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A Cloud by Any Other Name…

by on September 14, 2009

Cloud computing: is it the best new IT idea today or just a shiny repackaging of familiar services? The answer likely depends on who you talk to. Debate over the virtues of cloud computing has received a good deal of media coverage for the past two years as start-ups, computing giants, and even the Federal government engage in the conversation either as providers or consumers of computing services. There are both enthusiastic advocates of cloud computing and those who are more cautious about jumping on the bandwagon.


There are even, as Bernard Golden points out in his CIO article “
Cloud Backlash: You Can’t Call The Whole Thing Off“, people starting anti-cloud movements because of the hype and disillusionment over the whole issue.

 

Yet, as with most debates, there is a middle ground that best encapsulates the pros and cons and the truth may be that cloud computing is an exciting concept that does incorporate some traditional (albeit rebranded) IT ideas with new abilities to provide scalable, pay-as-you-go services.

 

Cloud computing grew from clustering and grid computing concepts.  Connecting multiple computers to create a cluster allows them to share the data processing load and thus increase capacity.  Connecting multiple independent clusters creates a “grid” of computing capacity that vendors can use to offer increased services and storage capacity to customers. From these initial concepts, providers moved to offering IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), and SaaS (Software as a Service).   Cloud computing differs from these offerings in its flexibility.  Whereas SaaS and IaaS are standard outsourcing services, cloud computing, as stated above, allows businesses a new level of scalability.

 

At B&L Associates, we offer our VaultLedger product over the Internet. We call it OnDemand, others call is SaaS, and now we are told we should call it “cloud computing.” So, I guess we are also a cloud computing provider. But no matter what you call it, I think most people would tell you that mass adoption of most enterprise-wide cloud services has been slow to materialize. Why is that? On the surface, it seems like an ideal solution. I think it may have to do with the slow general adoption of any technology.

 

Would we have been better off sticking with a single acronym or phrase to describe this process? And by doing so, giving it some history and validation, as opposed to switching names every few years?  Enterprise clients are traditionally conservative in adopting new technology until they basically have no other choice. The switch from open system to mainframes didn’t happen overnight. How much longer would it have taken if we kept changing the name of the same technology?

 

So what should we do to stem the anti-cloud tide and help cloud computing reach its full potential? Honestly, I don’t know. It could be several factors.

 

In my next blog post I’ll talk about one that is close to my heart: securing the information in the cloud.

 

But I’m interested in what you think. What has to happen for cloud computing to reach the tipping point?

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