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Cloud – Confusion All Around

August 4, 2011

Have you ever wondered why there is so much confusion out there when it comes to cloud computing? Probably not, as you will have noticed that there are many misperceptions and generalizations that do not help to foster pointed discussions.

Cloud is everything and nothing

I have heard both statements:
Cloud will change everything and it will be only cloud from now onwards” and vice versa “There is nothing new about the cloud it is just a label

As usual with general statements neither is true nor would it be wrong to say there is not a shimmer of truth in both. What we need to sort out when taking about the cloud are some major differences like e.g. the target audience as the cloud approach for consumer and enterprises is fundamentally different.

Having said that I must now admit that there are areas where things overlap. Let me introduce another buzz term -Consumerization of IT – which describes how consumer oriented solutions/demands get into the textbook of IT departments of enterprises of all sizes. This can be seen already by a variety of things: IM&Presence, Tablets, social networking for enterprises, etc. So there is an overlap of the worlds.

I guess by now if you have not been aware before you see how confusing the whole cloud computing discussion is even in these few paragraphs that only scratch the surface. So let me put out a general statement before we go deeper. “Rather than being the siver bullet to enterprise IT, Cloud Computing is an additional arrow in the armory of the CIO and offers an additional way of attacking business issues

How to tackle the cloud discussion?

You could and should spend some time reading to make yourself familiar with the basic definitions (e.g. NIST definitions). Let me give you a simple rule of thumb I do use. Does the “thing” label cloud fulfill the rule of the three S?

S – Service; is it a service or a technology that you are being sold? Many technology vendors label their products cloud but the products alone are
no cloud offering. They can help building on but no doubt are one. (See explanation of private cloud discussion next week)

S- Scalability; cloud computing is all about highly scalable services. If it is custom built for you and scalability means you need to place an order for the service provider to order hardware, to…, it probably is no cloud service.

S- Standardized; this is an important part of the cloud story. Standardization does not mean that you cannot customize at all and for the different
kinds of services (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS) the level of customization is different. But there is a clear rule to which degree customization goes and that rule is
the same across all customers of the same service. If you need something fully customized beyond the rules you head off into the direction of self-hosting, hosting or
outsourcing.

There are more bits and pieces to consider (easy in, easy out in contract terms, payment methods, network used) and though I agree that these play a role I have found acceptable variations in these but not the three above. As I said these worked for me pretty well in the past and I am curious about your experiences. Please share feedback.

This is a simplified view of cloud computing categories introducing the major distinction between enterprise and consumer which is either missed in many discussions or mixed up completely. My focus is the world of enterprise cloud computing.

So back to the rudimentary question how to tackle the cloud discussion

There is a common dilemma with discussions about trends and technologies. While you do not want to introduce cloud computing for the sake of cloud computing but to address a certain issue or improve your existing way of doing business there are forces that put pressure on you to use this new thing. And at the same time there are others that tell you not to touch this evil thing. Not cloud specific but here we do see these situations more often. Here are my 5 rules how to tackle the
idea of cloud computing:

Rule 1 – Get a basic understanding of what cloud computing and underlying technologies are.

Rule 2 – Avoid the common misperceptions (watch out for this blog beginning of next week to learn
about these)

Rule 3 – Start small and grow.

Rule 4 – Identify business or optimization scenarios that would benefit from cloud computing.

Rule 5 – Use Operations and Project Management Best Practices

Sounds simple? Usually if you break things down to few rules it sounds simple but there are many pitfalls in there. I thought about introducing a rule 0 – Get help but that depends pretty much on the individual situation and the business challenge to solve. In general you should look out for someone not being religious about
cloud computing but with an interest to help you identify the best way to address your business challenge. But be careful that you do choose someone open and experienced with cloud to ensure it is included into the discussion. In many cases system integrators tend to discourage cloud as they make their money with installing servers.

You want to get deeper into the discussion or have comments? Please leave some feedback.

Matthias

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6 Comments
  1. Einar Aleksejev permalink

    One of the most common misconception is that you can buy or sell a cloud. You are still selling or buying services. Cloud is a tool rather than a product.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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