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BLOG: Cloud computing – Why semantics matter

Andrew Milroy | Oct. 17, 2011
If people are to invest millions of dollars in new products and services, it is important that we share common definitions.

In earlier posts, I have written about how the term, private cloud, offers little value and is arguably a term that is used by legacy IT suppliers to exploit concerns about their customers migrating computing resources to the (public) cloud. Is the private cloud simply a data centre with lipstick? In other words, is it a virtualised data centre that has many of the characteristics of a (public) cloud?

Many people in the industry believe that arguing about public and private cloud definitions offers little value and fail to focus on the huge changes taking place in the way people implement, operate and use technology.

I disagree. If people are expected to invest millions of dollars in new products and services, it is important that we, in the industry, share common definitions. How can businesses plan when there is no clear understanding of the ways in which they are using technology? As an analyst, it is impossible to size a market if the definition of that market is not clear. So, to all those that say, stop arguing about semantics, I say, rubbish. We need to constantly challenge the marketing spin that comes out of our industry if we are to make sense of it. And step one requires clear definitions. I talked about definitions in previous posts and I made it clear that, in my view, there is only one type of cloud and that is what is commonly known as the public cloud.

What is the private cloud?

Most people in the IT industry understand what is meant by the public cloud and could instantly give you examples of suppliers of public cloud services. Few share a common understanding of the so-called private cloud.

This confusion inhibits our ability to focus on the real issues that organisations face today and how they can best ensure that on-premise technology meets their current and future needs, while increasingly using (public) cloud computing services.

Large companies typically have huge amounts of on-premise technologies in which they have invested huge amounts over the years. It often doesn't make sense to throw all of this technology out. Indeed, there are activities that are not suited to the (public) cloud. The reality is that many organisations wish to keep significant chunks of their technology on-premise for a whole host of reasons, some real and some imaginary.

For those IT resources that remain on-site, it makes perfect sense to invest in making that technology more efficient and effective. This may involve investing in fabric computing, some new development platforms such as Microsoft's Azure, virtualisation, and data centre optimisation. Rather than describing these investments as private clouds, why not just describe them as they are? There is a huge opportunity here for the large systems integrators and hardware suppliers as well as leading suppliers of infrastructure software.


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