Ten things I learned while writing Cloud Computing for Dummies

I haven’t written a blog post in quite a while. Yes, I feel bad about that but I think I have a good excuse. I have been hard at work (along with my colleagues Marcia Kaufman, Robin Bloor, and Fern Halper) on Cloud Computing for Dummies. I will admit that we underestimated the effort. We thought that since we had already written Service Oriented Architectures for Dummies — twice; and Service Management for Dummies that Cloud Computing would be relatively easy. It wasn’t. Over the past six months we have learned a lot about the cloud and where it is headed. I thought that rather than try to rewrite the entire book right here I would give you a sense of some of the important things that I have learned. I will hold myself to 10 so that I don’t go overboard!

1. The cloud is both old and new at the same time. It is build on the knowledge and experience of timesharing, Internet services, Application Service Providers, hosting, and managed services. So, it is an evolution, not a revolution.

2. There are lots of shades of gray with cloud segmentation. Yes, there are three buckets that we put clouds into: infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, and software as a service. Now, that’s nice and simple. However, it isn’t because all of these areas are starting to blurr into each other. And, it is even more complicated because there is also business process as a service. This is not a distinct market unto itself – rather it is an important component in the cloud in general.

3. Market leadership is in flux. Six months ago the market place for cloud was fairly easy to figure out. There were companies like Amazon and Google and an assortment of other pure play companies. That landscape is shifting as we speak. The big guns like IBM, HP, EMC, VMware, Microsoft, and others are running in. They would like to control the cloud. It is indeed a market where big players will have a strategic advantage.

4. The cloud is an economic and business model. Business management wants the data center to be easily scalable and predictable and affordable. As it becomes clear that IT is the business, the industrialization of the data center follows. The economics of the cloud are complicated because so many factors are important: the cost of power; the cost of space; the existing resources — hardware, software, and personnel (and the status of utilization). Determining the most economical approach is harder than it might appear.

5. The private cloud is real.  For a while there was a raging debate: is there such a thing as a private cloud? It has become clear to me that there is indeed a private cloud. A private cloud is the transformation of the data center into a modular, service oriented environment that makes the process of enabling users to safely procure infrastructure, platform and software services in a self-service manner.  This may not be a replacement for an entire data center – a private cloud might be a portion of the data center dedicated to certain business units or certain tasks.

6. The hybrid cloud is the future. The future of the cloud is a combination of private, traditional data centers, hosting, and public clouds. Of course, there will be companies that will only use public cloud services for everything but the majority of companies will have a combination of cloud services.

7. Managing the cloud is complicated. This is not just a problem for the vendors providing cloud services. Any company using cloud services needs to be able to monitor service levels across the services they use. This will only get more complicated over time.

8. Security is king in the cloud. Many of the customers we talked to are scared about the security implications of putting their valuable data into a public cloud. Is it safe? Will my data cross country boarders? How strong is the vendor? What if it goes out of business? This issue is causing many customers to either only consider a private cloud or to hold back. The vendors who succeed in the cloud will have to have a strong brand that customers will trust. Security will always be a concern but it will be addressed by smart vendors.

9. Interoperability between clouds is the next frontier. In these early days customers tend to buy one service at a time for a single purpose — Salesforce.com for CRM, some compute services from Amazon, etc. However, over time, customers will want to have more interoperability across these platforms. They will want to be able to move their data and their code from one enviornment to another. There is some forward movement in this area but it is early. There are few standards for the cloud and little agreement.

10. The cloud in a box. There is a lot of packaging going on out there and it comes in two forms. Companies are creating appliance based environments for managing virtual images. Other vendors (especially the big ones like HP and IBM) are packaging their cloud offerings with their hardware for companies that want Private clouds.

I have only scratched the surface of this emerging market. What makes it so interesting and so important is that it actually is the coalescing of computing. It incorporates everything from hardware, management software, service orientation, security, software development, information management,  the Internet, service managment, interoperability, and probably a dozen other components that I haven’t mentioned. It is truly the way we will achieve the industrialization of software.

  1. August 15, 2009 at 3:55 am

    Thanks for the recap. I look forward to reading the book.

    On #8, I agree that the vendors will do a better job with security going forward but the key to security lays squarely on the shoulders of the company deploying on the cloud. Now that applications and/or services are being deployed outside the corporate firewall, companies can no longer ignore good application security practices. Architects and developers need to start working much more closely with the security department and start building very robust application security into their applications/services. Those that look to the cloud as a way to outsource security will expose their company to major risks.

    • August 15, 2009 at 11:22 am

      I agree with you Mike! No one gets off the hook for security.

  2. August 17, 2009 at 2:52 am

    My colleagues at Intel IT wrote about our view to Cloud Computing and our strategy to adopt Cloud Computing in Intel. The maturity of service & support (#7 above) and security (#8) are part of the major considerations in the strategy. Right now, we are focusing on building out internal cloud by transforming existing traditional environment into a cloud environment. The next step will be to look at what services available on the internal cloud can be moved to an external cloud. Here is the strategy in detail: http://communities.intel.com/docs/DOC-2544.

    • August 18, 2009 at 1:41 am

      thanks for sharing!

  3. August 18, 2009 at 12:58 am

    Sounds like the book will be a worthwhile read.

    I’d love to see something similar from the perspective of the end user…. what does the evolution to SaaS and cloud computing mean to the way users interact with their applications and the internet? How does cloud computing and SaaS change usage models… what things will users be able to do, or are doing, that cannot be done (as well) without the cloud and services, etc… I’ve not seen good current examples of this yet…


    • August 18, 2009 at 1:40 am

      Joanna, You make an excellent point. I will try to write something on that topic for a future blog.

  4. August 28, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Seems like lots of things are called cloud these days. for someone not into clouds one doenst’even know what a cloud is as it seems to be a popular word for selling.

    Your 10 points are a good start to get an idea what cloud really is.

  5. September 7, 2009 at 9:45 am

    About interoperability: One of the centerpieces of the old grid stuff was a virtualization layer that abstracted away details of specific operating environments. The cloud movement so far seems to lack that. We still don’t have a common World Wide Web environment, so it’ll be a while before the various clouds interoperate. What we need is the kind of “disruptive” standard that HTTP and HTML represented: barely adequate as standards, but just right to allow some kind of standardization.

  6. bstnmelody
    September 15, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    So when is the book due out? I’d definitely like to read it!

    • September 15, 2009 at 7:35 pm

      The book will be out at the end of October.

  7. November 12, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Judith, I happened to be the guy sitting at the table next to you at Starbucks, oh, about 20 minutes ago. Love the internet — It took one search and one refined search to find you here. If you happen to be in the area and interested in coffee sometime, would enjoy talking business, cloud, technology, et cetera.

    And as much as I was trying to filter and not listen to the conversation going on next to me (you’ll see from my site why that was really, really hard to do), really liked what I couldn’t help overhearing.

    Congratulations on getting the book published!

  8. February 10, 2010 at 7:14 am

    A good practical guide with no vendor hype to obscure the issues!

    As the cloud market is moving so quickly do you have any plans for a follow up?

    • February 10, 2010 at 9:21 am

      Hi Graham! I am glad you liked to book. It is inevitable that there will be a second edition. Next time we will plan to have lots of case studes — similar to our approach with the second edition of Service Oriented Architectures for Dummies.

  1. September 1, 2009 at 8:28 pm

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