Discovering clouds and other things

Discovering and finding things these days seems to be getting harder (perhaps because I keep losing everything!).  Both “clouds” and “things” can be very general concepts – discovery for cloud computing focuses on objects that communicate via the Internet.

It seems like simple question – how do I discover a cloud?

Discovering something appears to be rather more complex than I thought — there are lots of things to discover, and it’s not always easy to do.

As a starting point, there are at least four dimensions to the problem:

  • Cloud/service discovery – You might want to discover a specific cloud (do clouds have names?) or find out which cloud services are available at a certain time or location. Well-known clouds are available from Amazon, Google and Microsoft.  Cloud services are specific sets of capabilities (such as infrastructure, platform and software) provided by a cloud.  You may wish to discover what services are available and where.  Service discovery is a requirement for many forms of distributed system.
  • Thing/object discovery – While the word “thing” covers almost everything, cloud things must be able to communicate via the Internet. Discoverable objects include people, applications, names, data objects, images, devices, sensors, vehicles, and so on.  For example, a connected car might need to discover a nearby gas station, discover a route to a city destination, or discover an empty parking spot.
  • Event/status discovery – There are many requirements to discover information related to activities, events, states or status. The current temperature of a house, the health status of a person or animal, and movements are all examples.  Even big data analytics can be viewed as a form of discovery.
  • Location discovery – Many applications now make use of geolocation discovery. Where is my smartphone? Where can I access a specific cloud service?  In what jurisdiction is my data being stored?

A simple example of how discovery tools can be important is the common email address.  How do I find an email address for a person that I don’t know?

I’m not aware of an email equivalent of the traditional telephone book, but there several ways to discover an email address (possibly).  For instance:

  • Guessing – If the person uses a standard company email format you can make an educated guess;
  • Online directories – Staff email directories may be available online if you know where to look (see the Ontario government INFO-GO, for example);
  • Googling – A google search (or a social network search) may provide the answer, but you may need more than a name to pick the right person (Is anyone’s name unique?); or
  • Other specialized services such as ZoomInfo could also offer results.

What if you wanted to know the name of their email provider – the cloud service that hosts their email?  Or whether they are currently able to receive an email?  Those are harder discovery questions (and may have privacy implications)!

Of course, it’s much easier if the person has emailed you (as long as you kept their email).  In general, however, finding an email address is not a trivial exercise.

I may be showing my ignorance, but it seems to me there are many similar discovery challenges for clouds, applications, infrastructures and other computing objects.  Some examples:

  • Text messaging – How do I know which messaging service(s) a person uses (iMessage, Skype, BBM, etc.)? How can I be sure I even have the right person?
  • Infrastructure services – How do I discover clouds and their service offerings in another country?
  • Shopping – how do I discover a product or service if I’m not sure what it’s called? Or where to buy it locally?

There will soon be billions of connected “things”, many of which will be openly available for use by any interested party (within limits, of course).  For example, perhaps I may want to discover (and read) a thermometer in the water or on a beach in Hawaii?

There is another important enterprise requirement for cloud discovery – finding “shadow IT.”  Shadow IT is the use of unsanctioned cloud services by business managers (i.e., without the assistance or blessing of the IT department).  For the enterprise cloud manager, the goal is not to prevent innovative uses but to broker them, support their optimization, find economies of scale, and assist with security, management and integration issues.

An example of one company that is addressing this area is Netskope.  Netskope Discovery provides an ongoing overview and analysis of all of the enterprise cloud apps running in an environment and evaluates their enterprise-readiness. It delivers three primary insights:

  • It identifies all of the cloud apps running in your organization and quantifies each app’s enterprise-readiness against an objective yardstick;
  • It quantifies the organization’s risk; and
  • It details the granular elements that make up the risk.

This can serve as a starting point for discovering clouds within an organization, but it is only a small step in solving the much larger general challenge of discovery in the cloud and IoT environments.

This is what I think….please add your own thoughts and pointers.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Don Sheppard
Don Sheppard
I'm a IT management consultant. I began my career in railways and banks after which I took up the consulting challenge! I try to keep in touch with a lot of different I&IT topics but I'm usually working in areas that involve service management and procurement. I'm into developing ISO standards, current in the area of cloud computing (ISO JTC1/SC38). I'm also starting to get more interested in networking history, so I guess I'm starting to look backwards as well as forwards! My homepage is but I am found more here.

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