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Maintaining Flexibility and Data Security

The cloud is shaping up to be an increasingly attractive destination for your data as options increase and prices fall. But beware: Cloud offerings making headlines in the consumer space may not provide the features you need for business and technical applications. However, companies are offering cloud services to handle general business applications as well as the technical requirements of test-data storage and product lifecycle management (PLM).

In the consumer space, data virtualization is virtually free. For example, Google Drive, launched in April, gives you 5 GB of storage free. When you fill that up, you can move on to take advantage of the free storage offerings of little companies like Dropbox, Box.com, and SugarSync or big companies like Microsoft or Amazon. As one observer put it, “Indeed, if you’re paying anyone for online storage, you’re a chump.”1

Clouds for Business

That may or may not be the case in the consumer world, but few businesses would want critical documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and applications scattered across multiple clouds. Consequently, companies, including Google, are offering cloud services tailored to businesses. The Google business services, for example, include Drive as well as the familiar Calendar, Gmail, and Docs tools. But they also incorporate tools such as Sites, which includes features like fine-grained permissions, a function that lets you control access to different pages of each site. Using this feature, you could, for example, restrict your customers or vendors from accessing portions of your site not relevant to them.

In addition, in May, Earthlink announced its Business IT Services Cloud Workspace, a hosted desktop virtualization service. The company described the service as an environment that enables customers to control business applications and data. Employees, the company reported, can gain secure access from anywhere and from any device by using any high-speed Internet or private multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) connection. In addition to storage, Cloud Workspace provides access to more than 250 applications programs, including the Microsoft Office programs and Microsoft Visual Studio; Adobe Acrobat Standard, Illustrator, and Photoshop; and a variety of programs for management, legal, accounting, sales and marketing, and medical applications. Customers also can add applications.

Clouds for Technology

While Earthlink is addressing many general business requirements, other companies are focusing on technology and manufacturing operations. Autodesk, for example, offers Autodesk PLM 360 Product Lifecycle Management Software, which the company describes as an instant-on, cloud-based PLM solution capable of integrating and adapting easily with existing systems.

In May, Autodesk announced that Roulunds Braking, a manufacturer of braking products for the automotive industry, has been using PLM 360 to manage new-product development data across the globe, providing approximately 50 users with access to design schedules and modifications. In a press release, Mark Lawrence, development engineer at Roulunds Braking, said, “The capability to rapidly deploy the system and provide all users with access to real-time data has significantly minimized development errors and improved development time,” adding that the ability to use Autodesk PLM 360 to selectively reveal up-to-date product engineering data was a major selection criterion. “Our customers tell us they prefer being able to help themselves to our most current design information and request changes while proceeding with their designs.”

National Instruments’ Technical Data Cloud (TDC) focuses specifically on enabling engineers and scientists to store technical data in the cloud, as described in an April article.2 The TDC is tailored for storing test data, employing a storage model that closely resembles that of the National Instruments TDMS file format.3 It makes use of a hierarchical structure and meta data to provide context information, supporting such data types as strings, arrays, and waveform and geolocation information. When data is transmitted to TDC, the data values and their corresponding timestamps are appended to the end of the appropriate channel or channels.

Of course, security is a concern in any cloud implementation, and that’s a topic James Wickett, web systems engineer at National Instruments, addressed in a recent newsletter article.4 He wrote, “The paradigm of cloud computing requires cloud consumers to extend their trust boundaries outside their current network and infrastructure to encompass a cloud provider.”

Wickett’s article specifically addressed the NI LabVIEW FPGA Compile Cloud Service, but Michael Neal, LabVIEW product marketing manager at NI, confirmed that the points Wickett made apply to the TDC as well. According to Wickett, the key security issues are authentication, encryption, and network access control.

Authentication must take place over a secure connection such as a secure sockets layer (SSL) and should make use of a randomized token. Data should be encrypted under three circumstances: when data is in transit over the network, when data is at rest, and when data is backed up. As for network access control, he wrote, “Most cloud vendors offer firewall-like functionality to consumers in which you can control traffic based on the source and port of the sender and the receiver.” NI employs several methods to address all three security issues.

Your Own Private Cloud

The term cloud as applied to computing typically brings to mind a public cloud where you as the cloud services customer make use of servers maintained by your services provider. But you can establish your own private cloud as well, using a tool such as IncrediBuild-XGE distributed-computing software from Xoreax. IncrediBuild-XGE accelerates the time-intensive computational processes involved in simulation and modeling for CAD/CAM, fluid and mechanical dynamics, and 3-D analysis, transforming sequential data processing into parallel analyses.

Rather than implementing a public cloud, XGE (Xoreax Grid Engine) technology transforms a network of regular office PCs and servers into a private cloud in which nodes contribute unutilized processing power to form a dynamic, accessible, and fault-tolerant high-performance computing environment. The vendor reports that IncrediBuild-XGE also allows processing to scale out to public clouds. Eyal Maor, CEO of Xoreax, joked that XGE reduces modeling time to such an extent that the big loser is the coffee supplier.


1. Manjoo, F., “The Everything Drive,” Slate, April 24, 2012.
2. Nelson, R., “Cloud Affords Clear View of Test Data,” EE-Evaluation Engineering, April 2012, p. 26.
3. “The NI TDMS File Format,” National Instruments, Tutorial, Jan. 31, 2012.
4. Wickett, J., “Insight Into Cloud Security at National Instruments,” NI News, National Instruments, April 27, 2012.

For More Information

National Instruments

Startup Addresses Security

The cloud opens up data access to a variety of mobile devices, and that’s an advantage as long as the mobile device users have a legitimate right to access that data.

Dialog Semiconductor SC14453S VoIP Processor Circuit With Intrinsic-ID’s HIS IP

Intrinsic-ID is a Dutch start-up addressing such concerns. The company, formed in 2008 as a spin-off from Royal Philips Electronics, recently raised ¤5m in funding. It provides hard and soft IP based on its Hardware Intrinsic Security (HIS) technology.

HIS uses the unique characteristics intrinsic to an IC to extract encryption keys instead of storing them. This process allows a device to generate a secret key only when needed and power down with no key present, making it secure against cloning, tampering, theft-of-service, and reverse engineering.

A spokeswoman said Intrinsic-ID’s technology is becoming more widely implemented, especially where mobile devices are taking on more critical tasks involving sensitive data. HIS is widely applicable to a range of markets, she said, adding, “Intrinsic-ID is initially targeting security solutions for cloud storage, mobile payments, and content protection.”

In April, Intrinsic-ID announced that the Dialog Semiconductor SC14453S is the world’s first commercially available VoIP processor circuit that integrates Intrinsic-ID’s HIS IP. The technology makes use of an HIS-based fingerprint that establishes a firm binding of software and hardware, ensuring that only authenticated software can run on the SC14453S platform.  A message authentication tag for a bootloader or software image of a particular customer is securely stored with the HIS IP of Intrinsic-ID without the need for embedded nonvolatile memory.

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