With all the talk about the cloud, and it being the next big thing in IT, I fear that the concept of the cloud is greatly misunderstood, especially in our part of the world. Cloud is the buzz word of this decade, and will no doubt carry on being thrown about with little thought about what it means. I've noticed several companies that are now offering cloud services, and upon investigating further, discover it is nothing more than marketing.
True cloud based services are services that are developed from the ground up and are hosted by service providers on their own infrastructure. They're typically split into three categories:
- SaaS - Software as a Service (e.g. SalesForce.com)
- IaaS - Infrastructure as a Service (e.g. Amazon Web Services) - also known as utility computing
- PaaS - Platform as a Service (e.g. Azure, Force.com, GoogleApps)
These services are inherently different to those of traditional hosted solutions because they:
- are fully managed by the service provider
- can be subscribed to on demand (I need more capacity now)
- are very flexible in terms of consumption (you can use as much or as little of the service as you need at any given point in time)
Clouds can be further split into public and private clouds. Public clouds consist of services that are available to anyone and are publicly available. Private clouds are services hosted within an organisation on their own infrastructure (usually in their own data center), and providing services to a restricted community (the organisations staff). There is a further cloud derivative, the hybrid cloud, which consists of both the private and public clouds interconnected, utlilizing services from both.
In the Middle East, the focus is currently on building private clouds, upgrading existing infrastructure and adopting virtualisation - even though the current focus is only on server virtualisation. Most of these efforts in the region are geared towards reducing costs and improving consolidation of infrastructure, rather than moving towards providing IT as a service and managing it accordingly.