VMworld 2010: The Cloud is Everywhere

I had a dream last night. In this dream, I was a man out of work standing on the corner in San Francisco. I was holding up a sign that said, “What is Cloud Computing?”

There is a lot of confusion on what “The Cloud” is and some people are calling things “The Cloud ” that are not the cloud. In this blog post, I am going to try really hard to demystify “The Cloud.”

To understand “The Cloud”, you have to think of pizza. It’s Monday night football and a bunch of your buddies are coming over. You want food quickly. You do not want to prepare the dough, spread the sauce, add the cheese, pepperoni and cook the pizza. You simply pick up your phone and dial a number. You place an order and your pizza is delivered.

In this scenario, the phone is the web portal and inside this portal are applications. On your pizza you may have picked extra cheese, pepperoni, onions, peppers and/or anchovies. On the portal, you may want Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Skype, and/or Google Chrome or Firefox. Instead of having to cook the pizza yourself or install Microsoft Office, Google Chrome, Firefox and Skype, you just choose your selections and they are delivered to you desktop much like picking your pizza and toppings are delivered to your home.

Let’s take this a step further now. Where I live, there are roughly a dozen pizza providers. They all offer different types of services. One pizza provider may specialize in Sicilian pizza while another pizza provider may specialize in pizza delivered fast. A third might offer very inexpensive pizza but edible.

In the IT world, there are many cloud providers popping up that want to offer you services. Examples include iLand, Amazon, Azure, Skytap and cloud providers supporting VMware. All of these providers want a piece of your business. They want you to dial them for service.

Just as pizzas come with different toppings and flavors, cloud providers do the same. You have the following flavors:

Software as a Service (SaaS)

This type of service provides hosted applications via a web portal or browser.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

This type of service provides a platform to deploy applications. It doesn’t care about hardware of software layers. Basically it is a service where developers can write web apps or “On demand” apps.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

This type of service allows you to expand your Data Center to the cloud via virtual machines. An example is using Amazon EC2  Elastic Compute Cloud to spin up a virtual machine to the cloud with a specific OS environment. A scenario may include that you are SaaS company with a specific product. In your data center, you currently have deployed 45 web servers that are hardware load balanced. Several times throughout the day you have bottlenecks but you don’t want to purchase more expensive equipment which in turn may have to increase AC and other operational costs. What if you could during high periods of stress on your web servers, spin up web servers in the cloud to handle the extra load. All you pay for is the cycle and CPU time and then the virtual web servers destroy themselves when the stressed load period ends. Using the cloud,you can build a dynamic data center. Simply defined, IaaS is a model where you as an organization outsources equipment used to support your operation such as servers or storage. They are responsible for maintaining the equipment and you typically pay on a per CPU use basis.

The point I am trying to make is that you can use “The Cloud” to your advantage. I am so excited about this change in the IT world as are the top vendors. They see how big this is going to be and don’t want to let this opportunity pass. Why in the world would you spend thousands and thousand of dollars on equipment and licensing when you can simply run your Data Center in “The Cloud.” Take the burden of hardware, bandwidth and man power out of the equation by leveraging technologies that handle this for you cheaper and more effectively.

Over the next few months, I am going to begin to write about these cloud services and what they offer. Let’s use the comments forum to ask questions and get dialogue started. As we take this journey, we can demystify “The Cloud” together.


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