Thursday, March 25, 2010

From one viewpoint, the Cloud is everywhere

I had been drawing distinctions in my mind between the Cloud, SaaS, ASP, and VOIP. I had in some cases easily drawn lines between them, but in the case of Cloud and SaaS the distinction was vague although coalescing into flexible technical components on one side and prebuilt solutions on the other. Yesterday I attended an event called 'Mostly Sunny with Clouds Rolling In" at Caturano and Company, a large regional consulting firm based in Boston. Typical of New Englanders to find some way to talk about the weather, some might joke. Actually, they avoided the weather, but instead linked the Cloud to virtually every technical advance mankind has made since the industrial revolution (I'm not joking, we even considered the analogy of the spread of centralized electricity generation - Edison would probably claim the Cloud as his, if he could).

I don't follow the personalities behind the Cloud closely enough to know if there were any new or original ideas thrown out in the Caturano presentation, but I do know that the event left a few of the audience none the wiser what Cloud Computing really was, or how a consulting firm would capitalize on it. Why? To Caturano, the Cloud is everything: every end-user service that is delivered over the network. To hark back to the days of innovation at Sun Microsystems, long before Oracle even considered hardware might fit in their plans, 'the network is everything'. So, the Caturano presenters reeled off names, from CRM and sales automation with Salesforce, through marketing automation with Marketo and HubSpot, into online financial packages (Caturano has its roots as an accounting firm), onto Gmail, Google Apps and even Skype for voice and video conferencing. To Caturano, if its a service, and you don't have to install it 'on premise', its Cloud. It follows the words of Larry Ellison, from this quote I found on Wikipedia:
Larry Ellison has stated that cloud computing has been defined as "everything that we currently do" and that it will have no effect except to "change the wording on some of our ads"[85][86]
So, what about the Cloud as I thought I knew it? That technical, elastic, set of resources that can make the development and growth of applications and solutions easier and faster? There was a quick mention of the development platform, which was quickly lumped into an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) bucket alongside Rackspace. Basically, anything that wasn't prebuilt solutions ended up there. Although for me, interestingly absent was Amazon. The core capabilities that have made so many recent Web2.0 apps possible (or at least cost effective) wasn't mentioned. There is nothing prebuilt about Amazon EC2 I suppose - and storage is not interesting to a consulting firm. Even one of the presenters when discussing that if he was avoid buying in-house storage, would go and see if EMC had an online offering. I have no idea if they do, but to me Amazon was an obvious omission. Maybe there was a mandate to only talk about east coast firms wherever possible.

So, when targeted at business people who are looking for cost savings and flexibility, it seems that everything that is networked is Cloud. I need to start more broadly scattering the word around my website - its got to draw some more traffic, even if it is from confused developers everywhere looking for the next big thing to complement their new application development project.

In all seriousness, the Caturano event was probably pitched right for the financial guys that potentially attend other Caturano events, but I think that the Cloud title only did what my new website marketing would do: it drew a bunch of people with some interest in learning about the Cloud, and they left wondering what all the fuss was about, although after enjoying a glass of wine or two.

A post from the Improving It blog

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