I hear it again and again:
“My data resides in the cloud.”
“I got rid of my servers and I’m using the cloud to do all my computing.”
“If we start using the cloud, will I have to build another data center?”
A couple years ago, I started keeping an eye out for the cloud, but in all that time, I have yet to see it. Yet, over and over again, I hear people talking about it. Don’t get me wrong, when I look for it, I do see clouds, just not the cloud.
It’s human nature to try to simplify complex topics as much as possible, particularly when we try to communicate with one another. As long as we all know what we’re talking about and can keep things straight from the context, it all works out and nobody gets hurt.
Most of the time, the cloud isn’t really a problem. If you say something like, “All my email is done with GMail, in the cloud,” people know what you mean. Even something a little more vague like, “I’m doing my data backup in the cloud,” works most of the time.
The problem comes when people talk about the the cloud in the abstract, trying to assign properties or definitions to it. People start to ask questions like, “What is the cloud?” or “Is the cloud secure?” Then people all argue and disagree for a couple hours, with nothing productive really coming of the exercise. Yea, sure, people make insightful comments like, “Well, the cloud comes in different types: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS,” but statements like that seem to add more complexity sometimes than they do clarity.
In my opinion, asking something like “Is the cloud secure?” is about like asking “What does soda pop taste like and what color is it?” The reality is, there is no such thing as the cloud, only different pools of resources that we call clouds, any one of which may or may not be secure enough for your specific workloads and purposes. Even if you limit your thinking to a single kind of cloud, IaaS for instance, there is no the cloud there. Clouds like Amazon EC2, Terremark, or an internal private VMware cloud act very differently. Clouds are not homogenous and they all play by slightly different rules.
The true reality is that most enterprises will use a federation of different clouds, internal and external, public and private, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. Some will be high performance. Others will be low latency. Some will be highly secure. Others will be easily accessible. Like a master winemaker creating the perfect blended Meritage from multiple varietals, the skillful enterprise will create the perfect cloud environment from multiple underlying clouds.
So, let’s be careful when we talk about the cloud. Much of the time, there won’t be a problem, but when somebody starts to ask vague questions that demand vague answers, don’t hesitate to stop and clarify things. “Which cloud, exactly, are you asking about?” is a fine way to cut through the, er…, fog and make things more concrete.
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