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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?

"The “Cloud” concept is finally wrapping peoples’ minds around what is possible when you leverage web-scale infrastructure (application and physical) in an on-demand way. “Managed Services”, “ASP”, “Grid Computing”, “Software as a Service”, “Platform as a Service”, “Anything as a Service”… all terms that couldn’t get it done. Call it a “Cloud” and everyone goes bonkers. Go figure."
- Damon Edwards

"There sure is a lot of confusion when it comes to talking about cloud computing. Yet, it does not need to be so complicated. There really are only three types of services that are cloud based: SaaS, PaaS, and Cloud Computing Platforms. I am not sure being massively scalable is a requirement to fit into any one category."
- Brian de Haaff

"SaaS is one consumer facing usage of cloud computing. While it's something of a semantic discussion it is important for people inside to have an understanding of what it all means. Put simply cloud computing is the infrastructural paradigm shift that enables the ascension of SaaS."
- Ben Kepes

"The 'cloud' model initially has focused on making the hardware layer consumable as on-demand compute and storage capacity. This is an important first step, but for companies to harness the power of the cloud, complete application infrastructure needs to be easily configured, deployed, dynamically-scaled and managed in these virtualized hardware environments."
- Kirill Sheynkman

"I was chatting with a customer the other day who was struggling with some of the implications of cloud computing. The analogy that finally made sense to them is what I will call 'cloud dining.' I am the cook in the house and I am tasked with feeding the family. If my 10-year old is lobbying for Italian, I am cook at home or order out. The decision may also vary from day to day. For instance, I might not have all the ingredients and have to order out, or, like this weekend, it may be 103 outside and cooking at home is not all that appealing. Now, the same can be said for supporting a given application in a cloud computing environment.

In a fully implemented Data Center 3.0 environment, you can decide if an app is run locally (cook at home), in someone else’s data center (take-out) and you can change your mind on the fly in case you are short on data center resources (pantry is empty) or you having environmental/facilities issues (too hot to cook). In fact, with automation, a lot of this can can be done with policy and real-time triggers. For example, during month end processing, you might always shift non-critical apps offsite, or if you pass a certain cooling threshold, you might ship certain processing offsite."
- Omar Sultan

"Cloud computing overlaps some of the concepts of distributed, grid and utility computing, however it does have its own meaning if contextually used correctly. Cloud computing really is accessing resources and services needed to perform functions with dynamically changing needs. An application or service developer requests access from the cloud rather than a specific endpoint or named resource. What goes on in the cloud manages multiple infrastructures across multiple organizations and consists of one or more frameworks overlaid on top of the infrastructures tying them together. The cloud is a virtualization of resources that maintains and manages itself."
- Kevin Hartig

"Clouds are vast resource pools with on-demand resource allocation. The degree of on-demandness can vary from phone calls to web forms to actual APIs that directly requisition servers. I tend to consider slow forms of requisitioning to be more like traditional datacenters, and the quicker ones to be more cloudy. A public facing API is a must for true clouds.

Clouds are virtualized. On-demand requisitioning implies the ability to dynamically resize resource allocation or moving customers from one physical server to another transparently. This is all difficult or impossible without virtualization.

Clouds tend to be priced like utilities (hourly, rather than per-resource), and I think we’ll see this model catching on more and more as computing resources become as cheap and ubiquitous as water, electricity, and gas (well, maybe not gas). However, I think this is a trend, not a requirement. You can certainly have clouds that are priced like pizza, per slice."
- Jan Pritzker

See next page for definitions from Trevor Doerksen, Thorsten von Eicken, Paul Wallis, Michael Sheehan, Don Dodge, Aaron Ricadela,
Bill Martin, Ben Kepes and Irving Wladawsky 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: (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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