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Last week, working on a project I faced a seemingly simple  question:

“So, what exactly is a Cloud?”

I started with quoting Ian Foster that a distributed system incorporating virtualization and providing scalability, is a Cloud. To make things more in perspective I explained its typical attributes such as elasticity and then differentiated Cloud computing with cluster computing and grid computing.

After the meeting, I kept on thinking…. what exactly is a Cloud these days?

Can it be that clearly defined, or have we managed to cloud the exact meaning of Cloud terminologies by its massive overuse?

From VMware’s hypervisor based virtual infrastructure, to Hadoop running clusters; from Google’s Apps Engine to ready-to-use CRM applications; from Eucalyptus based enterprise computing to distributed analytics engines for supply chain management software… everything is seems to be marketed as a Cloud. The concept of “private clouds”  compounds the problem. Now it’s much easier to spin any on-premise technologies as Cloud.

And then ages-old technologies have been re-packaged by marketing teams and are sold as Cloud computing. For example, large data-centers, that have been in existence for the last decade, have been recently re-branded as Clouds . In many cases, only marketing brochures need to be reprinted with the new price structures and the company would be ready with their Cloud offering.

Gartner stated in 2011 that out of vendors who have briefed them on their Cloud computing strategy, very few actually managed to show how their strategies are really Cloud centric.

But this overuse of Cloud term is starting to have a clearing effect. As people and companies are becoming more familiar with Clouds, they digging down further. They are starting to ask what exactly in Clouds? I predict that due to its massive overuse, the term “Clouds” may lose their “coolness” factor. And people will start to use, terms named after the exact domain like Business Analytics, Social Analytics, Context Enriching Services, Virtualized offering, Pay-as-you-go computing, Compute Farms, Data Farms etc. instead of the large tent of all-encompassing term”Clouds”.

In terms of Gartner’s hypecyle, Cloud computing technologies are settling down in the trough of disillusionment, it seems. And its not bad news.


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