I've been talking to anyone who'll listen about how I think "Cloud" is ridiculously over-hyped, and I even worked it into my article last week. Today, I want to talk about why I think "Cloud" is the biggest buzz word since "Virtualization," and possibly more meaningless.
"Cloud" is too relative
Wikipedia has a great image of Cloud Computing, one that almost begins to illustrate the complexity and relativity of the cloud concept:
The problem is that the picture only shows "The Cloud" from one perspective. If you were to ask a regular person to identify where "The Cloud" starts, you'd probably hear "the internet" or "my company's computers" (if you were lucky enough to avoid that person looking up at the sky). That's certainly what VMware and Cisco are shooting for, with their Cloud OS's and Cloud Computing Strategy. Hell, IBM has a TV commercial about cloud computing now that airs during football games. To an end user, "The Cloud" starts wherever the coaxial cable on the other end his cable modem ends.
Now ask a person who works in his company's IT department. That person won't consider their environment to be "The Cloud." After all, it's sitting right in front of them. To an IT person, the cloud is outside of their reach, too. Even if their environment is built on a Cloud OS or some other sort of seasonal, migratory buzzword, it's only a "cloud" because it can be moved outside of the organization and into..."The Cloud."
"The Cloud" is real, but "clouds" are not
This is what I really like to hammer home in these discussions - there is a big difference between "cloud" (lowercase), and "The Cloud" (capitalized).
Look at the image above, and you'll see examples of various web apps and services that are often times referred to as "clouds": Amazon, Google, Zoho, SalesForce, etc... These various clouds were, for the most part, around before the word "cloud" became popular. They were just called web apps then, and only the most useful ones were adopted by corporations (like SalesForce). In the image, we can also see that each of these "clouds" are themselves part of a cloud, which is typically called "The Cloud".
Too much of the "C"-word yet? Thought so, and that's why something has to change. Google Apps is not a cloud. SalesForce is not a cloud. Even Amazon is probably a better example of grid computing than it is cloud computing (they are most definitely not the same, although grid computing can enable cloud computing). Together, they are all part of "The Cloud," but apart they are simply web applications and web services.
Public Clouds & Private Clouds
This is the heart of all the buzzing. Until now, what we've been talking about is Public Clouds--ones that you as the IT guru can access just as easily as your mom or grandmother. That's great, but why leave a perfectly good buzzword to the public masses when you can bring it into the business? Enter the Private Cloud. I can just hear the sales pitch: "Now you, too can own your very own Cloud!"
Breaking this down is very simple:
What is the definition of a cloud? Essentially, it's a collection of applications and services that use a pool of centralized resources that is not managed by the end user.
What is your IT environment? (cut and paste warning) Essentially, it's a collection of applications and services that use a pool of centralized resources that is not managed by the end user.
I bet you didn't realize it, but all these years you were on the bleeding edge of IT. You've been using a cloud, albeit a private one, for the better part of a decade or two (or three, or four, if you consider that Scott Herold Steve Herrod said "Mainframe = Cloud" in a presentation at VMworld).
Still reading? Almost done.
My point here is that we're dressing up our dog and calling it people. For the most part, it's the same stuff that we've been working with for the last 5-7 years. At VMworld, there was easily a dozen exhibitors that had cloud solutions that, last year, probably had the exact same solutions labeled as "data center management" or "server resource allocation" solutions. That's when I decided the cloud concept was starting to become bigger than The Cloud. Don't get me wrong--there are some valuable concepts that are coming up as a result of all this cloud focus, but it's more about virtualization than cloudy-ness. Being able to host your entire environment (private cloud) outside of your organization is great, but it's really just an outsourced data center, at best running on some sort of grid platform.
That's my 2¢. I'm sure there's plenty of people that have an opinion, so comment away.