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Separating cloud computing from marketing hype and dealing with popular misconceptions April 30, 2012

Posted by daleklein in Cloud Computing.

I believe that the term “cloud computing” is over-hyped by marketers – like most new things that catch on and are rapidly growing.  It is not “the one” solution to all your needs but it is also doing something new and different in the way it has utilized its resources. So what I want to discuss is separating cloud computing from marketing hype and dealing with popular misconceptions.

First off we have to take a look at a definition of cloud computing.  In Wikipedia it says “The term cloud theoretically signifies abstraction of technology, resources and its location that are very vital in building integrated computing infrastructure (including networks, systems and applications). All Cloud computing models rely heavily on sharing of resources to achieve coherence and economies of scale similar to a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network”. [1]

In a paper by some authors from UC Berkeley they define it as follows: “Cloud Computing refers to both the applications delivered as services over the Internet and the hardware and systems software in the datacenters that provide those services. The services themselves have long been referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS). The datacenter hardware and software is what we will call a Cloud. When a Cloud is made available in a pay-as-you-go manner to the general public, we call it a Public Cloud; the service being sold is Utility Computing. We use the term Private Cloud to refer to internal datacenters of a business or other organization, not made available to the general public.”

The internet has had a profound effect on the way we do business allowing businesses to operate globally.  In addition, the rapid change in smartphones and tablet personal computers has created a highly mobile extension for users of the internet and opened up whole new market segment that can take advantage of the cloud services.  Today large data centers provide the hardware infrastructure, connected by the internet and the ability to allow access from anywhere on the planet and coupled with a slew of application possibilities.

If we look at marketing perceives and peddles as the cloud we find that the Cloud is presented as a collection of services that help an organizations internal marketing functions more efficient and cost effective without the cost, risk and complexity of a traditional marketing platform.  In a video by Sogeti, an IBM Business Partner, they talked about how they could help companies by assisting them with performance testing and even lower the costs of performance testing up to fifty percent.  The partnership provides hosting services on the cloud while providing the engine and the latest solutions for delivery. [3] Some of the key aspects highlighted in another video by an IBM research scientist are that the Cloud provides value by making businesses more efficient and give people new functions.  It also provides a fair playing field for everyone to compete and to cooperate.  It allows accessibility to more people while having more solutions and creativity available.  We already see a number of commercials talking about the Cloud that are targeting the masses by allowing them to access movies or personal photos or music regardless of their location. [4] Previously cloud services were targeting businesses with software as a service but this allows a whole market segment to utilize those massive data centers which represent the technological side of the cloud.

If we look at it from a technologist’s perspective they are evaluating it from a hardware perspective, with three aspects that are applied to Cloud Computing which distinguishes it from other computing.  The first is that there is a perceived illusion that there is an infinite amount of computing resources available on demand.  Therefore a Cloud Computing user does not need to plan too far ahead.  The second is the scalability factor available to Cloud users.  Cloud Computing users do not have large up-front commitments and can increase their hardware resources when there is an increase in their needs.  This is especially useful when there is little or no way to approximate your needs.  The third aspect is the ability to pay for your use of the computing resources on as-needed basis.  Consequently, this allows for the freeing up of computing resources when not in use rather than having dedicated resources sitting idle for long periods of time.

If we look at applications there are different levels of control depending on the service provider.  In Amazon EC2 the automatic scalability and failover are affected because the instance looks much like physical hardware and the user has a great deal of control over nearly the entire software stack.  Other providers such as Google AppEngine target traditional web applications exclusively and enforce a clean separation between a stateless computation tier and a state-full storage tier.  These are examples that cover opposite spectrums and are but a few that are available. [2]

The last thing I would like to discuss is to look at some of the benefits and concerns and threats that are part of this ever-growing segment of the computing world.  “Storing data locally in a data center has a number of limitations. Storage capacity and redundancy are limited by the server and drive space available in the data center. Increasing capacity to meet demand is costly and time-consuming. If demand falls off, the result is wasted capacity sitting idle.” [5]

“Leveraging cloud data storage addresses these issues and provides a scalable, reliable, cost-effective storage solution. Benefits vary from vendor to vendor and depend on the service level you negotiate, but here are some of the primary benefits of storing data in the cloud:” [5]

  • Scalability
  • Redundancy
  • Hardware Upgrades
  • Load Balancing
  • Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity
  • Cost

One area of concern that is still evolving comes from a legal perspective.  Copyright and privacy law issues arise on a regular basis where existing laws and legal precedence simply don’t make sense in the context of electronic media and Internet communications.  Businesses just need to be aware of what they put out there and realize there are some grey areas that are still trying to sort themselves out.  Another one of those areas is the loss of data stored in one of the third-party vendors due to an event or closing of operations.  Redundancy helps businesses stay available to their customers but never put all your eggs in one basket.

Another concern many people have is how safe is the cloud to use?  Due to its nature access may be easier in some ways which offer openings for malicious intent but at the same time it is being countered by a group of researchers known as the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA).  Their mission to aid in security is as follows:

“To aid both cloud customers and cloud providers, CSA developed “Security Guidance for Critical Areas in Cloud Computing”, initially released in April 2009, and revised in December 2009. This guidance has quickly become the industry standard catalogue of best practices to secure Cloud Computing, consistently lauded for its comprehensive approach to the problem, across 13 domains of concern. Numerous organizations around the world are incorporating the guidance to manage their cloud strategies. The guidance document can be downloaded at www.cloudsecurityalliance.org/guidance.” [5]

It definitely has advantages and provides everyday consumers and small businesses the opportunity to take advantage of technology in a cost effective means that they could not previously afford.  Our economy is global in nature and the cloud allows for a lot more players to be part of the game.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing

[2] Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing, M. Armbrust, et al, February 10, 2009

[3] IBM cloud solutions for midsize businesses, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oru9i9LBuZQ

[4] IBM Cloud Computing, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk5O67Xrflc

[5] Protect Your Customer’s Data in the Cloud, Zecurion-Treats Internal Threats



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