Cloud Computing Is Whatever You Decide It Is

I recently had a conversation with a journalist who made the above statement, at the time I laughed it off and assumed the guy was pulling my leg. However, the following day I read some survey results which proposed that “only 10% of senior decision makers said they fully understood what the term cloud computing meant”.

I began to think over the problem and realised that it’s not that people don’t understand cloud computing it’s that the term is bandied around so freely these days that many people like my journalist friend feel it’s just a band wagon that anyone can hitch their cart to.

So spurred on by the recent Does It Matter Whether It’s SOA or Cloud Services debate between David Linthicum who wrote, Gartner Gets Cloud Computing Wrong and Joe McKendrick who wrote in his ZDNet blog, Does it matter it is’t SOA or cloud Services? not to the business I have decided to add my two pence and outline exactly what Cloud Computing is!

Cloud Computing is defined by Wikipedia as “Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information, are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like the electricity grid”.

The best analogy I have found is that cloud computing is the computing which is consumed like a commodity like electricity or gas, you consume electricity every time you flick a light switch but like cloud computing you do not know or need to know where that electricity comes from or where it is stored and like cloud computing you pay per use so when you switch the light off you stop consuming electricity and stop costing yourself any money.

Cloud can be broken into three commercial offerings:

IaaS – Infrastructure-as-a-Service is the delivery of computer infrastructure (currently a platform virtualization environment and in the future a distributed environment/grid) as a service. Rather than purchasing servers, software, data center space or network equipment, clients instead buy those resources as a fully outsourced service and pay for them as much as they use. The biggest completion around this offering is how the “metre” for consumption works, i.e. charging per user per month; per hour; Or even per minute

PaaS – Platform-as a-Service is the delivery of a computing platform and solution stack as a service. It facilitates the deployment of applications without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software layers. PaaS provides the facilities required to support the complete lifecycle of building and delivering Rich Internet applications and services. It usually include a rapid development environment, that allows team development, from multiple locations and a multi channel deployment capabilities i.e. desktops mobile devices etc.

SaaS – Software-as-a-Service is a model of software delivery that in its core is reduction of cost and complexity for the end-user and a volume for the vendor whereby a provider licenses an application to customers for use as a service on demand. In order to compete effectively as the SaaS market the technical architecture needs to use IaaS and PaaS, any other combination (such as terminal server enablement or only virtualisation of servers) may be classified as “cloud offering” by vendors, but in the long run will struggle to survive due high cost base and lack of competitiveness.

The future of Cloud Computing survey, I mentioned before, stated that “among the most popular cloud services now are social networking sites (the 500 million people using Facebook are being social in the cloud)”.

If the explanation is so simple and so many of us are using cloud applications, why you may ask yourself are so many people confused by what Cloud means? Apparently much of the confusion is in the name as David Bradshaw, IDC European SaaS and Cloud Services Research Manager pointed out “Cloud services are not this mysterious new thing; they’ve been around for quite a while. Before we invented this term to encapsulate and categorize manages and hosted services, people were just getting on and using them”.

I would also argue that much of the confusion has also been created by those whose offerings are not Cloud ready, who are desperately trying to cling to a rising star to keep their business alive. Don’t forget that the first rule of sales and marketing is to create FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). Cloud is one area where FUD currently reigns supreme, the first and best defense against this is always knowledge so arm yourself well and the next time you see a SOA vendor at a Cloud event keep walking!

David Akka is Managing Director at Magic Software Enterprises UK. David is a successful executive manager with a proven track record as a general manager with a strong background in sales, marketing, business development and operations. Past experience in technology and service delivery include both UK and European responsibilities.