Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking and doing a lot of reading around what is going around in the Cloud Computing world. About a year back in my group we had started taking some baby steps in getting introduced to this concept and utilizing that to the possible extent in our product development activities. It just seems to me that over this one year organizations are turning over their head to grab a piece of this action. In my own surroundings, I can see many organizations who about a year back had been agnostic to Cloud – suddenly now are in the market claiming that their products are “cloud-enabled“.
In my personal opinion the whole industry is going crazy and the marketing guys are working 24 x 7 to see what kind of cream they can whip out of this milk. McKinsey and Company’s recent report claimed that Cloud Computing is at the peak of its hype cycle and even compared it with the .COM bubble in the early 2000. With the number of definitions of Cloud Computing which are floating around – it just provides an incentive for yet another Industry Expert to create and push forward another new one. The Public Cloud Vendors are cajoling organizations to open their doors and move their applications with them – whereas the Private Cloud Application Vendors are broadcasting that there is no need for that. Any new report/findings which comes out is getting slammed by those whose view points/interests do not match with it. Clearly an indication for the industry to take a deep breather. However, needless to say that my blog post is going to make an iota of difference in that.
In my opinion – Cloud Computing ecosystem should be classified in three discreet buckets ONLY for sake of maintaining simplicity and sanity as listed and defined below (note that I am trying to define these terms very loosely just for basic understanding purposes) –
- Infrastructure (Computing and Storage) = Utlilities which provide scalable and on-demand infrastructure required for Computing and Storage and provides it to the consumers in the form on non-intervening services. (Example – Amazon EC2, Amazon S3
- Application Platforms = Tools and Technologies together as a platform which enables seamless development (e.g. Google Apps, SalesForce, etc.) or management of applications that run on Cloud (e.g. Appistry, 3Tera, etc.) or use services that is provided from the Cloud (as mentioned in point 1 above) or both.
- Software as a Service = Software which are basically constructed and provided more from “usage” perspective. Some examples in this category are services like Gmail, SalesForce.com, etc. (Personally I confess that I am still not completely convinced about this category as I have seen many hosted applications simply claiming themselves as Cloud-enabled. IMO, this is the big ‘elephant’ in the room.)
I think the madness and confusion in the Cloud Computing world has started ever since product marketing has started blurring these three classifications. The attraction and urge for trying to say “me too” seems to have started feeding into this and have created a jungle of definitions and explanations. In my personal opinion, Cloud Computing does not have to be so complex for end-users to find their way around. However, this craze amongst various companies to jump on the bandwagon of “me too” yet “I am different” is making this simple and powerful topic hair-splitting.
In my discussions with my colleagues and friends – many a times the discussions associated with the unrealistic expectations built around Cloud have also come up. In my opinion (and as the Theory of Hype Cycle also says), Cloud Computing may not be able to escape that. However, the bigger concern in my mind is the mis-information and the lack of debate around the awareness of potential challenges (and the possible remedies) associated with Cloud. As an example – the lack of high speed, reliable, and distributed bandwidth can turn out to be a serious impediment in the potential adaption of Cloud.
Cloud Computing is a unique and powerful concept. It has helped in unleashing huge range of product and services and even has the potential of transforming the possibilities associated with existing products. In some sense, we just may have scratched the surface of its potential. However, I do hope that in the rush for getting a piece of the cake – industry also keeps a simplistic view on it.
[Update – October 1, 2009] – Three months after I wrote this blog, I am now getting a feel that the hype around Cloud Computing might be on its decline and now I am thinking that some real work using Cloud Computing may have started. Read more about it in my new blog post titled -“Beyond the hype – can some real work using Cloud Computing start now?“