Oct 24, 2011

What Cloud, Which Cloud, Where Cloud?

Cloud Computing has strongly entered it’s hype cycle.  Just as everyone ran to relabel everything Service Oriented and ESB-this or that, now everything is being relabled Cloud this or that. 

As soon as that happens we enter the technology confusion cycle.  (Sometimes one thinks this is intentional on the part of vendors, so you can’t tell exactly where their product fits or where it lacks.)

Let’s see if we can do a little bit of Cloud Clarification™…

-> Cloud Computing is about pushing applications, components, modules, abilities to an on-demand model with remote capacity.

-> Software as a Service is about renting software abilities via a vendor exposing abilities, modules, business processes for remote use.

-> Cloud Infrastructure, which is also being called Cloud Computing, is about renting remote computing/hardware capacity on demand and in fractional increments.

About the best picture I’ve seen describing this is here… (though there’s some details in it I’d quibble about)



Today most Cloud ‘things’ being sold or used are Cloud Infrastructure, meaning remote storage or remote computing capacity.  What makes them different from just renting a server from a hosting vendor somewhere is it’s usually available on demand (renting a server, whether physical or virtual, usually involves some wait and setup time as the server is prepared for you, which includes installing or allocating the right amount of memory and disk) and is charged in fractional increments.  For example, Amazon’s S3 storage service charges per gigabyte per hour. 

The other big Cloud activity is Software as a Service (SaaS).  SaaS is making serious inroads in major IT shops as Salesforce.com and others are making an excellent case for simply using their software remotely, with a lower cost than a major CRM, ERP or accounting software purchase plus associated installation, administration, and server costs required for a normal software install.  And not to forget ongoing maintenance costs, support, and high availability redundancy.  Most major software vendors are preparing Software as a Service editions of their major application products.  CA, SAP, Peoplesoft, BMC… Salesforce.com has proven the SaaS model and the majors are trying to follow (not always an easy task with many major application products having old software bases.)

Real “Cloud Computing”, the ability to dynamically deploy some code or modules or components or services to on-demand container environments has not yet had major penetration.  It’s understandable as the complexity is much higher and has to be coordinated with development environments and tools.  Many start-ups are trying to create the right combination, and I’m sure we’ll see increasing traction here soon.

So the question remains,

• Will I be able to mix and match business processes and capabilities from multiple vendors business process (formerly application) portfolios?

• Can I “deploy” my integrated orchestrated capabilities in an on-demand environment?

• Will it let me gain a strategic business advantage by creating unique processes exactly matching my business goals?

• Will I be using and only paying for the exact capacity I need?

• Will I be able to change my processes quickly and easily as market conditions change?

Not yet, but to some of them there is a partial yes, and all of them are in sight.