Like a lot of people, I like to read the Sunday papers. Generally, it’s to review sporting events and current affairs, however, on Sunday 14th February – Valentine’s day, for the romantic or the married – I was drawn to an exposé about cloud computing. The thing that struck me was the use of the term “the cloud” and the generic, undefined meaning associated with it.  It is my belief that the IT industry often places more value on a term, than what it actually represents.

[easy-tweet tweet=”#Cloud Computing is a concept that has three core characteristics, so why do we have such trouble defining it?”]

Let me try and explain.

Cloud Computing is a concept that has three core characteristics.  When all three are present when delivering IT infrastructure or an application, essentially you have a cloud service.

  1. Customer self-service. Automation and orchestration of tasks and processes are completed in the background where the customer doesn’t see and is only concerned when it doesn’t work.
  2. Scalability.  No major step changes are chargeable or visible to the customer when increasing usage. They can scale the service as and when they need to, and associated usage should be reflected in the billing if provided by a third party.
  3. Wide Area Network (WAN). A cloud service should be delivered to the customer out of a purpose-built data centre across a WAN.  This could be the internet or a corporate network.

in my mind cloud computing has been with us for some time

So in my mind cloud computing has been with us for some time. Think about the early internet e-mail services that were about. Hotmail, yahoo etc. They all had, and still have, the above characteristics. 

So when we refer to “the cloud” are we just referring to these three basic characteristics? To my mind we are not, and this is where the confusion exists. 

The technology industry is specialising in delivering their products as a service, rather than designing and shipping the various components for the customer to build. This change is in part due to the cloud concept, but more credit has to go to the advancements in technology, such as virtualisation and low latency networks. These newer, faster, more functional IT services are delivered incorporating the characteristics of cloud computing. Therefore, when we use the term “the cloud”, are we are intimating that the service that was delivered in house by your IT team, will now be delivered by a specialist technology company? Otherwise known as outsourcing.

However, businesses do create their own private clouds by purchasing outright the component pieces, building, and delivering the service back to their internal customers. Is this investment ownership model discounted from the term?

[easy-tweet tweet=”Attributing application specific benefits to the generic term of #cloud is disingenuous at best” user=”comparethecloud”]

Another interesting aspect about the use of “the cloud” is the benefits which are attributed to it. Some of the benefits are plainly due to the functionality of the application which was obviously created for the role it was deployed. The application is delivered as a service, however it’s not the cloud delivery model that gives the benefit. By attributing the application specific benefits to such a generic term is disingenuous at best.

If you are not in the IT industry, the term must seem vague. And if you use it in the same context as the internet then you must think “the cloud” is a single entity. Which it is not, yet we in the IT industry still use “the cloud” to refer to multiple, separate IT services that incorporate 3 different service models (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS), 3 different delivery models (Public, Private and Hybrid), that are available in a plethora of different commercial models. The only aspect in common are three characteristics.

The truth about adopting cloud computing is every business needs to research the market based on their requirements, and go through the appropriate levels of due diligence and planning. They need to consider all options to make the right choices for their businesses. Delivering an IT service is simply not a one size fits all discussion. There are a range of specialist products and service providers that now offer real choice, the new challenge is making sense of it all.

The truth about adopting cloud computing is every business needs to research the market based on their requirements

A simple life beckons for those running an end user IT organisation.  However, overplaying, “The cloud” doesn’t reflect the progress in the industry and work required to take advantage of it.