puzzle

Keep it Clear… the Business of Cloud

puzzle

For a CEO not up on the tech side of things, asking a techie “What is Cloud?” would be as useful as asking a meteorologist the same question… there are too many wrong answers – for the particular needs of any particular CEO – amongst the right ones, not to mention that the term itself has become almost redundant.

To be fair, the term ‘cloud’ itself has probably contributed to the rapid uptake in both use and press coverage. To paraphrase George Carlin, “Cloud is such a friendly sounding word… It sounds like a snack, doesn't it? New Nabisco Clouds! And new Cheese Clouds, Corn Clouds, Pizza Clouds, Sesame Clouds, Onion Clouds, Tater Clouds”…" Broad, cross-functional, magical… and more – it is a great catch-all term, just not a specific one.

I’ve discussed, argued, positioned (and worse) the topic of cloud with peers, clients and colleagues at dinners, meetings, events, forums and pubs (the noisy ones being the best as I can’t hear half of the argument)… we, they who work in and around this space, seem for the most part to know what we’re talking about, even when at cross-purposes or in disagreement. One thing I have noticed across the board, though, is that there exist four intersecting loops of cloud belief: those who see it as

  1. a technology modelq1
  2. a utility (or service) model
  3. an operational model
  4. a commercial model

And, as is often the case in IT, the anomaly is the norm: none of those views are incorrect or correct, necessarily: like the work required to get there and the reward on arrival, it depends on the point of view of the beholder. When finding my way to a solution I often take hybrid as my first target and from there work towards either end as needed. To me, that is the only position from which to start with this cloud thing.

And you know what? This is not the complicated stuff… what really has become complicated is the marketing, the messages, the myriad of names and labels and the one-size-fits-all promises that business users are being hit with  (not to mention the contracts!). Dozens of choices at a coffee shop doesn’t phase me (or the average consumer who knows, broadly, what they want to drink) BUT twenty price plans with eight levels of up-front spend for thirty different handsets with fifteen different network add-ons at the local mobile phone wareshopstorehouse can be rather vexing…

Does this mean it time for a new term? (no, please!)  As an industry we need to provide clarity and consistency (along with some good solid honesty). While not a big fan of regulation and often less than thrilled with how (and why) standards are (sometimes) implemented, I do rather like both when they are done properly and result in a level playing field and I reckon that clarity and consistency of terminology typically happens when standards are applied. The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) “Definition of Cloud Computing” is a strong starting attempt to clarify the ambiguity that is cloud, starting with the following five identifiers:

  • On-demand self-service
  • Broad network access
  • Resource pooling
  • Rapid elasticity enabling quick scale-out
  • Measurable services

But of course it wouldn’t be cloud if we didn’t have several strong starting points, including the Open Group, Distributed Management Task Force, Cloud Security Alliance, Storage Network Industry Association, and Open Cloud Consortium all have cloud standards efforts ranging from terminology to security.

q2Cloud computing is not a trend (although the rush to the marketplace is) but rather a fundamental shift in capabilities that enables a fundamental re-think from “what can we do?” into “what do we want to do?” offering a focus on growth and opportunity across industries and world-wide, including all sides of the equation – manufacturers and vendors, service providers, techies and end users and businesses of all sizes.

Clever ways to sell and describe products is a game that will not stop but a little consistency and clarity by vendors describing just what it is that they bring to the table would go a long way… (just like the relationships created by doing so).

I am open and interested to comments and either agreeing or opposing points of view… and come back next week for "Keep it Secure… the Business of Cloud."

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