Defining the Cloud

It’s no wonder cloud computing has some people a bit foggy.  If you do a small amount of research, you’ll find a plethora of definitions for it.

  • James Staten at Forrester – "A cloud is a pool of highly scalable, abstracted infrastructure that hosts your application, and is billed by consumption."
  • GartnerA style of computing in which massively scalable
    IT-related capabilities are provided "as a service" using Internet
    technologies to multiple external customers.
  • WikipediaCloud computing is Internet-based ("cloud") development and use of computer technology ("computing").
  • Stallman"It’s stupidity. It’s worse than stupidity."
  • Ellison –  "It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane."

Forrester’s definition is the most elegant to me, though it might be limiting for the future. Gartner’s definition might prevent the presupposition of private clouds (which I’ll talk about in later entries).

Ellison had very interesting timing with his statements, having announced in the same month cloud computing initiatives with both Intel and Amazon.  One point on which we both agree?  There is a certain amount of "cloud-washing" (credit Forrester) going on right now, with companies taking their already packaged apps and remarketing them to include "cloud" in the name.  I think this is what he might have been trying to say, though James Staten’s explanation was much more articulate.

Stallman’s comments, if taken out of context, put him at risk to go down in history with that guy who said that no one would ever use a computer in their home.  Who was that guy?  Not memorable, but his quote surely was.  I have to Google it.  (Pause.)  Here’s the quote: 

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” ~ Ken Olson, President, Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977. 


People in visible positions talking about cloud computing in uneducated ways reminds me of Senator Ted Stevens trying to explain how the Internet works (back in 2006).

"I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10
o’clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why ?
Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet
commercially… They want to deliver vast amounts of information over
the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump
something on. It’s not a truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you
don’t understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when
you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by
anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous
amounts of material."

Unlike that quote, I believe the value proposition of the cloud is clear.  It is the ability to automatically scale up and scale down on someone else’s IT infrastructure.  The promise is in the utility – pay only by consumption.  Cloud computing is breaking down the digital divide by ensuring every company, no matter how tiny, can grow quickly and scale massively without having to pay one cent for their own IT infrastructure.

Stallman’s arguments include insisting that we all keep our information in our own hands, rather than hand it over to a third party.  That’s like telling me that I should put my money in my mattress. 

Actually, that might have been good advice for the last six months… 

However, in general, I’ve been outsourcing my information for years.  I use the Internet and Web based applications for free (ex:  Google, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter).  In return, I share information about myself.

A better example is my one-to-one relationship with service providers.  I share information with every utility and every outsource provider who provides me a service for a fee –  whether it’s the electric company, the phone company, my cell phone company, the lawn guys, my bank or my dry cleaner.  Maybe I was paranoid at one time about beginning a relationship with one or all of these companies.  I don’t remember.  I only know that I’ve evolved.

What’s the ROI of paranoia anyway?  Zero for me.  It’s simply not valuable enough for me to reduce the quality of my life.  And, I don’t think it’s worth reducing a promising startup’s potential to utilize cloud computing in its intelligent no-infrastructure business model.


Author: Ynema Mangum

Ynema Mangum is an experienced, data-driven principal product manager of mission-critical composable infrastructure at HP Enterprise. Constantly curious, her passions draw her to emerging technologies. She joined HP 6 years ago as a solutions architect for private IT cloud computing. She then served as owner of the enterprise social collaboration domain at HP, responsible for its future direction. Prior to her current position, she was a senior product manager for the massive HP ConvergedSystem 900 for SAP HANA. At SUN, she was a product line manager for cloud computing, responsible for the requirements for common subsystems of the Sun Cloud, as well as user personas, industry analysis, and competitive research. Her product experience also includes building web based database management systems at BMC Software targeted at Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Sybase, DB2 and DB2 UDB. Y provides an invaluable hybrid mix of strategist, architect, product manager and product marketer with an unbendable passion for the user experience. Her entrepreneurial experience allows her to understand business as a whole and drives her to make decisions and execute quickly. As an added bonus, she is certified in ITIL v3 best practices for IT and Pragmatic Product Management. Ynema is a change agent. She considers herself a determined influencer and a connector whose collaborative nature ensures success in introducing new concepts and services into the mainstream -- even in the most complex environments. She thrives on doing what seems to be impossible, and enjoys taking calculated risks in her personal life -- snowboarding, skiing, SCUBA diving or wake boarding when the season is right.

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