Behind the buzz – what is cloud computing?

Why the buzz? There is an incredible buzz around cloud computing recently, with major articles in Business Week, InfoWorld, and numerous other publications, blogs and analyst reports.  Nicholas Carr has written a bestselling book on the topic called “The Big Switch”. And some of the biggest players in the cloud computing segment have announced incredible adoption numbers:  Amazon announced more than 330,000 developers working on its Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform in January 2008 and Google signed up more than 150,000 developers for App Engine within one month of its April 2008 release.

With all this press and adoption, it is no surprise that many existing companies and new ventures are promoting their solutions as cloud computing.  As with other heavily hyped technologies (e.g. SOA, Web 2.0), this buzz can make it very challenging for IT organizations to understand the technology, how it can help their business and which vendors are best suited to meet their specific needs.

What is cloud computing? Let’s start with a definition of cloud computing.  There seems to be emerging consensus on what cloud computing is, which I think the Wikipedia definition captures quite well.  In my words, cloud-computing allows organizations to securely use 3rd party computing infrastructure and applications over the internet when they need it paying only for what they use.  ‘Utility computing’ or ‘on-demand computing’ is often used synonymously with cloud computing. These terms, however, may also refer to in-house implementations where the infrastructure is owned or managed by the IT organization rather than a 3rd party provider.  Some have started to describe these as “private clouds” vs. “public clouds”.

We are admittedly a bit biased at Skytap, but we believe the hype around cloud computing is quite warranted.  Our customers are successfully leveraging our Skytap Virtual Lab solution to reduce their costs, accelerate their time to market, and enable new business opportunities.  In my next post, I’l talk more about the benefits of cloud computing.

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