Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Is Cloud Computing Just Everything aaS?

As you may have read here before, defining "Cloud Computing" is a cottage industry. I'm not kidding about that; a new online magazine on Cloud Interoperability has, as its inaugural first article, definitions from twenty different people. Now I think I may see why.

This realization came in a discussion on the Google Cloud Interoperability Forum, in a thread discussing the recently published paper "Toward a Unified Ontology of Cloud Computing" by Lamia Yousef (UCSB), Maria Butrico and Dilma Da Silva (IBM Research) (here's the paper), discussed in John Willis' blog post. To this was added another more detailed ontology / taxonomy of Cloud Computing by Christopher Hoff in his blog, which has attracted enough comments to now be at version 1.3.

Here are the key figures from Yousef's presentation, and Hoff, in that order (I used the figure in Willis' blog):

When I look at these diagrams, I think there's something strange going on here. Nothing leaps out at me taxonomically / ontologically / structurally, in either of the two organizations, that causes either one of them to specifically describe a cloud.

They look like a generic ontology / taxonomy / structure / whatever attempting to cover all the conceivable contents of any IT shop, cloud or not.

Does "cloud" just mean you do such a generic description, and then at every useful point of entry, just add "aaS"? ("aaS" = "as a Service," as in: Software as a Service, Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, etc. ad nauseam.)

Maybe... that actually is what "cloud" means: *aaS.

I don't recall anybody trying to restrict what their cloud notions cover, in general -- everyone wants to be able to do it all. This means that the natural thing to do is try to define "it all," and then aaS it.

If the cloud community is unwilling or unable to accept any restrictions on what Cloud Computing may be or may do, and I can't imagine anything that conceivably enforce any such restrictions, I think that may be inevitable.

Anything-you-can-thing-of-aaS as a definition isn't very much help to anybody wanting to find out what all the Cloud Computing hype may actually mean, of course, whether it is or isn't the same as a Grid, etc.. I'm working up to a future post on that, but I have to find a particular philosophico-logical term first, though. (That search has nothing to do with "ontology," in case you were wondering. It's a name for a type of definition that comes out of Thomas Aquinas, I think.)

(P.S.: Yeah, still doing software / cloud postings. Gotta get some hardware in here.)


stu said...

As someone who used to work at a middleware vendor (and now is trying to do a 'cloud middleware' startup), I really do see Cloud Computing as a sort of "post-SOA backlash" within the IT industry. Not so much the platforms like Amazon, but more the world of hype, punditry and products that have emerged on top of that.

There was so much fuzz around the business benefits of SOA, or even Web architecture, that so few people understood, and this was hoped to spur a new wave of IT infrastructure investment. It did help to a degree, but not to the level that insiders hoped or expected (e.g. BEA still got acquired, it merely postponed that by ~3 years; TIBCO still is TIBCO; IBM is still IBM, not because of SOA but because of their install base.)

Folks in the IT industry got disillusioned, as with most technologists, they want to solve problems (and, unfortunately, not spend the time to think through what problems need solving). And so, people decided to apply what they've learned over 5+ years of Web services and SOA stuff into the realm of infrastructure and the data center -- a complex domain, certainly, but at least something concrete, that can demonstrate the power of the "aaS". ;-)

I have a feeling that this is especially reflective of the motivations of larger vendors betting on Cloud (e.g. Microsoft and IBM), looking to find ways to sell old products, and cross-sell last year's middleware, while they work on refreshing their system management pieces.

On that latter point, the other IT industry community involved here is the IT Systems and Config Management space, a never-ending treadmill of complex, hard to use, boring, but essential products, which suddenly has become sexy and crowded (who wudda thunk it). Culture clash, I'm sure, is imminent.

None of this really helps people understand what the hype is about, but it might shed light on the motivations of the supply-side.

Anonymous said...
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cloud storage said...

Currently I work for Dell. I had been waiting for a decent synopsis on cloud computing and so it was really great to find your article. I like yoyr way of expalanation. Thanks for sharing

The Geeks said...

hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)

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