Cloud comes in many forms. The main types of Cloud are ‘stratus’, ‘cumulus’, ‘cirrus’ and ‘nimbus’. They don’t look much like each other, but they are all Clouds. The same is true of Cloud computing. No two Clouds look much like each other – the services are often very different, (and sometimes tenuous), but they all adopt the same moniker. Over the past few years the name ‘Cloud’ has been adopted by everyone from large scale providers of platforms such as AWS, to large SaaS vendors such as Salesforce.com to cable manufacturers, (‘carrying the Cloud’), and switch manufacturers, (‘powering the Cloud’).
In fact, the real truth is that the term ‘Cloud’ has really meant whatever the marketing department wanted it to be. It carried very little meaning because it was such a generic term. One might consider this ‘stratus’ … very wide spread and creating a bit of a fog to cover what is underneath.
The industry is evolving however, and customers are beginning to see around the hype of the marketing department claims. Obvious tenuous claims such as those from the cable manufacturer or the switch manufacturer are filtered out by customers as exactly what they are … marketing hype. These might be described as the ‘cirrus’ versions of Cloud … wispy and thin with no real substance.
the ‘cirrus’ versions of Cloud … wispy and thin with no real substance
So, what of other forms of Cloud? There are, of course, those that claim to have ‘Cloud’ offerings that are merely different terms for existing services. For example, an operator offering ‘Cloud’ services when really all that they offer is a managed service, but they think ‘Cloud’ makes it more on trend, or those that offer ‘Cloud’ services for nothing more than one form of hosted environment or another.
There are so many of these that they are difficult to identify, the simple test as to whether these services are true ‘Cloud’ or not is to test whether they are an ‘on demand’ service. True ‘Cloud’ computing is ‘on demand’ computing, i.e. you can turn it on when you want to and off when you don’t. Those that don’t offer true ‘on demand’ services are not offering true ‘Cloud’. One might refer to these as the nimbus ‘Clouds’ … full of promise but rather unpredictable – be careful what you choose, you might just get wet!
the nimbus ‘Clouds’ … full of promise but rather unpredictable
What about those, then, that do offer true ‘on demand’ Cloud environments? What about AWS or Azure or Softlayer, or what about Salesforce.com or maybe Dropbox? These are, by any measure, true Cloud environments. They are ‘IaaS’, (infrastructure as a service), ‘PaaS’, (Platform as a Service), or ‘SaaS’, (Software as a Service). There is, however, a bit of a problem. They are also huge! Try configuring a server on AWS, for example, it would be less complex to design the ISS!
There are so many variations on a theme, but ultimately there is equally no flexibility. You get what they want you to have and you have no choice. This isn’t to pick on AWS, the same is true of pretty much all of the giants. Try being an SME customer of someone like Salesforce.com and asking them for variation to your licence – you would have more chance negotiating with Kim Jong-Un. These large Cloud providers are great, but they are rather like the good old ‘cumulus’ – flat at the bottom and all billowy at the top. Great if what you want is at the bottom but impossible to get to speak to anyone at the top!
the good old ‘cumulus’ – flat at the bottom and all billowy at the top
There is one final category of Cloud that we haven’t mentioned. This is a sort of hybrid, (not to be confused with ‘Hybrid Cloud’ in compute terms), that is a combination of what is good from the big Cloud providers, but with the flexibility and agility that many customers are looking for. One might refer to these as the ‘altocumulus’ – smaller clouds that form at low altitude and have many shades in their layers.
the ‘altocumulus’ – smaller clouds that form at low altitude and have many shades in their layers
There are a number of these smaller Cloud providers coming up to challenge the huge providers. These providers offer similar on demand computing to the likes of AWS or Azure, but they have much greater agility, lower pricing and more localised offerings, (which suit those concerned about data security in the Cloud). Watch out for Ormuco, Carenza, IaaS365 and MigSolv – AltoCumulus are the Clouds of the future!