I live in something of an enigmatic world. I sit down at my laptop and immerse myself in the world of EC2, S3, AVPC, Azure, PaaS, IaaS, SaaS, API, AJAX and a million and one other acronyms and then I go home and converse with real people doing real things.

Sometimes it depresses me that in the tech industry we are so focused on the minutiae of what are, essentially quite ephemeral concepts, that we lose site of both the fact that these things are meant to be tools for the real world, and that we need to find a language to explain this stuff in terms that others can understand.

Case in point – Cloud Computing. Taking a step back from the details one can easily see that there are a bunch of concepts that are quite complex, disjointed and difficult to either explain or understand.

With that said, I was pleased the other day to read a post from James Valentine from Fronde. Fronde is a company that works in a number of areas – mobile, agile development, cloud implementation etc. Anyway, in a bid to clarify the term “Cloud Computing” to his non-technical or at least non-cloudy clients, James came up with a diagram to explain the cloud continuum as he sees it;


I like what James is trying to do here – it’s way simpler than the complex stack diagrams that we seem to see dragged out from time to time. James states that his rationale for creating the continuum was to;

avoid us getting hung up on specific definitions or labels for each area. It also reflects the fact that in the world of cloud computing providers can quickly add new features that expand their presence across the continuum.

Congratulations to James for thinking in a grass roots way, and I’d be keen (as I’m sure would he) to hear any feedback around this – let’s jointly find a way to articulate this crazy cloud thing we do.

I had a coffee the other day with Smina Vanlerberghe, Director and Principal Consultant of Memia, a cloud vendor doing a bunch of cool stuff: architecture, implementation, collaboration tools and the like. We were having a bit of a brainstorm about furthering “The Cloud” in our neck of the woods. The difficulties around that term are huge – putting aside the adoption issue just the definitional issues are problematic. Some people equate Cloud Computing with, for example cloud storage. To others it’s all about simple development platforms while to others it’s all about SaaS. Another bunch of people (and arguably the majority) consider Cloud Computing to be online collaboration tools and little more.

Of course the problem here is that they’re all right. Cloud Computing is a broad term covering many different things, trying to reduce it to any one aspect is doomed to failure.

Next months I’m presenting at the New Zealand Cloud Computing Summit, an event that may well see me drag out my dusty suit from the closet. I’m currently creating my presentation and rapidly realizing that really I’m talking about (at least) three things at once.

Perhaps the time has come to accept that Cloud Computing has finally “grown up” to the point where it’s constituent parts can stand on their own and no longer need an over arching title. What do you, the readers, think?

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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.

1 Comment
  • I'm not sure that I accept that SaaS is "more" cloudy than IaaS and in any case I think there is some benefit in being binary about this.

    The exception perhaps is running a traditional database driven app like Drupal or WordPress on cloud infrastructure like EC2 – then you're limited by the scalability of MySQL clustering etc. where with a cloud datastore like SimpleDB there's no real limit to scalability.


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