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Does Cloud Computing Need a Shrink?

The Cloud Computing Identity Crisis

What if "The Cloud" visited a psychiatrist? Does Cloud and Cloud Computing need therapy? Are they suffering from split personality disorder? With so many people giving different definitions of what Cloud Computing is, no wonder The Cloud has an identity crisis. Be a fly on the wall and listen in to the Cloud's therapy session.

Scene: Office of Dr. Virgil I. Zation, a noted Silicon Valley Psychiatrist. Dr. Zation is having a therapy session with a new patient named Cloud.

Doctor: How can I help you, Mr. Cloud?

Cloud: You can drop the "Mr." and just call me "The Cloud."

Doctor: Ok, Cloud. What brings you to my office?

Cloud: Doctor, I think I'm in an identity crisis. I just don't seem to know who I am anymore. On the one hand, I'm "The Cloud." I've got a handle on that identity, but now people are talking about "Cloud Computing," and it's really confusing me, and worst of all, it's confusing them!

Doctor: Well, before we get to your identity, tell me a little bit about yourself.  What do you do?

Cloud: That's just the point Doctor. I don't know WHAT I do.  I've asked around and no one seems to agree on what I do or who I am. But I think I must be pretty famous, though.

Doctor: Thinking you're important sounds like delusions of grandeur.

Cloud:  No, really. I think I AM important; after all, I'm even in Wikipedia, but I don't totally understand what Wikipedia says about me. If they just call me "The Cloud," then I'm a metaphor for the Internet, but if they add "computing" to my name, then they say, "computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the Internet."  What the heck does that mean? I'm getting confused. And don't even get me started when people talk about Private, Public or Hybrid Clouds. OMG, am I a split personality?

Doctor: Let's not go there yet.  I think simpler is better when it comes to defining who we are.

Cloud: Yes! Especially for non-tech people. Like, with "The Cloud" definition, many people "get" the basic cloud metaphor. It's easy. I've even seen pictures of me drawn on engineers' scratch pads. Here, look at this one. I think I look elegant and simple.

Doctor: Of course. I've seen those drawings as well—easy to understand.

Cloud: I think I was pretty easy to understand then too, but now I feel like a split personality.  They've added "computing" to my name and that's messing up what could be a simple message and metaphor. If I'm "Cloud Computing," no one seems to agree on who I am or how to define me.  They don't know exactly what I do.

Doctor: Hmmmm. I see what you mean. Even the way some industry analysts define you is a bit obtuse.   Take for example, James Staten of Forrester.  He describes you as, "a pool of abstracted, highly scalable, and managed compute infrastructure capable of hosting end-customer applications and billed by consumption." Whew! So now you're a pool? I thought you were a cloud!

Cloud: I don't even know anymore: pool, cloud. It's all becoming Geek to me.  And then some people say cloud computing is, "Internet-based development and use of computer technology." So does that mean if a 5-year old makes a simple web site, is that ME? But it gets worse. Famous people make fun of me.

Doctor: What do you mean?

Cloud: Larry Ellison of Oracle says I'm gibberish and doesn't know what the hell I am.    

Doctor: I'm sure he didn't mean that….

Cloud: No, he did!  You don't know Larry!  But it gets even worse. Tim O'Reilly says I'm, "the movement of computing into the network of all connected devices."  Then Steve Ballmer says I'm, "outside the firewall; software specifically architected to be managed and propagated in a certain fashion." I'm the Internet…I'm moving…I'm connected…I'm propagating…I'm outside the firewall!   Does that mean I can catch on fire? I'm so confused! Who the heck am I?

Doctor: Well, I don't want to add to your confusion, but I heard that you are the "new SaaS."

Cloud: That's not very helpful or comforting when your own therapist says you're sassy.

Doctor: Sorry.  Let's take a different tactic.  Let's talk about your early upbringing.  Any issues with your mother?

Cloud: Well, I don't really know who my mother is. But I do have father issues, of sorts.  If I'm "The Cloud," then it's easy. Everybody knows that Al Gore invented me.

Doctor: Hmmm.  Not sure on that one.  Have you thought about demanding a paternity test?

Cloud: Not really, after all he is a Vice President. If he said it, it must be true. Funny, every year I send him an electronic Father's Day card, but he never writes back. But I also might have a stepfather of sorts. If I'm "Cloud Computing," then Professor Ramnath Chelappa at Emory University is the first academic who talked about me, and he said I was, "a computing paradigm where the boundaries of computing will be determined by economic rationale rather than technical limits."  But that only makes me more confused.

Doctor: Yes, I understand your confusion, especially when you look at what they said about you at Wharton's Big Business Technology conference in Philadelphia. I believe one academic said you were, "large data centers that can be dynamically provisioned, configured, and reconfigured to deliver services in a scalable manner."  Then another said, "A cloud is just a pool of flexible/on-demand 'resource,' a way of abstracting the underlying complexities of how things are executed or stored, provisioned." And, "a virtual server for application deployment by large/small companies."

Cloud: See! I don't even exist!  I'm virtual!  But am I SaaS? Am I data centers, the Internet, storage?  I'm getting dizzy and more confused.

Doctor:    I'm a bit confused by your identity as well. Here's a new tactic: you need to get away—get out and meet new people.

Cloud: But I am! That's part of my problem. I'm not just hanging around with wonks and geeks. I'm out there with small business owners, marketers, and consumers. And nobody knows who I am or what I do. They're so confused.  Some are even scared of me!  OMG! I'm scaring consumers! That is NEVER a good idea. I need a drink!

Doctor: No good ever comes from turning to alcohol!  Why not wait a bit?  I heard that The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is working on a formal cloud computing definition. Maybe that will give you some relief.

Cloud: I can't wait!  I feel like The Three Faces of Eve.  SAP says I'm one thing, IBM says another, HP, Microsoft, Oracle, SAS… my head is swimming!  I can't even say what I am. Someone from a Virtualization conference asked me for my 30-second elevator pitch and I failed! It took me two hours!!  I really do need a drink!

Doctor: OK, OK, don't unravel…it will affect applications.  Alcohol will dull your thinking, but how about some drugs?  I can prescribe Prozac to take the edge off.

Cloud: Are there any side effects? Will it affect my security or reliability or provisioning?

Doctor: Nope. Until you get a handle on your identity, I think this is just the thing to take the edge off The Cloud.

Cloud: OK, but only 5 MB.

Doctor: Don't you mean 5 mg?

Cloud: Oh...right. Thanks, Doc!

The Cloud leaves Doctor Virgil I. Zation's office still confused about his identity, but at least feeling a bit lighter and happier. As Dr. Zation reviews his notes, he starts to hyperventilate.

Doctor: OMG! What have I done? Here's a scary thought: the Cloud on Prozac!

More Stories By Loraine Antrim

Loraine Antrim is co-founder of Core Ideas Communication, a communications consulting agency focused on presentation development and media training for C-suite executives. Core Ideas enables executives to package and communicate relevant and compelling messages in their presentations and interviews. Loraine's expertise is killing butterflies. You know, butterflies: the feeling in your stomach before you have to present or speak in public. Loraine works with executives to create a powerful story, memorable messages and an authentic delivery style. Confidence kicks in, and butterflies scatter. Nice work killing butterflies! You can contact Loraine at: manager at coreideas.com

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