This week has seen the second hosting of the Cloud Computing World Forum at Olympia in London. Three days of conference, workshops and exhibitions focused entirely on the emerging Cloud industry. I attended yesterday and learned a lot, validating my own ideas of what Cloud is, and what it isn’t and where the opportunity lies for business owners.
As with any new technology there is a huge amount of hype – “Cloud is going to change the way the human race functions” (no-one actually said that). When you consider that perhaps less than 5% of businesses have actually deployed a Cloud solution it could be said that a three day expo is a bit over the top for the current demand, but the organisers had an impressive line of up speakers – not just vendors like Microsoft, SAP, and Salesforce touting their Cloud credentials, but Enterprise customers like the Telegraph Media Group happy to explain how they have got ahead of the pack and migrated much of their non-core infrastructure to the Cloud.
There seemed to be a lot of attendees, certainly compared to other technology love-ins I’ve been to recently. I was unsure who they were though – I don’t believe they were business owners. Perhaps some CIO’s for larger companies, or traditional vendors trying to understand what the competition is and how to leverage this new market.
Before I dive into my the title subject, let me list the main nomenclature used yesterday and within the Cloud Industry
Public Cloud – This is what I call True Cloud – a multi-tenant, hosted service such as Google Apps, Salesforce.com or Facebook.
Private Cloud – This is where a large Enterprise, or their outsourcer hosts their specific virtualised servers in a secure datacentre.
Hybrid Cloud – This is where a Private Cloud is extended to leverage Public Cloud resources – perhaps a database hosted on Amazon Web Services.
Community Cloud – This is where multiple organisations in a similar industry use a single cloud – such as the G-Cloud touted by the UK Government.
SaaS – This is a Cloud application for use by end users such as Google Apps or Salesforce.com
PaaS – This is a Cloud Platform for ISV’s to develop SaaS applications on such as Google Apps Marketplace or Force.com
IaaS- This is raw computing power, either servers in a datacentre, or from a Public Cloud such as Amazon Web Services.
One thing that struck me was the heavy focus on Private Cloud. With every presentation about Private Cloud I sit through, and every SI, or Outsourcer that pushes their own version of Private Cloud – is it just me that wants to stand up and scream: “You’re just talking about virtualised hosting!”
Am I missing something? You take a bunch of servers, host them in your or their datacentre, virtualise them, and run your applications on them. As specific applications need more or less you spread the resources around.
You might have heard the phrase “Cloudwashing” which refers to technology vendors taking traditional on-premise applications, hosting them in the internet and slapping the term ‘Cloud’ on it. Hosting companies have been hosting for decades. They called it….hosting. Now because of a bit of VM-Ware or Hyper-V they call it Private Cloud and the enterprise market goes weak at the knees.
The Emperor’s new clothes if you ask me. ”The benefits of Cloud with the security of your own infrastructure.” I don’t buy it.
Cloud for me is Public Cloud – and requires three things:
Someone else hosts it – i.e. nothing on your own network
Multi-Tenant/Single Instance – you cannot point to a box and say “that is my server.” Every client globally runs the same instance of the software.
Rental model – no Capital investment to tie you in.
It is only with these three tenets that you get the massive scale and cost reductions that the Cloud can truly provide – the key one being the second point – multi-tenant/single instance. By having millions of users on your single instance you spread your development and infrastructure costs across a much wider base. Now I’m not saying that ‘Private Cloud’ (Virtualised Hosting) doesn’t have it’s place – it absolutely does. Large Enterprise has specific niche applications that are not available on the Public Cloud, or at this stage the security credentials of the providers do not match their specific requirements. There will always be some applications that you wish to keep on your own network.
But don’t hijack the Cloud buzzword because it makes vendors feel better. Private Cloud = Hosting. Infrastructure as a Service = Hosting. True Cloud is Public Cloud and SaaS. PaaS creeps into True Cloud once a SaaS application has been developed on it. Perhaps Private Cloud allows individuals that don’t really buy in to the Cloud concept to tell their CEO that they are ‘in the Cloud’ whilst actually carrying on exactly as they have done in the past.
As a business owner you will have to do a lot of due diligence to work out exactly what it is you are or are not getting. The word Cloud has now become so diluted as to have little real relevance to your decision making.
I am ready to stand corrected on my assessment of Private Cloud. Have I missed something fundamental?
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