Enterprise IT Watch Blog

Oct 11 2010   8:21AM GMT

Cloudy about cloud terminology? We can help.

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

According to a 2009 study done by IBM of over 1,000 IT decision makers regarding perceptions of cloud computing, there is a significant inconsistency of terms associated with both internal and external clouds. How do we expect to have productive conversation if we’re all speaking different languages? Let us help.

General Cloud Terms

Private cloud: Consumer, provider and owner of the cloud are within the same enterprise. Don’t want to give up your data and security to an outside service provider? Consider virtualization and data center automation for a private cloud. More interesting than having a cloud to call your own is the possibility of creating a partner cloud, or as Eric Knorr calls it, “quasi-public clouds for partners…[that] may accelerate business-to-business e-commerce in unanticipated ways.” You don’t set up a lemonade stand to just drink it all yourself do you?

The main opposition to the private cloud is that it doesn’t exist. Skeptics argue that having to buy, build and manage your own system defeats the purpose of a cloud. Still, proponents for the private cloud praise the ability to monitor security and confidential data, as well as maintaining a “heterogeneous infrastructure,” according to the latest Novell study . Just as virtualization is considered a great stepping stone into the private cloud, at the very least, the private cloud introduces your infrastructure to the cloud, which can mean a smoother transition in the future.

Public cloud: The consumer and provider are in separate enterprises. Ownership of deliverable assets remain within the provider. Much of the concern surrounding public clouds have to do with security and compliance. If the data and hardware is out of your hands, who’s to say the security of that data and hardware isn’t as well? According to Research & Market’s survey from earlier this year and the over 500 developers they surveyed, Google is at the head of the pack for application setup, infrastructure and management in the public cloud. So it seems, until a standard is reached for cloud computing, companies are steering clear of unfamiliar names or entrusting mission-critical applications to the cloud.

Hybrid cloud: Any combination of providers and consumers, with multiple service layers. There it is, the middle ground, the peacekeeper, the Great Cloud Compromise. For those less comfortable with sending out all of their data and business processes into the cloud, there is the hybrid of private and public clouds. Janel Jarvin, CEO of Evans Data, told WebSphere Journal in an interview that “[m]ost developers expect to be in a hybrid situation going forward with respect to application deployment in the Cloud.” Just as using multiple forms of the cloud can benefit the enterprise, so can using multiple cloud and SaaS vendors. In Research & Market’s study, developers cited Google as the top dog for public clouds, and IBM as the go-to for private clouds. Avoiding vendor lock-in and remaining open to a unique infrastructure is vital to finding the perfect cocktail of services right for your enterprise.

A Little-Bit-Less-General Cloud Terms (after the jump)

One of the beauties of the cloud is its flexibility. For the commitment-phobe in all of us, it means making it to the river without throwing all of your chips onto the table. There are different levels of the cloud, involving different mixtures of people and projects, pegging full cloud adoption as a process rather than a one-time commitment.

Private Cloud

Integrating the use of a private cloud into the enterprise should begin with those familiar with the cloud and spread out as you become more familiar with how it fits with your business processes.

  • Exploratory cloud: This is dipping your toe into the cloud, so to speak. The workload is isolated and experimental.
  • Departmental cloud: This brings a few more people into the mix; the IT organization and cloud users are under the same management.
  • Enterprise cloud: Come on in; the water’s warm! The IT organization and cloud users are scattered throughout the enterprise, across internal boundaries.

Public Cloud

There are two distinct forms that the public cloud can take, depending on the goals and enterprises seeking the service.

  • Exclusive cloud: Provider and consumer have a one-on-one relationship. In this case, the consumer can be a group of consumers, such as residing under one umbrella group, but are familiar and involved with one another. These parties have a say in deciding what terms the cloud is provided and managed, meaning the possibility for high customization.
  • Open cloud: Provider and consumer have a one-to-many relationship. This form of the public cloud is less personalized than the exclusive cloud in that the terms of service are decided and communicated by the provider. The consumer is one of many consumers dealing with the cloud provider, and purchases their services usually through an automated and standardized process.

The Breakdown: [Insert Term]-as-a-Service

Other perks of the cloud computing craze are the a la carte services. Some enterprises rely on SaaS more than others, depending on their size, capabilities and budgets.

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service: IaaS is often used for servers, networking, storage, and data center provisioning.
  • Platform-as-a-Service: PaaS adds middleware to IaaS. Use for database software, development tools and application runtimes.
  • Software-as-a-Service: Adds applications to the PaaS mix. Use for everyday needs such as email, Web conferencing and collaboration, CRM, and ERP.
  • Business-Process-as-a-Service: This one mixes things up by changing the operator of industry applications. Hire a cloud, hire an operator. These business processes are usually standardized such as human resources, accounting or back-office processes.

Once you have your terms straight, you’re ready to broach the subject in your enterprise and to determine which level of cloud adoption you’re ready for.

Melanie Yarbrough is the assistant community editor at ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Follow her on Twitter or send her an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

Source: IBM Defining a framework for cloud adoption

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  • JanEnEm
    Nice summary! However I think some additional considerations are needed. At first: Considering using the cloud must be thoroughly based on proper strategies such as: What are my objectives, what are the benefits, what are the costs and what are the risks? Secondly: What type of cloud fits in my organization: Small to midsize companies will tend to go public. Large enterprise (and I mean really large) that did not go into outsourcing, will in almost all cases opt for the private cloud. Having the benefit of spreading and balancing resources around the globe. Jan Meijer
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