Semantics, Reality, Marketing: I’m “Cloud Computing” Too

If there were a buzz word that could compete with the speed to fame, breadth of use (and misuse), and overall popularity of “Web 2.0”, it would have to be “Cloud Computing”.

Bold statement: You cannot be doing anything architecturally viable unless you are working on Cloud Computing.

That might sound like a somewhat ridiculous statement, but in case you have already forgotten, it was very easy to say over the past two years that if you were doing anything viable on the web, it had to be Web 2.0. In fact, as that statement became perceived as true, people simply molded the phrase’s definition to fit what they were doing. Hence, the “ridiculous” statement became a prophecy fulfilled by the industry successfully, and intentionally, complicating semantics.

I believe we have the exact same phenomenon taking place with Cloud technology. I was working with the “Cloud” in the previous millennium! Yes, I am referring to the term we have been using for the Internet for years. Heck, even technical architecture diagrams have had a picture of a “Cloud” to represent the “Internet” for an awfully long time. I believe many people are exploiting this basis for confusion as they begin to call any SaaS application a Cloud Computing environment.

Add to the confusion the fact that it is not always easy to verify if someone has leveraged true (or at least what I currently consider to be true) Cloud Computing technology in their back-end. My definition (though I will reserve the right to modify it over time — read above) of a Cloud Computing environment is one that takes advantage of virtualization that is provisioned/deprovisioned on demand. In many ways, a virtual PBX, a virtual VPN, etc. are all precursors of Cloud Computing. So, here I believe that virtualization is a/the driving enabler for Cloud Computing. But if you adopt a broader definition in your marketing materials, there is a good chance very few people will take the time or even care to verify or pass judgment — unlike your web application’s “Web 2.0” claim to which we all have loved disagreeing upon first sight of the user interface.

Though I believe the “Cloud Computing” phrase will surpass even “Web 2.0” in its misuse, I believe it will indeed change the game for technology from the bottom up. The days of physical servers residing on-site are numbered for most organizations, and especially for those who are not in the business of technology.

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