Dale Vile, Open Reasoning

I had a link to a short video entitled ‘Cloud Computing in Plain English’ sent to me yesterday, which I thought provided an useful overview of utility computing and the role virtualisation plays in that context.

While I thought some other parts of the video were a bit confused, the thing that really struck me about it was the way in which the term ‘cloud computing’ was used to refer to the utility computing model only. Indeed, within the video, cloud was differentiated against Software as a Service (SaaS), which was positioned almost as being an old-hat way of doing things with some undesirable restrictions that ‘cloud’ overcomes.

I couldn’t help thinking of a similar ‘back to basics’ video from Salesforce.com that talks about cloud computing in reference to the SaaS and Platform as a Service (PaaS) models. The view expressed there is very similar to the messages heard from other SaaS/PaaS players and wannabes, from Google to the myriad of smaller application service providers that have sprung up in recent times.

So, we have two conflicting views here, and as the old Dire Straits lyric goes: “Two men say they’re Jesus; one of them must be wrong”.

It seems as if we are moving from a situation in which the term ‘cloud’ was so ill-defined that it could pretty much mean anything, to one in which certain factions are attempting to assume ownership and exclude definitions that don’t fit their requirements. Not sure if this is progress or just adding to the confusion.

While I personally detest the word ‘cloud’ in the IT context because it is so ambiguous and I am a bit of an obsessive about precision, I have grudgingly accepted it on the basis that it is not going away, and have learned to work with it. The only way to make sense of a lot of discussions in this space, however, is to begin each conversation or review by establishing which flavour of cloud is actually being talked about.

In order to facilitate this, the Freeform Dynamics team analysed all the things that cloud could potentially mean and came up with quite a few categories that we now use as a starting point for interaction. These cloud categories are explained here if you are interested, and as you’ll see, we take quite an inclusive approach, regarding cloud as an umbrella term (if you’ll forgive the pun), which breaks out into multiple offerings from vendors and service providers, some of which are very different.

With this in mind, it’ll be interesting to see where all this ends up at an industry level. I guess it will either come down to who has the deepest pockets to promote their definition of cloud from a marketing perspective, or the industry actually cooperating to unravel the tangled mess of terminology, ideas and ideologies that exists out there at the moment.

In the meantime, it’s important to be on your guard and be careful about making assumptions on the language you encounter when on the receiving end of marketing messages, media coverage and analyst advice.

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