“Cloud” is probably the most misused word in man’s history. If you have to believe commercials and relate product presentations “Cloud” is something that cleans your house, does the dishes and lets you watch television at night. Some more “down-to-earth” communications talk about “Cloud” as an on-demand market place for compute and storage resources. Although the latter is probably closer to the true definition of “Cloud”, all this scattered communication makes it very difficult for one to make up his mind. Recently also one of the biggest Cloud authorities, David Linthicum, found it necessary to clear the mudded waters in his personal blog.
Messaging from IT giants like Western Digital or Lacie does indeed not contribute to a clear and unambiguous definition of “Cloud”. You probably did see the Western Digital “Personal Cloud” or the Lacie “CloudBox”. And just maybe, you even have one of these devices sitting on your desk.
Storage companies in general and companies like Western Digital or Lacie in particular have embraced the term “Cloud” already a while ago and ranked the term pretty high in their internal marketing vocabularies. Many storage companies have brought similar products to market that let you set up your own storage cloud at home with access to files using your home network or over the Internet, even when you’re away.
So that is Cloud?
An external hard-disk sitting on your desk, accessible over the Internet. That’s the cloud, right?
As much as these products tend to make you believe that you just bought your own personal Cloud, these products are just network-attached storage (NAS) devices, not cloud storage. Of course the word “just” is not 100% appropriate as these “personal Clouds” are actually very handy, calling them “clouds” is a bridge too far. That is probably due to Marketing who always has a very loose view on reality and tends to creates its own reality in order to generate some demand. And most of the time this not-so-correct-representation wins from the 100%accuracy.
Of course, the word “cloud” has been so misused in the last years that it’s beginning to lose its true meaning. Indeed, the application of the term “cloud” to pretty much everything is adding to the confusion, mostly for those who don’t yet understand what a cloud is. And surprisingly there are still a bunch of us who do not yet see clear.
Cloud computing is about the ability to share compute, storage, applications, databases, middleware, and so on, using platforms that can share physical resources between many users (aka tenants). In a more simple approach you could say that Cloud Computing is a world in which you use somebody else’s software running somebody else’s computers using somebody else’s storage in somebody else’s datacenter.
What’s more, true clouds typically use auto- and self-provisioning, auto-scaling, and on-demand provisioning and de-provisioning of any number of resources. Cloud orchestration so to speak.
These features will typically no be available on the hard disk you just installed on your desk.
What about Private Clouds, you say? With Private Clouds you are not sharing with other tenants and you are not using somebody else’s recourses. If these are considered as Cloud as well than why can simple NAS storage not be considered a cloud? You are obviously free to call your NAS a Cloud, but again private clouds should have similar characteristics as public clouds. Some do, most don’t. The disk on your desk certainly does not.
All of the above contribute to the devaluation of the definition of “Cloud”. Unfortunately this trend will only become stronger with the buzz of Cloud getting louder.