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What is the Cloud?

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I have heard and read many articles about "the Cloud". What is "the Cloud"? It seems like this is a virtual server for application deployment by large/small companies. Therefore, questions I have are:

  • What kind of companies will need this virtual server?
  • Don't large companies already have their own server?
  • Will therefore only small companies need this server?
  • How much money can be earned from this market?
  • ...

I am still confused about these things. It seems like a buzz word to me. I saw a film once about many people coming to a big shop that was advertised for many months. They were excited. When they came, ready to buy the products, the big shop was in an empty field and the big shop was not a big shop. It was the front of a big shop, with nothing behind it. It was a facade.

This article also relates:

Why Running Today’s Business Apps on Cloud is Inefficient

Take a closer look at types of the applications that are currently running
on the cloud. Most of the time you will find the same apps that were
running locally (i.e. on your server) just last year or so… This is both
bad and good news. It is good because you can literally run the same
apps that you are used to with very minimal changes and gain scalability
benefits – and it is alarming because with current business apps you will
“miss the boat” almost entirely as far as true value of cloud computing.

Let me elaborate. When you run the current applications on the cloud
you are getting only very basic scalability advantages:
  • 99% of the time your installation consists of the load balancer in
    front of multiple application instances each running in its own images
  • This load balancing is very crude, i.e. you only load balance the
    initial request – something you have been doing with J2EE clustering
    almost 10 years ago
  • As the result of this approach your apps do not work faster –
    you just have an ability to add applications instances on demand behind
    your load balancer to get some coarse grain scalability. This is like using
    dollar bills to keep the fire – rather wasteful.

How many applications do you know that will benefit from a simple cloning
on multiple computers and running in parallel? Some will do – but only to a
limited extent.

What most people forget is that cloud computing is largely about datacenter
automation. In other words, the cloud computing is an API-level replacement
for emails and phone calls you would need to make to your local datacenter
5 years ago to get “on-demand” provisioning back then. Other than that – nothing
has really changed (actually, many things got a lot more complicated).

And what certainly has not changed is a need to write an application from
the ground up if you want to take full advantage of massively parallel and
on-demand infrastructure that clouds provide.

Summary: When I read about  "the Cloud", I think the name is at least appropriate. It hints at something called "vapor ware".


Published at DZone with permission of its author, Wai Ho.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Spit Fire replied on Fri, 2009/01/23 - 10:50am

Worth listening: Larry Ellison about "Cloud Computing": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FacYAI6DY0

As Larry points it, most people don't know what they're talking about when they talk about "the Cloud". Nothing new, just a bunch of old (use of) technologies branded under a whacky term.

So don't worry, the hype will vanish some day, just as with the Semantic Web (who wants to write more metadata than actual data?). 

Geertjan Wielenga replied on Fri, 2009/01/23 - 11:09am

Franz Wong replied on Sun, 2009/01/25 - 2:43pm

Recently, a single person gets more connectable devices like netbook, iphone. Data sharing and usage experience should be seamless on different device. What fits this market? Cloud.

Cloud is not new and nothing special. It is the ideal world from the old days. It becomes more feasible and its business value increases.

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