When it comes to building the cloud, the three main choices are public, private and hybrid. When it comes to using the cloud, well, that's when things get really interesting.
True, the cloud is all about services, but it's level and type of service that can lead to a fair amount of complexity. At the moment, most clouds fall along X-as-a-service lines. If you use primarily off-the-shelf applications, then your cloud will consist of mostly software-as-a-service architectures. The deeper you get into customized development, the more you'll require platform- or infrastructure-as-a-service. And the larger your organization becomes, the more likely you will begin to employ various combinations of service architectures, turning what looks like a straightforward cloud into a roiling sea of data and application environments.
Essentially, it all comes down to how much control you require over your service infrastructure, according to tech writer Loryan Strant. IaaS provides the most control as it enables access to servers, networks, storage and other resources, while PaaS limits you to the application layer. SaaS is probably the easiest to use as it delivers near-instant connectivity to many of the top enterprise applications, but you'll have to take them as-is.
Still, the range of service options is quickly becoming as diverse as the number of applications on in-house infrastructure. To get an idea of what you're in for, take a look at Network World's A-Z roster of services already available on the cloud. The list encompasses everything from access- and automation-as-a-service to zebra-as-a-service (OK, this one is a stretch, but it is an offering from sales training firm Selling to Zebras). In between you'll find Google-as-a-service, log-on-as-a-service, query-as-a-service - you get the idea.
Fortunately, there is some order coming to the chaos. A new breed of "community clouds" is starting to coalesce around various industries and user sets, providing specialized services and service architectures designed to suit common needs. Using the Optum Health Cloud, for example, health care organizations gain access to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) services for data protection and other functions, while CFN Services provides specialized IaaS services for the financial industry.
So it would seem that when it comes to the cloud, a little complexity is not necessarily a bad thing. New users can certainly get their feet wet with basic SaaS offerings for backup and other low-level applications and then ease into more complicated PaaS and IaaS environments as their confidence levels grow.
It may seem like a strange new world at first, but given the cost and flexibility benefits available when cloud computing is done right, it probably won't be long before it becomes the new normal.