Cloud computing doesn’t seem to have any great definition. Like the physical structures is is named for, it is amorphous, with no defined boundaries, and often, without a recognizable shape. There are even a whole host of different acronyms (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS), which attempt to provide some differentiation between the services being offered by “cloud vendors”.
However much of what the cloud does is act like an IT department for hire. They provide us with Virtual Machines we can configure as we like. They provide software services, much like Twitter, or even Google, provide for us. They may provide us a way to deploy some software we write, but ultimately this is nothing magic or new.
It’s hard to even compare the various services from different companies because we don’t really have a common framework of discussion. The “as”s give us a starting point, but when using the generic “cloud” term, it quickly becomes confusing.
To date, I haven’t seen much innovation in the cloud. The way the services are priced, packaged, and made available is different than in the past, but the technology is the same. And in many cases, the deployment of much of this technology on virtual machines makes me think of the mainframe days when we carved up the hardware on one large, monolithic machine into various compartments where different applications could be run, or different programs could be deployed.
The cloud isn’t a lot different, technically, but the way the services are offered to us is new, and the speed at which they can be built, used, and thrown away, is truly stunning.
The cloud is nothing new, but it can change the way in which make decisions about our investments, and it can change the timing of the IT investments that we choose to make.