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Archive for October 2008

A Tale of Two Clouds

Think that the hype around Cloud computing might generate some kind of consensus? Think again. Reading blogs and listening to enterprises and vendors have led me to the following conclusion: The term cloud computing has come to mean two apparently very different things:

1.    The ‘cloud’ as an internet/web/saas originated idea, with credit largely given to Eric Schmidt for the term. It is a global class phenomenon and is a high level concept that includes much. The focus is more on ‘cloud’ than ‘computing’.  Gartner’s definition ( “a style of computing where massively scalable IT-enabled capabilities are delivered ‘as a service’ to external customers using Internet technologies.” ) is along these lines.  Frank Gillette at Forrester defines it similarly: http://www.forrester.com/Research/Document/Excerpt/0,7211,45073,00.html

2.    An application of technologies including virtualization and automation which focus more on the “computing” than on the “cloud” aspect with emphasis being placed on the technologies that enable the creation and delivery of service-based capabilities. This is a more narrow view that also applies more to traditional enterprise approaches. GigaOM disagrees with Forrester and subscribes to the virtualization view: http://gigaom.com/2008/09/05/forrester-defines-the-cloud-but-we-beg-to-differ/.  At Gartner, we don’t consider these technologies and offerings to be “cloud computing” in its entirety. Many vendors and media subscribe to this limited view of cloud computing, which relates to cloud system infrastructure only.


As usual, when a term can have multiple meanings, confusion abounds.  The problems become most evident when discussing ‘internal clouds’.  Does this term mean the application of cloud (eg global class) characteristics internally? Or does it mean virtualization and its evolution?  These arguments can lead to some much testier disagreements http://groups.google.com/group/cloud-computing/browse_thread/thread/42b3784a39af2707/5b2f42537b17b1fd?pli=1 than the relatively tame disagreement by GigaOM.

There is some connection between the two perspectives.  The connection is that virtualization (of some sort, not necessarily virtual machines) is a way to implement the underlying infrastructure in the cloud.

Both views are valid. A key to getting through the confusion is to recognize when the term is being used to mean a broad concept and when is being used to mean a more focused system infrastructure view.

Cloud and virtualization are not the same as my colleague Tom Bittman writes http://blogs.gartner.com/thomas_bittman/2008/09/22/virtualization-30/.  While virtualization doesn’t mean you have a cloud, it doesn’t mean you don’t have one either.  Other factors, such as whether a services model is employed is more important.

What do you think?

Stay tuned for more. Something tells me we haven’t heard the last of this…

Stay tuned for more. Something tells me we haven’t heard the last of this…

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