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Cloud Computing: What It Is and What It Can Do for You

March 10, 2010
Steve Baca


The definition of cloud computing depends largely on whether you are a consumer or producer. The public cloud is geared more for the individual consumer or small company, while the private cloud is geared more for a medium-to-large company. In addition, the private cloud is branching out to incorporate the ability to have some data and applications serviced from the public cloud. This white paper examines the different types of cloud computing and shows what cloud computing can offer you.



Cloud computing is one of the latest computer and business industry buzz words. It joins the ranks of virtualization, grid computing, and clustering, among others, in the IT industry. The problem is that, depending on your point of view, the definition of cloud computing can be quite different. Depending on your perspective, you could look at it from a business point of view or an application point of view, as well as others. This has created confusion on the definition and a fuzzy view as to what cloud computing is or even does.

The term cloud computing is overused and ill-defined, which has led many IT professionals and management to make assumptions as to what cloud computing does and how their companies can best utilize it. The IT Industry is not making it easier for their customers by offering many different definitions and products that only create confusion. This confusion is what the IT vendors are utilizing to create many different products and call them "cloud products." Examples of this behavior can be seen by watching television ads that are being broadcast to everyone, not just IT professionals and management. One large IT company defines cloud computing in a way that only a person with a PhD. in linguistics and computer science could understand, but the ad tells you they are making a simple definition, and if you do not understand their definition then call up their professional services to "help" your company take advantage of cloud computing. This ad, as well as other marketing, makes the idea so complex that no one understands it, and this only makes cloud computing more of a "riddle wrapped in an enigma."

The cloud is a great marketing term, with lots of hype behind it. This white paper will define cloud computing using a commonly accepted definition to get past the hype. Then we will discuss the different types of cloud computing, which also have added to the confusion as to what cloud computing is and does. We will end with ideas on how you can begin to implement the cloud in your environment.

The term cloud, which is a familiar computer cliché that every computer networking professional has used as the "public internet" in a network design at one time or another, is a great place to start. The internet cloud is drawn into the network design as the part of the network that is not controlled by the company. It represents the unknown path to send data or information between the company and the customer.

For the IT professional, this is a well-understood concept and has been an acceptable practice for many years. In addition, the internet cloud design has been shown to management over the years, and they also have a comfort level with the design and the concept. Now IT professionals do have a common knowledge of the internet cloud; however, if you combine cloud with computing, the definition becomes fuzzy, and there is no single acceptable meaning. If the concept comes up in a meeting, it begins to remind you of the story of the Emperor who has no clothes. No one wants to admit that they do not know exactly what cloud computing is, and this is why, many years ago, the industry developed Request For Comments (RFC). The RFCs were designed to standardize computer concepts. By standardizing, computers and the Internet were able to grow quickly, because companies had to abide by the RFC. This standardization made it easy for the producer and the consumer to avoid confusion on what was being produced and consumed. However, there are no RFCs for cloud computing, and this creates confusion as to what should or must be done to implement it. Without standardization, the producer and consumer are left to write their own rules and make their own definitions.

Definition of Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing can be broadly defined as several different methods to deliver information or services to customers who pay for what they use. Thus, it is a new mechanism to deliver products from a producer to a consumer. Of course, what has not changed is that we have a consumer who wants or needs to utilize information. Who is the customer? Well, the customer can be an external person or company who is paying for a service or information. The customer could also be an internal customer, such as the application owner who is using services that another department within the same company is offering, who is being charged for consumption.

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