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Twenty-One Experts Define Cloud Computing

It is the infrastructural paradigm shift that is sweeping across the Enterprise IT world, but how is it best defined?

It is the infrastructural paradigm shift that is sweeping across the Enterprise IT world, but how is it best defined? I refer of course to 'Cloud Computing' - the phenomenon that currently has as many definitions as there are squares on a chess-board. To try and narrow it down we bring here a round-up of some recent attempts to bring welcome precision where there risks being unnecessary vagueness. Enjoy!

"What is cloud computing all about? Amazon has coined the word “elasticity” which gives a good idea about the key features: you can scale your infrastructure on demand within minutes or even seconds, instead of days or weeks, thereby avoiding under-utilization (idle servers) and over-utilization (blue screen) of in-house resources. With monitoring and increasing automation of resource provisioning we might one day wake up in a world where we don’t have to care about scaling our Web applications because they can do it alone."
-Markus Klems

"For me the simplest explanation for cloud computing is describing it as, 'internet centric software.' This new cloud computing software model is a shift from the traditional single tenant approach to software development to that of a scalable, multi-tenant, multi-platform, multi-network, and global. This could be as simple as your web based email service or as complex as a globally distributed load balanced content delivery environment.

I think drawing a distinction on whether its, PaaS, SaaS, HaaS is completely secondary, ultimately all these approaches are attempting to solve the same problems (scale). As software transitions from a traditional desktop deployment model to that of a network & data centric one, "the cloud" will be the key way in which you develop, deploy and manage applications in this new computing paradigm."
- Reuven Cohen

"I view cloud computing as a broad array of web-based services aimed at allowing users to obtain a wide range of functional capabilities on a 'pay-as-you-go' basis that previously required tremendous hardware/software investments and professional skills to acquire. Cloud computing is the realization of the earlier ideals of utility computing without the technical complexities or complicated deployment worries."
- Jeff Kaplan

"People are coming to grips with Virtualization and how it reshapes IT, creates service and software based models, and in many ways changes a lot of the physical layer we are used to. Clouds will be the next transformation over the next several years, building off of the software models that virtualization enabled."
- Douglas Gourlay

"The way I understand it, “cloud computing” refers to the bigger picture…basically the broad concept of using the internet to allow people to access technology-enabled services. According to Gartner, those services must be 'massively scalable' to qualify as true 'cloud computing'. So according to that definition, every time I log into Facebook, or search for flights online, I am taking advantage of cloud computing."
- Praising Gaw

See next page
for definitions from Damon Edwards, Brian de Haaff, Kirill Sheynkman, Ben Kepes, Omar Sultan, Kevin Hartig, and Yan Pritzker

See final page
for for definitions from Trevor Doerksen, Thorsten von Eicken, Paul Wallis, Michael Sheehan, Don Dodge, Aaron Ricadela, Bill Martin, Ben Kepes and Irving Wladwasky Berger.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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Most Recent Comments
steve_bobrowski 02/27/10 10:50:00 AM EST

I like many of the useful points that people in this article have made about cloud computing. However, I see holes in most definitions for cloud computing. For example, many of the panelists mention that a cloud is tied to the Internet, which is clearly not true with emerging private cloud technologies.

I've put a lot of thought into a definition of cloud computing that I think is accurate, encompassing of evolving trends, and yet simple enough for everyone to understand:

"A cloud is a place where IT resources such as computer hardware, operating systems, networks, storage, databases, and even entire software applications are available instantly, on-demand."

So, let's examine how that simple definition holds up with more specific cloud computing terms.

* Public cloud: places like AWS, Google App Engine, etc. where shared resources are available to any one on demand.
* Private cloud: private data center clouds, like VMWare vCloud or Eucalyptus, where shared resources are available only to an organization's workers, but still on demand.
* Hybrid cloud: a private cloud app bursting out to use resources in a public cloud like Amazon, again on demand.
* IaaS: AWS, Eucalyptus, see above.
* PaaS: Force.com (public), Heroku (public), LongJump (private or public).
* SaaS: Any number of applications on demand.

In case anyone is interested, there's a short post at our site that further explains our straightforward approach to defining cloud computing concepts, including other terms not mentioned in this piece such as open vs. closed PaaS.

Steve Bobrowski
The Cloud View

MiamiWebDesigner 08/22/08 06:22:49 AM EDT

Kudos to the Cloud Crowd for Re-Inventing the Wheel!

One thing 30 years in the IT industry has taught me is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Another is that the only memory we seem to access is short-term. A third is that techno-marketeers rely on that, so they can put labels like "revolutionary" and "innovative" on platforms, products and services that are mere re-inventions of the wheel ... and often poor copies at that.

A good example is all the latest buzz about "Cloud Computing" in general and "SaaS" (software as a service) in particular:


Both terms are bogus. The only true cloud computing takes place in aircraft. What they're actually referring to by "the cloud" is a large-scale and often remotely and/or centrally managed hardware platform. We have had those since the dawn of automated IT. IBM calls them "mainframes":


The only innovation offered by today's cloud crowd is actually more of a speculation, i.e. that server farms can deliver the same solid performance as Big Iron. And even that's not original. Anyone remember Datapoint's ARCnet, or DEC's VAXclusters? Whatever happened to those guys, anyway...?

And as for SaaS, selling the sizzle while keeping the steak is a marketing ploy most rightfully accredited to society's oldest profession. Its first application in IT was (and for many still is) known as the "service bureau". And I don't mean the contemporary service bureau (mis)conception labelled "Service 2.0" by a Wikipedia contributor whose historical perspective is apparently constrained to four years:


Instead, I mean the computer service bureau industry that spawned ADAPSO (the Association of Data Processing Service Organizations) in 1960, and whose chronology comprises a notable part of the IEEE's "Annals of the History of Computing":


So ... for any of you slide rule-toting, pocket-protected keypunch-card cowboys who may be just coming out of a fifty-year coma, let me give you a quick IT update:

1. "Mainframe" is now "Cloud" (with concomitant ethereal substance).

2. "Terminal" is now "Web Browser" (with much cooler games, and infinitely more distractions).

3. "Service Bureau" is now "Saas" (but app upgrades are just as painful, and custom mods equally elusive).

4. Most IT buzzwords boil down to techno-hyped BS (just as they always have).

Bruce Arnold, Web Design Miami Florida

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