Cloud Computing: It's the destination, not the journey that is important

How the cloud acts and is used is more important than where it physically resides

Cloud computing and SOA suffer from the same lack of prescriptive architectures. They are defined by how they act rather than what they are, or from what they are composed. They are, in a way, existential technology that cannot be confined to a simple architectural diagram but require instead a set of properties or ways of acting in order to be recognized. To over simplify and paraphrase Jean-Paul Sartre's concepts of existentialism, we define ourselves (mankind) through our actions. To apply this to technology is a fairly easy thing: some technology is defined through what it does rather than what it is.

Cloud computing is nothing but the way in which an infrastructure deploys and delivers applications. 

That will surely irritate cloud purists as much as the impure use of object-oriented principles used to annoy me when I was first developing applications. But with age and experience comes wisdom, and the hind-sight to see that there are many roads which lead to the same end. Unlike many philosophical theories, with technology it often is the destination and not the journey that is important.

Definition of Cloud ComputingThe First Principle of Existentialism

"Gartner defines cloud computing (hereafter referred to as "cloud") as a style of computing where massively scalable IT-related functions and information are provided as a service across the Internet, potentially to multiple external customers, where the consumers of the services need only care about what the service does for them, not how it is implemented. Cloud is not an architecture, a platform, a tool, an infrastructure, a Web site or a vendor. It is a style of computing. Many architectures can be used to support its implementation and use. For example, it is possible to use cloud in private enterprises to build private clouds, but there is only one public cloud based on the Internet."

SOURCE: GARTNER RESEARCH     ID: G00157908     28 MAY 2008

Man is nothing but what he makes of himself.


The First Principle of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing is nothing but the way in which an infrastructure deploys and delivers applications.    

Many pundits argue that the "cloud" in "cloud computing" is the Internet, and only the Internet. But it's telling that almost every application architecture diagram offered up uses the same "cloud" 'to represent the network, whether it's internal or external to the organization. That "cloud" represents abstraction, obfuscation, and is meant to show that there is a network responsible for delivering the applications depicted, it's just too complex (or sensitive) to be depicted in a diagram or, as is more often the case, the folks responsible for application infrastructure aren't concerned about the network infrastructure supporting the applications. Which brings us back full circle to the definition of cloud computing, which includes a lack of concern regarding the implementation details of how applications get delivered.

As Gartner has posited, the cloud is not an architecture, a platform, a tool, or an infrastructure. It's not a web site, it's not a vendor. "It is a style of computing." It is a deployment model, much in the same way SOA is a style of computing; it is a deployment model and not a prescriptive architecture. It defines itself by how it acts, not what it is. If it is used to deliver applications in a way that is transparent, that does not require the end-user to understand (or concern themselves with) the underlying infrastructure - application and network - then it likely fits under the moniker "cloud computing".

If the same principles used by vendors like Amazon, BlueLock, Joyent, and Microsoft are used by organizations to implement a dynamic, scalable on-demand application and network infrastructure, does it really matter where that infrastructure physically resides? If Microsoft deploys an application in its own cloud, in its data center, and then makes use of that cloud for internal organizational applications, is it still cloud computing?

Yes, of course it is. So why should it matter if an enterprise does the same thing? It's still cloud computing based on how the infrastructure acts and what it delivers, not where it is or who uses it. What's important is what the cloud infrastructure does. Scalability, transparency, supporting an on-demand computing model. That's what cloud computing is, whether it's implemented as SaaS (Software as a Service) or as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) or using automated virtualization solutions within the data center. As long as the infrastructure you build out is capable of providing the benefits of cloud computing: efficiency, scalability, and agility, you're doing cloud computing.

That sounds a lot easier than is, because you have to scale while being efficient, and you have to be agile without sacrificing scalability, and you have to do it in a way that the end-user (who may be a developer) doesn't need to know how its implemented.

So rather than worry about how, worry about what. At the end of your implementation is your infrastructure agile? Is it scalable (transparently)? Is it efficient? Is it abstracted? Does it support on-demand computing without sacrificing those properties?

If it is, then you've reached your cloud computing destination.

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Published Nov 03, 2008
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