Why the Cloud is Nothing New and What this Means for IT Performance in 2013

By: Tom Batchelor

One of the major technology trends as perceived by the IT media this past year has been cloud computing. Amazon has had tremendous success with AWS (Amazon Web Services), although recent, high-profile outages may temper expectations somewhat. Other industry giants such as Microsoft, Citrix, and VMware continue to market their cloud services as vital parts of their overall business. But when you get past the buzz, what exactly is the cloud? What is new or different about it? I say, not as much as others would lead you to believe.

I’m fond of the saying: “One man’s cloud is another’s on-premise infrastructure.” As we come to the end of the year and reflect on all that has happened, let’s examine what “the cloud” actually is and what we will see moving forward.

The dirty little secret is cloud based services are more accurately just a rebranding of a bunch of technologies which have existed for a long period of time, maybe even decades in some instances! This makes for excellent discussion and blog fodder (and yes, I see the irony of blogging about incessant cloud blogs). After conversing with colleagues here at the office on this topic, I came up with an interesting analogy which accurately models what the cloud is actually like.

Since IT is not the only area where we can just go and re-brand stuff, let’s talk about “Cloud Transportation Services.”

Infrastructure as a Service = Rental Cars

If you just need some wheels to get about and don’t want the hassle of owning and maintaining your own, then IaaS is the route for you. You simply decide how many vehicles you want, what sort of size and do your own thing. For various fees you can reserve in advance so you know you will get the right amount of carry space when you need it.

Platform as a Service = Taxis

If you don’t want to invest your own time in learning to drive, or simply don’t consider it one of your core competencies, then PaaS is perfect. Here we have not just the vehicle but also someone to take care of the basics: avoiding other cars, honking at people in the way, chatting on the phone, you get the picture. You will still need to take care of some things yourself, carrying luggage, opening doors and making sure the route is right. As with IaaS this type of cloud is available on demand or reserved.

Software as a Service = Limo

For the gold standard in “Cloud Transportation Services,” you want a limo. This shouldn’t be confused with PaaS, because you are going to have to get an account manager, figure out who they give location data to and ensure that your family members’ usage is all accounted for. On the upside doors are opened, navigation is never a problem and should the car break there is backup available to keep you moving.

So, we now have “Cloud Transportation Services,” which is just marketing terminology applied to a bunch of stuff which, technically speaking, have already existed for a long time. Maybe we will now see car manufacturers putting cloud on the homepage of their web sites?

Actually, I know that answer to that, they won’t. And not just because they have no reason to listen to me, as true as that is. The transportation executives care about performance, reliability, safety and cost. Even if it was re-branded as “Cloud Transportation Services” that wouldn’t change. This applies to IT too, where performance and reliability are still critical. Just because something says cloud, it is technology which we already had in principle and we need to care about the same things. While these items are critical we need to make sure we monitor them, know when they are not right and have the data to resolve issues when they occur.

For my part, I’m going to make two New Years resolutions:
1. Not to use the C word
2. Not to get irrationally annoyed when other people do

See you the other side of the new year!

One Comment

  1. William says:

    refreshing to see more recognition of ‘cloud computing’ as product marketing approach and not as a technical definition!

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