Cloud has become a four letter word.
Frequently when we meet someone and mention “cloud” computing, I see their teeth grit. “I had a horrible experience with the cloud” they say. After a few more questions, it becomes obvious that what they were involved in was not “cloud” at all, but rather something they were told was cloud.
Let’s say that you had never eaten steak before (apologies to the vegans, but it’s just to make a point). I told you that I was an absolute expert in steak, a true connoisseur, and I would hook you up. We meet up and I am taking you to the best steak place in town. As we pull up, it is obvious that I know what I am talking about, you can tell just by the name of the restaurant… “Steak ‘n Shake”. Don’t get me wrong, I like a Steak ‘n Shake “Steakburger” every now and then, but to compare that piece of meat to a bone-in ribeye… well, let’s just say it is not the same. Not the same at all.
The word cloud has been applied to just about everything in technology these days. According to Wikipedia:
[message type=”simple”] Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a metered service over a network (typically the Internet).[/message]
Who is to say what is, or isn’t cloud? All I can speak to is our definition, which is similar to the above. I think the biggest differentiation is “Where is your data?”. Is it down the street at some local hosting company? Or is it somewhere safe and solid. Our “Cloud Services” are one of two places; on Salesforce.com or Microsoft. Huge data centers, with global redundancy, run by the biggest operators on the planet. I know I feel better. The issues of data safety and security are not a concern for me, how about you?
Let’s just take an easy example to illustrate the cloud confusion: Hosted Exchange. Given the complexity and cost of on-premise Exchange, it is not surprising that a lot of companies have looked at the hosted option. What a lot of people hear from are local, or even national companies offering Hosted Exchange as a service. Basically, they have installed Exchange on their servers and they manage it, instead of you. This is all well and good if the company you contract with is a big operation, with appropriate controls and backups in place. But for every big operator with the right setup, there are hundreds of fly-by-night operators running cobbled together systems in their garages. In the world of website marketing, you cannot tell who is a big operator from the fly-by-nighters by looking at their website, the internet is the great equalizer in that way. Hosted Exchange is basically a Software as a Service Cloud offering. What many people do not know is that Microsoft recently started offering Hosted Exchange directly via their Office 365 product. I have a feeling this has a lot of the other guys more than a little worried. I mean, who would you feel more comfortable with, a third-party hoster, of any size… or Microsoft, the people who created it?
Microsoft is one of many global technology companies to embrace the cloud delivery model, it is their primary focus right now. Along with Salesforce.com and Oracle, SaaS is the fastest growing technology today. Yes. if I were a third-party hoster, I would be nervous too.
As businesses move over to “Cloud” solutions backed by these global operators, with flawless operation at massive cost savings, I expect “Cloud” to move off the dirty word list.