Friday, 17 June 2011

Clouds Brewing

I have had a problem with Private Cloud. But then again I get awfully confused about some people's use of the term, 'The Cloud' anyway.

I am a veteran of what was The Cloud, SaaS. The concept of having a software application residing outside the firewall and passing into the firewall from the internet via a port in the firewall. It meant that the central backbone of that application could be centrally served and stored while a 'thin client' of the application used on the PC.

It was a revolution in many respects. It meant you could scale far more easily, everybody have the same version, get updates automatically, maintenance done real time and the costing model be more innovative and representative of true ongoing cost to the business. It meant that a lot of compute power could be saved as no dedicated servers or storage were required, no data centre, no power or cooling or real estate issues to solve.

The buzz in the software industry just prior to The Cloud has been Virtualisation. The idea that expensive devices like servers and storage can be seen as a communal services to the organisation independent of their location has helped decrease costs and data centre issues. To my mind, this is pretty much Private Cloud. You can add in now, for arguments sake, that some of the communal services might be hosted off the main premises but they would be included within the firewall. To my mind, this is not really the concept of The Cloud and we are getting bastardisation of the terminology.

Also, The Cloud itself is suffering. Many are mixing in co-location of data centres or outsourced Managed Services as The Cloud or Private Cloud. Basically any situation where hardware resides off premise. To my mind again, this is just Virtualisation and outsourcing.

The Cloud, in the context of SMEs, is much more about having basic applications served from outside the firewall either by a vendor or a third party intermediary. The software is fully maintained and updated by the vendor directly - true SaaS.

Marc Benioff, CEO at, puts it best when he calls The Cloud passé. Once again, in order to bring the terminology back onto the turf of traditional application vendors, there is an attempt to make The Cloud something which describes pretty much status quo IT with a few nuances added in.

I think cost benefits will start to get hidden and nullified if this remains the case. The true issue for an SME is how to truly get their business applications served on a scalable basis from outside of their organisation for a single monthly cost so that they can get on and use their money to invest and grow their businesses.

If all they do is a bit of Virtualisation then they will not be embracing The Cloud cost model and they only slightly defer major spends.

The major difference will be if a company chose between running their SAP based CRM on servers hosted at a 'virtualised' data centre offsite versus running There is no one who can argue that you are comparing apples only. One is scalable independent of your business, the other isn't.

Welcome to the real Cloud.

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