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Cloud Computing Defined

Originally, Cloud Computing was a vague term for a very vague and distant future in which computing would occur

Early Bird Savings at Cloud Expo

(September 12, 2008) - Originally, Cloud Computing was a vague term for a very vague and distant future in which computing would occur in a few remote locations without the need for very much human intervention. Infinite computing resources would be available for any need at costs approaching zero. Certainly, users would not need to know or care about how the computers, their software, or the network functioned.

In the real world, physical computing progressed differently. We cycled between periods when computing was more centralized (and seemed more remote and less accessible to users) and other periods when computing was right on user desktops. No one was ever satisfied. Centralized computing failed to give users enough control and was too inflexible. Distributed computing made every user his own system administrator and was very inefficient.

In the last few years, as the cost of a unit of computing power has continued to decrease - but the cost of humans with the skills to implement and manage computer systems has not - the vision of centralized computing has returned. It has taken several turns. Some computer scientists have suggested (and experimented with) a vast grid of computers, attached via the Internet, whose power can be combined for large-scale tasks when needed. In some cases, very large computing systems can be part of these grids for specialized tasks. Others have suggested a computing utility that would provide just as much computing power as an organization needed, on an on-demand basis, much like electricity. Eventually, as large web users such as Google and Amazon built out enormous data centers for their own purposes, they realized that they could permit others to access these "clouds" of computing power at relatively attractive prices. The Cloud computing era began.

Today, many companies are putting together very large data centers, sometimes as extensions of their own needs, sometimes just for customers to use. Originally the idea was that these clouds of computing would offer processing power and storage. Anything else would be added by the customer. As the idea became more popular, additional function has been added. Some clouds also offer systems management. Others are actually providing a set of applications as part of the cloud.

We could be grammarians and complain that applications are not supposed to be part of the cloud's vocabulary, but the market will sort this out. For now, most buyers think that cloud computing means compute resources on-demand, perhaps including applications, delivered over the Internet.

This is an excerpt from Amy Wohl’s soon to be published book Succeeding at SaaS: Computing in the Cloud. You will find other comments on cloud computing on her SaaS weblog at http://amys.typepad.com/amy_wohls_opinions_on_saa/ (Copyright Amy Wohl, 2008, all rights reserved).

More Stories By Amy Wohl

Amy is a computer industry analyst who specializes in the commercialization of new technology. She has been observing, writing about, and commenting on the information technology industry for more than 30 years.

Her current specialties her SaaS, Cloud Computing, SOA, and the commercialization of new technologies. Her clients are software companies whom she assists with projects in new technologies, new concepts, and new products. She writes for both her clients and her own blogs and books.

In 2008, Mrs. Wohl published a book on SaaS and Cloud Computing.

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