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Tag Archives: Clouds


Cloud computing is said to be a funny business. The term itself is sometimes derided by technical professionals as nothing more than a marketing term used to sell recycled technologies in a brand new package. So, to what extend Cloud computing is actually a marketing gambit and what is truly innovative about it?

To analyze the innovation in Cloud computing, lets analyze SaaS, PaaS and SaaS separately.

To be honest, the idea of SaaS isn’t actually new, but the term SaaS is. SaaS simply refers to software that is provided on-demand for use. To some extend, IaaS isn’t conceptually new either. People have been collocating in data centers since data centers have been around. Also, virtualized software infrastructures are in use for years now. Although in SaaS and IaaS, there is continuous innovation in hypervisors, scalability, elasticity, integration, load-balancing and dealing with multi-tenancy issues, but, lets face it.. a real skeptical critic may still label them as old wine in a new bottle.

What about PaaS?  Unlike IaaS and SaaS, PaaS is a much more abstract concept. PaaS providers offer a platform for others to use. Usually what is being provided is part operating system and part middleware. A proper PaaS provider takes care of everything needed to run some specific language or technology stack. Each PaaS offers a solution suitable for a particular environment and in most cases, it’s a totally new approach to decade old problems.

PaaS is a bright promising star on the horizons of Clouds, whose “innovation factor” cannot be easily challenged. This is the real disruptive technology part of the Cloud stack that Gartner analysts refer so often.

These days many PaaS providers are providing multi-tenant solutions. This means that not only is the physical hardware shared among multiple virtual machines but the virtual machines themselves may have several different applications from several different customers on them. Not long time ago, with PaaS used to be synonymous with three things; Google App Engine, VMware’s Cloud Foundry/vFabric and Microsoft’s Windows Azure. Now a whole bunch of companies are providing their new PaaS offering to provide solutions in various domains.

Following are the three examples.

1) Alcatel-Lucent’s CloudBand

Like many telcos, Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) found itself lagging behind in the Cloud computing race. In 2011, ALU had to get serious about their Cloud strategy and needed to offer something different and innovative. Recently they provided the roadmap of their Cloud infrastructure named as CloudBand and PaaS is the counter-stone of that. ALU is always proud on its SAM-portal technology which is a graphic portal that can be used to provision services for their routers.  This is something that is not offered by competitors like Cisco. ALU has extended this router provisioning services through a set of PaaS tools provided under CloudBand offering.  The use of PaaS in CloudBand would provide a much more powerful, flexible and extendable solution for the user. It is one of the real innovative ways of using the power of PaaS.

2) Uhuru

Uhuru is a PaaS technology that targets a specific segment of developer community. It targets those developers who have to use .NET, but do not want to take the “official” solution offered by Windows Azure. Uhuru’s product provides native Microsoft .NET extensions to the VMware Cloud Foundry. By using Uhuru together with Cloud Foundry Windows, .NET developers are free to select the most appropriate cloud service from among the many competing providers. Private and public clouds are also both supported with Uhuru .NET Services for Cloud Foundry.

3) AppScale

AppScale is an open-source PaaS technology which implements a number of popular APIs including those of Google App Engine, MapReduce (via Hadoop), MPI and others. AppScale executes as a guest virtual machine (guestVM) over any virtualization layer that can host an Ubuntu Lucid image.

There are many other companies using PaaS in new innovative ways offering flexibility, power and extendibility that never existed before. But, keep in mind that the dynamics of Cloud computing are changing all the time. Rapid innovation causes the lines between IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS to blur, sometimes significantly. Nonetheless, the promise of PaaS seems to be real and has already started to materialize.

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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.