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What is the Cloud?

What’s Cloud Computing?

With all IT industry analysts predicting everyone will be using “cloud computing” by 2020, I think its amazing that so few people really understand what it is.

I was contacted today (Feb 2012) by someone trying to sell me space at an industry event, and they provided these stats of questions and answers to IT professionals (IT Managers, IT Directors, CIO’s & CTO’s):

Q. What do you understand about cloud computing

A. 37% of IT professionals could not clearly define the term

Source: Cloud computing: step by step, Computing, in association with EMC

Q. Do you understand the term “Infrastructure as a Service”?

A. The term Infrastructure as a Service is not properly understood by 40% of IT professionals

Source: Is your server room holding back your business?, Computing, in association with Star

Q. Do you know the difference between Public & Private Cloud computing

A. The difference between the private and public clouds is not understood by 38% of IT Professionals

Source: Cloud computing: step by step, Computing, in association with EMC

Now we all know that stats are often nonsense but if 10 people read this blog I bet the numbers stack up somewhere near these.

Cloud Computing is NOT a hosted services

I wonder how many readers are surprised by that statement.

All industry marketing and in my experience the general conception of most people is that cloud computing is the delivery of IT over the internet.

This is wrong, hosted services provide the delivery of IT over the internet, it’s just that some providers may choose to do this using cloud computing.

Cloud Computing is NOT virtualisation

Another misconception is that cloud computing is virtualisation. Our marketing friends at VMware are responsible for this.

Virtualisation is often used in a cloud computing environment because it adds resilience and uses compute resource and storage more efficiently.

Cloud Computing is software that supersedes virtualisation

The problem with virtualisation is its incredibly complex. Although it has added resilience and performance efficiency to older style physical only environments it is really designed to benefit the IT department and infrastructure in general.

What cloud computing software is doing is bridging the gap between the IT department and the users who use IT.

Cloud Computing is automation

The concept is that technology processes are better carried out by technology than humans. Under control of its human master a cloud computing orchestration software will carry out tasks previously requiring human intervention automatically (with controls set by technicians). For example:

Adding a new user – In the corporate environment if we get new staff we need to add them to various systems so they can do their job, cloud software will do this automatically based on a set of rules laid out in workflows.

Utilization of hardware – Possibly instigated by needing to add a new user but not limited to, cloud software will automatically allocate additional compute resources and storage to an application from an entire stack of hardware & hypervisor platforms.

Building new servers – I like the marketing department example, if marketing want to build a new website for a campaign they would normally request this from IT. IT then checks capacities and current workload and build the server. With cloud this is instigated by the department directly and the cloud software provisions the server automatically.

Maintenance tasks – Automatic scripts move virtual machines to available hardware hosts, then patch firmware then move the servers back. Or, the cloud software takes copies of an application server, update the application in test/dev environment and when successful moves test/dev in to production.

These are just some examples of the tasks that can be automated; those of you who work on systems day to day will no doubt have a task you carry out that could be automated by software.

Time, money and demand.

As a young(ish) users of IT I can’t believe it takes my IT department so long to create me a new user or server. I can get a new twitter account in around 30 seconds and a new web server in a couple of hours from 1on1 internet.

Why when I request this internally does it take so long?

Today’s users are becoming increasingly frustrated with the traditional processes in corporate IT effecting their working life in ways they just wouldn’t accept in their personal lives.

Cloud Computing is a modernisation of IT for the user inside the corporate, bringing the expectations of users in the public domain inside the corporate domain.

To run an enterprise environment to the standards that the current user demands without automation would be expensive requiring round the clock interaction by highly skilled technicians and huge farms of servers and technology. Therefore cloud computing reduces costs significantly in organisations who rely on technology to drive their businesses forward.


Cloud computing is unfortunately in a massive fog of marketing while all the big companies try to get on the bandwagon. However in the recent months adoption of both hosted services that use cloud computing and internal cloud computing software has actually increased significantly and as it is understood this will only rise.

Guest Blogger: Terry Pullin from is on the front lines selling data centres and cloud platforms to medium and enterprise customers, Terry blogs from knowledge gained over a 15 year period of selling/solutioning IT services.




















1 Comment

  1. July 19, 2012    

    Wow! I have finally found a clear answer, thank you 🙂

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