Why is it cloud everything now?

< rant > I'm getting really annoyed at the use of "cloud" for everything these days. By far the most ridiculous has to be the Microsoft advertisements with the tag line "to the cloud". In the beginning cloud computing had a definition and a point. Now it has been bastardised to an extent that we should relegate it to marketing gibberish.


Cloud computing had a point at the start. It described utility computing and represented a move away from every company or consumer owing their own IT but rather being able to purchase it on demand like electricity or gas. This was made possible by increased commoditization and reduced cost of IT and by the ever increasing CPU clocks speeds and core numbers that could now be cut and diced by the power of virtualization. Cloud computing promised powerful IT resources made available cheaply to the masses when they needed it just like turning on a light bulb.

So why have we taken things that had perfectly fine descriptions and jooj it up with clouds? All this does is confuse any non technical people and make the term cloud or cloud computing meaningless. These are some of the more absurd examples:

Private cloud - this oxymoron has been a pet peeve of mine for a while. It seems to be used where corporations are too worried about security, regulation, loss of control etc to use the "public cloud". But practically it is a physical to virtual (P2V) project. Taking the physical servers they have in the data center and virtualizing them. The capabilities of the virtual platform then provides benefits such as on demand scaling, which means the infrastructure does not need to be sized for the peak capacity. Other benefits include improved resilience, with virtual machines able to automatically move from failing or overcrowded physical server to greener pastures. But this is simply virtualization which companies were doing well before the term "cloud" became trendy. While P2V provides benefits over physical infrastructure it delivers about as much of the true potential of cloud computing as building your own electricity plant. Regardless, there is absolutely no point in calling it a "private cloud".

A few organizations that band together and create "private cloud" or "community cloud" is a also comical. This is simply saying you don't trust controls such as logical access controls or encryption to protect your data from a lot of people but you do trust it to protect to protect it from a few people because these controls clearly max out at some magic number. Either way it is just confused cloud computing, no need for the private part.

As a service - as in we can host it for you "in the cloud". We used to call this an Application Service Provider (ASP) or simply outsourced IT, what was the need to add cloud to it? If the supplier is hosting the solution and meeting the customer's requirements (including legal, regulatory, security etc) does it really matter whether they use their own physical infrastructure, virtual infrastructure or cloud computing? There is absolutely no need to call this a cloud service.

Software as a Service (SaaS) - this used to be called having a website or a web application and in most cases what is described as SaaS is still exactly that. Even the most famous ones such as Salesforce.com or Google apps are just web applications. Why did it need to become Software as a Service?

To the cloud - the way Microsoft uses this term in their advertisements is just ludicrous and no doubt confuses many:
  • Family photo - shows a woman editing a part of a photo and uploading it to Facebook. How is this "to the cloud". Sure there are web based photo editing software and you can upload photos to Facebook but these are just web applications and yes they are on the Internet. Why does her computer have to flip over for that and what does Microsoft have to do with any of it?
  • Boxmas - shows a family sharing a video while having a video call. These are great uses of the Internet, they always have. You didn't need Windows live to do them, they have been available since the early days of MSN Messenger not to mention Skype. Why is it suddenly necessary to go "to the cloud"
  • Startup - shows a video conference and collaborative working. Again there have been web applications to do this for donkeys years. Google apps was probably one of the first to offer this capability but now with windows live it is suddenly "to the cloud" ?
Cloud security - why is every second talk and presentation at conferences on cloud security? We have all been here before, it is just a combination of supplier security, virtualization security and then just all the normal good practices: authentication, authorization, logging and monitoring, protection of sensitive data, configuration management, vulnerability management, etc. Is there really a need to go on about cloud security? Can't wait for the great mobile security bandwagon to overtake it for next years conferences.

< /rant >

Comic from the awesome Scot Adam Dilbert series. If you don't already you should get the daily cartoon and add his blog, which is more US economics these days than the Office, to your RSS reader.

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