Wtf is Cloud Computing? A Google of Definitions.

written by admin on March 19, 2009 in Under The Radar with 2 comments
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GUEST POST: Jeff Milum has been living in the bay area and in technology continuously since 1989 when the XT was king and the Valley still had orange groves. Ever since advising his co-worker not to become the 12th employee at a strange company named Netscape, he has sworn to remain more on top of emerging trends. His never ending quest to remain tech savvy continues with posts such as this.

I might be delusional But I swear the Google result-o-meter for “Cloud Computing” yielded 9,990,000 items the other day. Today, it’s 11,500,00018,100,000. Hmmmm… That’s another 1,600,000 9 million web references added in less than 48 hours! My guess is that these sudden new additions to the results added at least another thousand definitions. Seeking clarity on the definition of “the cloud” is like trying to come up with a consensus on what a snowflake is shaped like.

So far, my favorite definition is the one that James Urquhart borrowed from Supreme Court Justine Potter Stuart, “I know it when I see it.” Of course Justice Stewart was referring to obscenity, but perhaps the analogy holds true here.

There are some common elements in the mix though: One of the main areas of debate seems to be based on those that want to make the Cloud Computing Club as inclusive as possible versus those that want to keep the club selective. On the more democratic side we have a definition proposed by Ayande of “Cloud Computing refers to the delivery of software and other technology services over the Internet by a service provider.” It would be hard to get more inclusive than this as one could make an argument that anyone and anything that passes through the Internet is Cloud Computing.

The camps wanting to limit the definition are myriad. An interesting claim by DevCentral states that Cloud Computing is based on “who and how” and the definition is based on “who the end-user of those “technology services” really is, and in almost every case the end-user … (is) an organization.”

Speaking of organizations, another contentious area in the definition battle is where does Cloud Computing fit (or not fit) into an IT organization. On one end of this scale we have the “get rid of IT” perspective. One of the defacto leaders of this party is, surprise-surprise, Mark Benioff who stated “…cloud computing: which is no software, no hardware, don’t hire anyone, just sign up to these various cloud platforms and pick the flavor that is appropriate for your application.”

Of course, your IT department will probably not agree with this outlook. To date IT has been trying to fit Cloud Computing definitions (and resources) into a context that is aligned with IT’s traditional role of ownership. We’ve apparently moved past the “hybrid cloud” and into the “private cloud” which was recently defined as “…IT resources under the control of the enterprise consuming it… (including those) consumed from a public cloud provider…The only requirement is that the resources be under the direct control of…” you guessed it, IT.

DevCentral recently aired the optmisitically titled Cloud Computing: The Last Definition You’ll Ever Need. This post came up with one of the more concise technical definitions stating that real Cloud Computing must have “dynamism (or “elasticity” in Amazon speak), abstraction, resource sharing, and (it must) provide a platform.”

Here’s a radical take: what if we were to define cloud computing as any service that transfers CPU cycles from on-site processors to “the cloud”? This would of course spawn off a bevy of sub-class definitions like Cloudware, Cloud Centers, Cloud Services, IaaS (Infrastructure as…), etc. But since these terms are already popping up in the blogosphere, we might as well embrace them and slice this space up into digestible bytes!

Let’s face it, the definition of Cloud Computing is still based entirely on who you ask.
In our opinion it is not about what it is, but what it does.

SIDE NOTE: Early Bird tickets for Under the Radar: Clarity in the Cloud close Friday, March 20. Pick yours up now!