CloudU Notebooks is a weekly blog series that explores topics from the CloudU certificate program in bite sized chunks, written by me, Ben Kepes, curator of CloudU. How-tos, interviews with industry giants and the occasional opinion piece are what you can expect to find. If that’s your cup of tea, you can subscribe here.

I’ve been a part of, or at least a witness to, a huge number of battles about what constitutes the “real cloud.” These battles seem to generally be fought on a Sunday afternoon U.S. time – that kind of suits me fine because it means the Monday mornings in my time zone have enough entertainment value to get me up and going.

Beyond the obvious entertainment value however is some pretty serious dogma that goes something like this:

  • The public cloud purist’s argument goes something along the lines that only the public cloud can deliver the scale that drives the economies of scale to really make a difference. They also argue that private cloud is just about traditional legacy vendors selling more tin and the software that goes with it isn’t sufficiently robust for real world needs.
  • The private cloud aficionados, on the other hand, say that the public cloud is a security nightmare with risks at every turn, it’s more expensive than traditional IT and that it simply isn’t reliable enough to be trusted

Obviously there are other nuances but this is the general thrust of the debate. As I say, it’s entertaining, but it’s ultimately damaging for those who are simply trying to articulate a value proposition that can deliver benefits for organizations.

Given this adversarial status quo, it was refreshing to open my RSS reader last Sunday and see an awesomely pragmatic post on GigaOm by Mark Thiele who, apart from being one of the thought leaders in the cloud, is also vice of data center tech at Switch Networks, the company that operates the seriously impressive SuperNAP in Las Vegas (if you ever get the opportunity be sure to take a tour there – amazing).

In his post, Thiele posited the concept of the “actual cloud.” He advises that when someone asks an organization what sort of cloud they’re using, the stock response should be “who cares?” Rather, people should be looking for achieving outcomes. As he points out:

When you’ve created a cloud oriented organizational model, then the technology that supports it is but an enabler. If you can solve the problem most effectively by cobbling something together yourself with all commodity and opensource then you should. However, if you can reach your objectives more quickly or cost effectively by buying a pre-packaged “cloud” offering or using a global public cloud service, then that’s where you should go.

Beyond fuel for the Sunday afternoon debate club, the technology you chose doesn’t really matter. What does matter is whether or not it’s delivering the speed, agility, efficiency and flexibility that your organization needs – and that’s where the actual cloud comes in.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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