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Why did the term cloudcomputing so quickly lose its original meaning? At first, cloud computingwas about how to not build a data center, but it quicklymorphed into an architectural description of how you should build a datacenter. The first definition is about accessing IT services over the Internetfrom computing resources that somebodyelse owns and operates. The second definition is about building your own hyper-efficientdata center based on virtualization, shared resources, and dynamic provisioning.These definitions are so different – contradictory even – that it takesmodifiers like external, public, internal, and private to tell them apart.To many, it seems that we have sunk into a morass of confusion.

 

My point here, though, is not to debate definitions ortechnology. (I believe that both internal and external clouds will be wildlysuccessful for many years to come.)

 

My question today is whythe definition got muddled so quickly, especially since this isn’t the firsttime it has happened. The original idea of utilitycomputing was that computing should be like electricity. In the early days,companies had their own generators, but over time, centralized power companies replacedthem. The theory was that IT should evolve in the same way. This same metaphoralso inspired grid computing, but aswith cloud computing, the definitions quickly shifted to data centerarchitectures. I remember many data center tours where the proud owner of rackafter rack of Linux nodes would say, “Check out my compute grid.”

 

What is going on here? I believe that IT is in denial. CEOs andCIOs are like ships passing in the night.

 

CEOs ask, “Why can’t we just convert to cloud computing?” Whatthey mean is this: “I’m tired of expensive data centers, high capital costs,and hard to manage infrastructure. Why can’t someone else do all of that for usand we just buy it as a service over the Internet? You know, like Yahoo! email or Salesforce.com?”In other words, CEOs would like to outsource big chunks of IT, just like theyhave already outsourced big chunks of manufacturing.

 

And then the CIO comes back and says, “I figured it out. We can convert to cloud computing, but thegood news is that we still get to build the data center and buy the ITequipment ourselves.” Ships in the night.

 

IT departments are so averse to the idea of having theirjobs outsourced – who wouldn’t be! – that whenever someone tries to define aterm to mean exactly that, they redefine it to mean a new thing that they getto build and run themselves. Perhaps soon there will be a creative newdefinition of external cloud thatsomehow means you build it yourself.

 

As I said above, I believe that both internal and external cloudswill be wildly successful. For at least the next five years, more likely ten, most CIOs will run a hybrid model consisting of three main parts: (1)Traditional silos, where an application, a server, and storage are purchasedand installed together; (2) Internal clouds, which will initially run lesscritical apps and grow over time; and (3) External clouds, which will also startlow and move up.

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