Cloud - The Most Over-Hyped Term

by Markus Brinsa


In April 2012, the National Institute of Standards in Technology (NIST) published the 16th and final version of the document The Definition of Cloud Computing, which is fairly agreed upon within the industry.

Due to research firm Gartner, there is still a lot of cloud-washing or market confusion on exactly what the technology is.
Based on a Citrix survey, one third of the Americans believe that "the cloud" is related to the weather.

NIST Cloud Computing definition.

"Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
This cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models."

Cloud Deployment Models (NIST definition).

Private cloud.
The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a single organization comprising multiple consumers (e.g., business units). It may be owned, managed, and operated by the organization, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.

Community cloud.
The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for exclusive use by a specific community of consumers from organizations that have shared concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It may be owned, managed, and operated by one or more of the organizations in the community, a third party, or some combination of them, and it may exist on or off premises.

Public cloud.
The cloud infrastructure is provisioned for open use by the general public. It may be owned, managed, and operated by a business, academic, or government organization, or some combination of them. It exists on the premises of the cloud provider.

Hybrid cloud.
The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more distinct cloud infrastructures (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities, but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting for load balancing between clouds).

The hype around cloud computing has led to misconceptions about what private cloud is.

Cloud is not just virtualization
Just throwing a hypervisor on a server is not private cloud computing. While virtualization is a key component to cloud computing, it is not a cloud by itself. Virtualization technology allows organizations to pool and allocate resources, which are part of NIST's definition. But other qualities around self-service and the ability to scale those resources is needed for it to technically be considered a cloud environment. A private cloud - compared to public or hybrid clouds - refers specifically to resources used by a single organization, or when an organization's cloud-based resources are completely isolated.

Cloud is not just a money saver
One of the biggest misconceptions by IT organizations is that the cloud will save money. It can, but it does not inherently do so. Automation technology, an important part of a private cloud network, can be a significant investment for many IT organizations. The result can be the ability to reallocate resources more efficiently, and it may allow some organizations to reduce their overall capital expenditures for new hardware, which can save money. Gartner says the primary driving benefit of adopting a cloud model should not be a cost savings, instead it's around increased agility and dynamic scalability, which can improve speed to market.

Private cloud is not always on-premises
Many people associate private cloud with being in an organization's data center, whereas public cloud is from a third-party service provider. Many vendors will sell off-premise private clouds though, meaning the resources are dedicated to a single customer, with no multi-tenant, shared pooling of resources among various customers. Private cloud computing is defined by privacy, not location, ownership or management responsibility. Be careful of various security definitions from providers though. Some vendors may, for example, outsource their data center operations to a collocation facility, or could pool resources among customers but separate them using VPNs.

Private cloud isn't just in the infrastructure layer
Private cloud computing is often thought of as virtual infrastructure services. There are other private cloud deployments though, particularly on the software and platform layers and increasingly in many other forms.

It may not always be private
Private cloud is the natural first step toward a cloud network for many organizations. It provides access to the benefits of the cloud - agility, scalability, efficiency - without some of the security concerns, perceived or real, that come with utilizing the public cloud. As the cloud market continues to evolve, organizations will open to the idea of using public cloud resources. Service-level agreements and security precautions will mature and the impact of outages and downtime will be minimized. Eventually, the majority of private cloud deployments will become hybrid clouds, meaning they will leverage public cloud resources. Meaning your private cloud today, may be a hybrid cloud tomorrow. By starting with a private cloud, IT is positioning itself as the broker of all services for the enterprise, whether they are private, public, hybrid or traditional.

SaaS vs. Cloud Computing vs. Hosted
In order to understand the difference between SaaS and cloud computing – each with their own set of principles – they must be reduced to their simplest forms. In doing this it is possible to understand the difference as follows:

Software-as-a-Service refers primarily to the payment method of accessing software whereby a client pays a vendor an on-going monthly or yearly fee for access.

Cloud computing refers primarily to the physical location of the software system. With cloud computing the system is physically located off-premises and accessed via the “cloud” (internet).

Hosted refers to the fact that the software provider is responsible for the software and the hardware it is installed on (hosting).

These terms have, over time, come to be used interchangeably. SaaS is used to essentially refer to all three simultaneously. It will be used to describe a system whereby a client accesses the system off-premises via the internet and pays an on-going subscription (or rental) fee where the software provider is hosting the software and hardware.

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