Cloud Computing No Longer the Next Big Thing


The morphing of cloud computing from "the next big thing" to "the big thing, period" can be measured in the types of announcements that are made and the way in which the press handles them.


Cloud's move from the future to the present is nowhere better underscored than in this eWEEK piece reporting on the emergence of the Blue Cloud Initiative. The writer says that in the past, customers interested in getting cloud services from IBM had to work through a labyrinth that started with IBM Global Services. Now, the reporter implies, Big Blue has gotten with the program-and with competitors such as Cisco, Dell, Symantec, Sun, Hewlett-Packard, EMC and others-by finally establishing a dedicated cloud business unit.


Of course, cloud comptuing is a big deal. Perhaps not quite worthy of the apocalytpic headline given this InformationWeek story ("HP On The Cloud: The World is Cleaving in Two' "). To be fair, the overwrought headline is misleading. The executive quoted in the headline and in the story, HP's CTO for cloud computing and vice president of cloud strategy Russ Daniels, was not predicting the end of the world. He was saying that there will be two worlds for enterprise data: one in the cloud and one in the organization's traditional data center. The idea that clouds will make data centers obsolete and put them on the road to extinction is, he says, a vast oversimplification.


One of the more compelling aspects of the cloud computing story during the past few months has been the steady rise of king-of-the-desktop Microsoft into the upper atmosphere. Clearly, the company is not sentimental: It is following the money, and the direction, conceptually, is straight up and away from its heritage. CNET reports on a presentation given by general manager Doug Hauger at a Thomas Weisel investor conference. Hauger was not able to discuss pricing on the Azure platform, but did say that the dire economic climate is helping cloud computing. Since it is a cheaper way to provide employees with the tools they need, companies are motivated to work through security and privacy issues that were stumbling blocks in a more sedate era.


There should be a corollary to Moore's Law that says the confusion surrounding a new technology, some of which is intentional on the part of vendors, rises in proportion to the new approach's public profile. The terms describing cloud computing and other closely related concepts often are used imprecisely. This ParaScale post addresses some of the confusion. Grid computing, for instance, is defined as the aiming of a number of servers solely on a common problem for a certain period of time. Utility and cloud computing are defined as computing resources that are shared in an on-demand scenario. The writer says that utility and cloud computing are fundamentally different from an architectural standpoint.


Figuring out the dividing lines between deeply related but discrete platforms is one step in an organization's march to real-world cloud implementation. Though the New Year's resolution format of this GoGrid piece is a bit dated, the advice it provides has never been more relevant. The first of the five suggestions was the essence of the ParaScale blogger. Other steps are to carefully research providers, review internal budgets, and get buy-in and advice both from IT and programmers. It's interesting that outside of the first suggestion, none of the steps are significantly different from what would constitute a prudent approach to the roll out of any new platform.