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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?

"Cloud computing is ... the user-friendly version of grid computing."
- Trevor Doerksen

"Most computer savvy folks actually have a pretty good idea of what the term "cloud computing" means: outsourced, pay-as-you-go, on-demand, somewhere in the Internet, etc."
- Thorsten von Eicken

"In order to discuss some of the issues surrounding The Cloud concept, I think it is important to place it in historical context. Looking at the Cloud's forerunners, and the problems they encountered, gives us the reference points to guide us through the challenges it needs to overcome before it is adopted."
- Paul Wallis

"I would like to propose a 'Cloud Pyramid' to help differentiate the various Cloud offerings out there. [At the top of the pyramind] users are truly restricted to only what the application is and can do. Some of the notable companies here are the public email providers (Gmail, Hotmail, Quicken Online, etc.). Almost any Software as a Service (SaaS) provider can be lumped into this group.

As you move further down the pyramid, you gain increased flexibility and control but your a still fairly restricted to what you can and cannot do. Within this Category things get more complicated to achieve. Products and companies like Google App Engine, Heroku, Mosso, Engine Yard, Joyent or force.com (SalesForce platform) fall into this segment.

At the bottom of the pyramid are the infrastructure providers like Amazon’s EC2, GoGrid, RightScale and Linode. Companies providing infrastructure enable Cloud Platforms and Cloud Applications. Most companies within this segment operate their own infrastructure, allowing them to provide more features, services and control than others within the pyramid."
- Michael Sheehan

"The web fanatics and blogosphere would have you believe that all applications will move to the web. Some will, most will not. Reliability, scalability, security, and a host of other issues will prevent most businesses from moving their mission critical applications to hosted services or cloud based services. The risk of failure is too great.

Amazon is the leader in cloud based services, but even Amazon has experienced down times for its own business. Cloud services will continue to improve. But my guess is the uptake will take longer than most people predict."
- Don Dodge

"Today's combination of high-speed networks, sophisticated PC graphics processors, and fast, inexpensive servers and disk storage has tilted engineers toward housing more computing in data centers. In the earlier part of this decade, researchers espoused a similar, centralized approach called "grid computing." But cloud computing projects are more powerful and crash-proof than grid systems developed even in recent years."
- Aaron Ricadela

"When virtualizing applications to be used by people who care nothing about computers or technology - as is mostly the case with Clouds - the key thing we want to virtualize or hide from the user is complexity. Most people want to deal with an application or a service, not software. ... The more intelligent we want [computers and computer applications] to be - that is, intuitive, exhibiting common sense and not making us have to constantly take care of them - the more smart software it will take. But with cloud computing, our expectation is that all that software will be virtualized or hidden from us and taken care of by systems and/or professionals that are somewhere else - out there in The Cloud."
- Irving Wladawsky Berger

"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."
- Ben Kepes

"Cloud computing really comes into focus only when you think about what IT always needs: a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT's existing capabilities."
- Bill Martin


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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