year failed to receive them because a decision was made to requisition all PCs for internal use to complete their own infrastructure requirements; however, provisions were made to deliver the backlogged computers the next Christmas season to the anxious clients.

Nestor and his team's instincts were right again when it came to moving from the clunky mainframe to a client-server space. The number of Internet-connected devices skyrocketed from one million to more than a billion in the space of 15 seasons. The digital era had arrived with bells on.

But as the beginning of the 2007 holiday season approached, Nestor and his IT team realized that they were again having trouble keeping up with their workload. Most of their PC systems were working at less than 20% of their intended capacity, while the organization was spending more than 70% of its time on system maintenance alone. It was a crisis of complexity.

Nestor wondered what a better system would look like - a solution that was unified and offered flexibility while working towards a common goal. Nestor challenged his IT department to come up with a better solution. After extensive research they suggested: "what if we could instigate a process that would allow for on-demand self-service, a broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity and measured service - would that not allow us to migrate our business over to a 'Cloud-like' computing environment to service providers around the world?"

Nestor and the Workshop's CEO loved the idea, and cloud computing was born.

In a recent Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) survey of IT decision-makers and end-users, 64% said they were planning to increase their investment in cloud computing solutions by more than 5% in 2011, while another 72% plan to expand the type and number of cloud services they are currently using. Ironically, nearly 60% of end-users say a singular definition of the concept is needed, indicating that there is real confusion in the industry of what really constitutes "cloud computing."

The bottom line is that any time there is a seismic shift in how technology is purchased, delivered and consumed, the business model takes time to be sorted out to make sure its implementation is real, not just a fairy tale.

If you have any questions or comments for Steve Lasky regarding this or any other security industry-related issue, please e-mail him at