Clarifying Cloud Computing

Michael Vizard
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There's obviously a lot of confusion these days about the distinctions between public and private cloud computing, managed hosting and managed services. In fact, it's not all uncommon for IT organizations to start investigating cloud computing only to discover what they really want is some form of managed hosting or managed service.

The reason for this comes down to concerns about data security and the nature of the application workloads that the IT organization wants to run. In an ideal security world, many IT organizations don't want to have their applications running on multi-tenant systems where not only is security a potential issue, but where events such as "noisy virtual machine neighbors" can have unexpected consequences for the applications they have running on shared IT infrastructure.

John Engates, CTO for Rackspace Hosting, says that IT organizations are discovering that what they really want is a managed hosting solution under which an application is securely hosted and managed by a third-party provider or a managed service on their premise.

Of course, others will opt to run a private cloud on shared infrastructure managed by companies such as Rackspace, while others just want access to share infrastructure in a public cloud at the lowest cost possible. Thus far, Engates says companies have been opting to use cloud computing services to handle spikes in processing demands for applications that run mainly on premise or for tasks, such as application development, that are only going to run for a short period of time.

More confusion in the cloud is also caused by the use of the terms "infrastructure-as-a-service" (IaaS) and "platform-as-a-service" (PaaS). Given the fact that the major difference between these terms is whether you want cloud computing services to come with or without software, it's likely that over time the narrow distinction between IaaS and PaaS will simply dissipate into the larger cloud computing conversation.

All of these options, of course, are collectively going to be used in concert with one another to create a variety of hybrid cloud computing scenarios, which Engates says is one of the reasons that Rackspace is seeing so much interest in the open source OpenStack cloud computing management platform. IT organizations are unsure about what application workloads are going to be running on what virtual machines in the future. But they need a cloud computing management framework today that spans multiple virtual machine platforms. OpenStack makes it easier to manage hybrid cloud computing scenarios, and the fact that it supports multiple virtual machines, including VMware, helps companies get out from under what many are starting to view as onerous licensing terms for VMware management tools.

At the same time, Engates notes that OpenStack allows IT organizations to combine new and existing infrastructure to create their own private clouds on premise without having to commit to any forklift system upgrades. That approach, says Engates, is at the heart of the RackConnect hybrid cloud computing platform.

Once all the fog surrounding cloud computing lifts, all the conversations about the variations should give way to a more precise discussion about what types of application workloads should be run where and when.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 18, 2011 10:03 AM cloud managemant services cloud managemant services  says:

The growth of outside contracts with Cloud service provider and other Cloud service provider third vendors is placing greater pressures on IT to develop comprehensive sets of SLAs (service-level agreements) to help manage the services contracted for, and to ensure that full value is delivered to the end business. It has prompted the growth of performance-based contracts where outside service providers must guarantee specific performance levels in areas such as transaction throughput time, mean time to respond in the event of a user or IT trouble call, and also mean time to repair when problems with the service do occur. The evolution of SLA-based metrics is becoming so popular that some IT departments are also implementing and enforcing SLA requirements for the services delivered by corporate IT.

Nov 18, 2011 10:24 AM Aditya Aditya  says:

Good insight into current cloud computing trends and what companies are looking for prior to adoption of the cloud platform, just viewed an excellent video presentation Adoption Roadmap of cloud computing focusing on cloud adoption strategies @

Nov 18, 2011 11:09 AM greg schulz greg schulz  says:

Good article Mike and nice job of working openstack into the discussion as an enabler for building both public and private cloud environments. There is as you point out plenty of cloud confusion, hype and FUD occuring not to mention the blame game for example when something happens with clouds (or traditional IT).

The blame game: Does cloud storage result in data loss?

In addition to openstack there are other evolving standards and initiatives including those from DMTF, OVA, NIST and SNIA (Cloud Data Management Interface:CDMI) among others.

The current focus on clouds has been around cost reduciton, cost avoidence or cost relocation (e.g. moving off of one side of a balance sheet to another location). However there is a growing awareness with cloud computing and cloud storage beyond the protocols, products, stacks, and services around value, trust, SLAs and SLOs.

Part of that growing discussion and awareness ties in the people, process, practices and product/services discussions ( Convergence: People, Processes, Policies and Products ) and another aspect is that around trust and value (What do VARs and Clouds as well as MSPs have in common? ).

Thus good to see articles like yours Mike expanding the scope and focus to cover as well as help clarifying different aspects of IT clouds.

Disclosure: Im a rackspace customer

Cheers gs

Author "Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking" (CRC Press) and "The Green and Virtual Data Center" (CRC Press)


Nov 18, 2011 11:24 AM Terry Pullin Terry Pullin  says:

Good piece Mike, or do I say Rackspace marketing team.

I think its absolutely amazing that Rackspace are making this move, not surprising but I've been saying for a while the cloud adoption is slower than it should be because not enough trusted IT companies have cloud platforms to deliver services to their customers.

With Cloud Enablement set to be such a big thing next year, isn't it interesting that Rackspace are now looking to establish themselves in the IT service provider space before the reality of owning in-house cloud platforms becomes common for IT businesses who, let face it, are the people who should be taking customers through the migration to the cloud.

If I get away with it I want to plug my blog, for info on the cloud adoption subject.

Dec 7, 2011 2:10 AM Walter Scott Walter Scott  says:

Cloud Computing is not anymore a new web hosting solution. The thing is that, it is just under the radar of dedicated servers and shared hosting plans.

Jan 12, 2012 5:26 AM cloud hosting cloud hosting  says:

I was reading research from Rackspace, that said IT companies really want managed hosting by a third-party.With some of the options of having user-managed options for this year, it will prove to be interesting as the tech grows for sure!

Jan 15, 2012 5:54 AM Chris Haddad Chris Haddad  says:

Mike,  good post describing current customer sentiment and how Rackspace is positioning their offerings.   I don't see the distinction between IaaS and PaaS blurring, but rather PaaS capabilities becoming key differentiators.  The question for 2012 will be 'What is in your PaaS?' 

A few more thoughts on What is PaaS can be found at  

and I have developed a PaaS evaluation framework which can be reviewed at 


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