Considering the pace at which cloud computing is moving, it’s no surprise that many have a tough time putting their finger on what an ever-expanding array of vendors are actually delivering.

No need to worry, as I don’t plan to spend this post pontificating on the liberal application of the term “cloud”–or even “cloud washing” as some have called it—to traditional technology solutions and products. Instead, I wanted to answer a question we’ve received from some: “Is Skytap Cloud a service or software?”

Put another way: Does Skytap have its own data centers delivering cloud computing resources, or does Skytap market a packaged software product that overlays someone else’s hardware infrastructure with automation?

I oft want to structure my response to this question along the same lines of the classic Saturday Night Live sketch “Shimmer Floor Wax”. Skytap is the cloud computing equivalent Chevy Chase’s famous line “it’s both a floor wax and a dessert topping!”

Before I get the hook from our head of marketing, let me explain what I mean.

Here’s how we describe our service on our website:

Skytap Cloud is a complete, on-demand turnkey cloud computing service that is designed to make cloud computing simple, easy, and intuitive. It delivers fundamental infrastructure elements of storage, compute, and networking together with our Intelligent Automation Platform. This unique automation layer unifies Skytap Cloud computing resources to provide you with a powerful yet intuitive solution that is delivered as software as a service (SaaS).

As you can likely gather, the challenge is that Skytap Cloud™ doesn’t necessarily fit neatly into the current cloud taxonomy of IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS. This is why we like to describe our service as a pivot on the current terminology.

First, Skytap Cloud serves up the raw bits of IaaS (compute, storage, and networking) from our own data centers, which are co-located at a global scale, Tier-1 service provider. As part of this, we’ve standardized our virtualization layer on VMware’s ESX hypervisor, primarily due to its wide-scale adoption by mid-market and enterprise companies. This is particularly important when you consider a good number of Skytap Cloud users rely on the service to develop and test applications they ultimately deploy on their own infrastructure running on the VMware stack. It also enables customers to import their existing VMs and workloads into Skytap Cloud unchanged, without requiring application changes or rewrites.

Outside of the hypervisor, the rest of Skytap Cloud is our own homegrown software. And we call this part of the Skytap Cloud architecture the Intelligent Automation Platform™.

The Intelligent Automation Platform is our own unique IP (intellectual property) that powers our service. It’s the underlying software layer we created to deliver the sophisticated automation and self-service capabilities that we believe separates our offering from other cloud service providers.

More specifically, our team has designed and developed this platform to meet the ever-changing demands of dynamic workloads like development and testing, software demos and evaluations, and virtual training. The requirements of which often present a range of challenges, making them difficult to manage and maintain in an efficient, cost-effective fashion.

The Intelligent Automation Platform tackles this by empowering Skytap Cloud users with such capabilities as fast, on-demand provisioning of complex computing environments; self-healing virtual networks; and secure collaboration and sharing. We also enable administrators with IT policy management and controls consistent with existing on-premises resources, like user and security policy management, usage quotas, and real-time reporting and alerting.

While this technology layer is not something we package up and sell separately, it is core to the value all users receive when using Skytap Cloud. All of this is served up through our easy-to-use web portal, and with our super slick SmartClient technology.

Now, going back to the initial question of “So, what are you anyway?” Hopefully I’ve done a fair job explaining how Skytap Cloud offers the best of what IaaS can deliver wrapped with a unique technology layer designed with the goal of making the process of taking your dynamic workloads to the cloud fast, easy, and secure.

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