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Has the time now come to drop the term cloud?

With the term cloud used so often these days what does it actually mean?

I’ve seen every definition of cloud computing; from old services such as a managed desktop services delivered through 10-year-old Citrix-based shared desktops, to software delivered like Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) but it’s really an application service provider(ASP) model rehashed but branded as cloud when clearly they aren’t, along with services that are spin-offs of the original area of cloud like Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

Has the time now come for service providers to drop the term cloud and become far more prescriptive about the different offerings being delivered under what is now a very broad umbrella of services? I believe that time is rapidly approaching, but I can also hear you saying WHY would we bother to drop the term cloud? This is what so many vendors are using to describe their offerings and users and customers have become use to the term and, therefore, does it not make sense we continue to use it?

The concern I have with this, is that it’s already too fuzzy a term. Indeed, too much emphasis is placed on the technology that drives cloud-based services and not enough on the service itself. Along with the service delivery around it, the ease of use and, most importantly, the business alignment as it’s ultimately a combination of these that actually makes for a great service that meets clients’ expectations and allows them to focus on their core business functions – which in my mind is what this type of computing is all about.

The main problem is that it is, still, far too confusing for many people due to its use to describe not only true cloud-based services but rehashed old and – in many cases – out-of-date, services which makes it difficult for people to make informed decisions based on a clear understanding of what they are getting and whether it really is a true cloud service. These older rehashed services are also undermining the true efficiencies that can be delivered by a cohesive and well aligned combination of IT services delivered via a true on-demand and pay-as-you-go model.

So what needs to change? We can start by concentrating independently on the different areas of the true cloud services such as IaaS, PaaS and SaaS and the spin-offs of these services, such as Desktop-as-a-Service, and what each of these services actually offers. They are so diverse in their nature, features and application of use, that each should be a full area of IT service delivery in their own right.

Also, we should all be demanding that service providers focus their service descriptions on the actual “services” they are delivering. They should stop trying to leverage the term cloud computing against everything due to the hype that’s surrounded it for so long now.

Hopefully, you’re thinking that the points I’ve raised are all pretty logical, but I suspect you are still thinking it doesn’t really necessitate the need for anyone to drop the term cloud. However, I do think we are getting close to the point where cloud computing is starting to become just “computing” as it’s rapidly establishing itself as the IT service delivery offering of choice across all verticals and size of businesses. I believe, as it becomes the de facto choice of IT delivery, the terms used to describe cloud should become more focused on the service itself and not the more generalised, and quite often misused, term we currently see.

This will ultimately come down to businesses demanding service descriptions that match the service being delivered – a lot more akin to the way managed services have been described and delivered for many years now. Cloud computing, in all its forms, is nothing more than a new type of managed service. But with most cloud service providers having well-established marketing and PR machinery set up to push the cloud hype it could be a while before we see clarity in the terms and descriptions used within this area of computing.

By Julian Box, Posted 15th April 2013.