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Insecurity expert rains on Cloud

by on21 March 2012

Report warns of unrecognised risks

An insecurity expert has warned that the cloud could suffer the same kind of collapses that plague the financial system. Bryan Ford at Yale University in New Haven says that the full risks of this migration have yet to be  explored. Complex systems, such as the Cloud,  can fail in many unexpected ways and outlines various simple scenarios in which a cloud could come unstuck.

He said that a cloud could experience a full meltdown that could  threaten any business. Ford said that while individual systems on a cloud might play nice, if you have other application providers in the same cause problems for another. He came up with a scenario were two conflicting load balancing programs operate with the same refresh period and when these periods coincide, the control loops start sending the load back and forth between the virtual servers in a positive feedback loop.

He said that "This simplistic example might be unlikely to occur in exactly this form on real systems—or might be quickly detected and “?xed” during development and testing—but it suggests a general risk.” Ford said that similar problems happened during ?nancial industry crashes.

But he said that a more general risk arises when systems are complex because seemingly unrelated parts can become coupled in unexpected ways. Complexity theorists are beginning to recognise this problem and the consensus is that bizarre and unpredictable  behaviour often emerges in systems made up of "networks of networks". Ford concludes with the following:  "We should study [these unrecognised risks] before our socioeconomic fabric becomes inextricably dependent on a convenient but potentially unstable computing model."

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