For something that is attracting boatloads of attention, lots of curiosity, some level of skepticism, but plenty of filled seats in various seminars, Cloud Computing still seems like a pretty mysterious thing. But maybe it’s really in use more than we think, and for many of us, we can actually claim to be participants without having consciously moved towards the cloud.

Adding to the confusion and complexity are all the different acronyms – PaaS , IaaS, SaaS, LMNOP, WXYZ. They all mean something, but are we really sure what? See the Glossary at the bottom if you’re curious. In my very humble opinion, Cloud Computing means that some form of the computing “stuff” one uses is stored and maintained somewhere out of one’s direct control and ownership. That includes networking and other infrastructure, hardware and/or applications. For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that scalability is handled by the third party, and that Security and SLA’s are covered adequately as well (and I freely admit that this omitting a sizeable discussion). Let’s review some Cloud Computing examples covering large and small projects, plus some that are commonly used in our personal lives.

  1. Using hosting providers or ISP’s
    • Includes offsite hosting of internal apps (example: small application development companies who host their apps at an ISP)
    • Akamai– image/cache hosting for faster web delivery
  2. On-line Applications like Google Docs, Gmail & Zoho
  3. Small, specialized apps hosted in the cloud like Zoho Creator, CRM and Invoice
  4. Google Spreadsheets for personal use
  5. Dropbox
  6. Carbonite
  7. Mozy
  8. A third party technician scheduling app pulls sales and customer data from a database to determine which type of technician to dispatch, which parts to stock and to determine efficient trip routing
  9. Utilization of a third party company to distribute electronic payments
  10. Sending product sales data to third party fulfillment company
  11. Amazon (web services and database hosting)
  12. IBM (outsourcing of infrastructure – becoming more common)
  13. Salesforce.com (web-based applications and platforms)
  14. Microsoft’s new Azure product
  15. Online Backup Vendors – this type of service should almost be mandatory for home computer, digital camera and iTunes users.
  16. Partnerships and Integration with third party apps or companies.
  17. Other easily recognized companies and heavy hitters in the Cloud Computing arena

Glossary:

Iaas: Infrastructure as a Service – The most complete solution, this includes both computing power and storage on which to applications can be hosted. Examples of this would include outsourcing of one’s data center.

SaaS: Software as a service – involves utilizing applications hosted in the cloud such as Google Docs or Salesforce.com

PaaS: Platform as a Service – this is defined as providing the tools and environment within the cloud on which to build applications, which run within the constraints and capabilities of the vendor. Examples include Salesforce.com’s Force.com product and Microsoft’s Azure.