The National Institute for Standards in Technology has a definition of what cloud computing is that's fairly agreed upon within the industry. But research firm Gartner says there's still a lot of cloud-washing, or market confusion on exactly what the technology is. Today, the firm released a list of five things the cloud is not.
First, let's focus on what the cloud is. NIST defines cloud computing as having five characteristics: on demand self-service; broad network access; resource pooling; rapid elasticity or expansion and measured service.
Adoption of cloud services is being driven by the "rapid penetration of virtualization" in the enterprise and as a way for enterprises to more efficiently deliver IT services, says Gartner analyst Tom Bittman. But with the hype has come a muddled definition. Bittman has simple advice for the potentially confused IT buyer. "IT organizations need to be careful to avoid the hype, and, instead, should focus on a private cloud computing effort that makes the most business sense," he says. Here are some of the top misconceptions Bittman says he sees in the industry:
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. But 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-premise
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," Bittman says. 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. Investigate the details of your off-premise cloud offering, he advises.
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