|By Esmeralda Swartz||
|November 18, 2013 05:18 AM EST||
It is hard to believe that there was a time when "the cloud" didn't exist. Then, maybe 50 years ago, a lot of cloud-like things started to happen, such as remote computing, networked computing, resource sharing, virtual networks, and then, eventually, the Internet. But it still wasn't the cloud. Large-scale virtualization of computing and increasingly powerful ways of managing and sharing that computing power resulted in the term "the cloud." Everything was up in the air for a while as various vendors tried to align their own ideas of what the cloud might be with other ideas, and to align their ideas with what was actually happening out there.
Now in 2013, the evolution of the cloud has really only just started. We don't know in precise detail how it will evolve. The community is debating and working to address concerns of security and regulation, while trying to remain compliant with all the administrations in the world, and experimenting to develop business models that make sense both for the potential users and those who provide the cloud services. It is now obvious that the cloud, however it all turns out, is going to offer plentiful opportunities for new services and new ways of doing business.
For me there are a small number of characteristics that make today's cloud different from the remote computing services of the past, and even different from the basic Internet itself. (And yes, my list is not quite the same as the authoritative list from NIST. Some things, such as access, elasticity and measurement are obviously important, but those needs and features pre-dated today's cloud concept.
- First, the cloud implies that everyone who needs some kind of computing power or functionality can choose from a planet-wide smorgasbord of applications, tools, platforms and infrastructure, without a whole lot of human beings getting in the way.
- Second, the cloud is a successful abstraction of almost all computing facilities: end users don't (necessarily) need to know how the underlying infrastructure works.
- Third, the cloud is not just a cloud of technology. It's a cloud of business models and opportunities and an open market for ideas.
However, this is easier to state than to build, and actually using it might not be as simple as we want it to be. For example, we might not need to know too much about the underlying structure, but making best use of the cloud services themselves requires a lot of non-trivial learning. It's great to have choices, but sometimes too many choices can be paralyzing. How can you choose the best? And more worryingly, how do you go about choosing the best value for your specific needs? Once you've chosen a set of cloud services, how do you make them work together and actually be useful for your specific business?
The challenges can be daunting, but it's early for the cloud, and it will take a while to reach perfection. The myriad fragments of applications, platforms and infrastructure out there are only just starting to coalesce into something a bit more organized. De facto and actual standards are starting to emerge, and a new generation of software and a new type of activity is developing to support this new business: cloud services brokerage. In Part 2, we'll introduce the potential for cloud service brokerage to transform cloud to cloud-as-we'd-like-it-to-be.
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