Verizon Terremark's What are Clouds from June 2013 CloudExpo
Cloud Computing             See what Dilbert Thinks about Cloud Computing or Outsourcing

What is Cloud Computing?  We have all heard of the term "Cloud Computing", but what does it really mean.  Talk to five people and you will get five different definitions ranging from virtual servers accessed over the internet to any computing done outside the firewall.  Wait five days and the market will change.  Generally, cloud computing is a subscription based pay as you use go/grow computing service as further defined here.

There is a lot of interest in the promises of cloud computing to reduce costs and increase productivity/agility.  Where do you start?  Often, e-mail is the first place to consider. It is a perfect example of a task that is basic, but can have many complexities.  How much time does an IT organization spend backing up, managing, and recovering mail?  Another very successful cloud application is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as can be seen by's success.  Why not leverage the economies of scale by outsourcing these common IT tasks?

In July of 2011, the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) defined the "Cloud Computing Roadmap" which can be downloaded from here: Special Publication 500‐291 - Document: NIST CCSRWG – 092.  The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing identified cloud computing as a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Why should we be embracing the "cloud model?" Cloud Computing is real and will drive a major paradigm shift for Information Technology and Business. Therefore, it is important for us to embrace and lead during this transformation.   Instead of spending time doing day to day infrastructure maintenance as needed in the above e-mail scenario, more resources can focus on deploying  new innovative solutions to meet the business needs.  

Cloud Computing is a Consumption and Delivery Model for IT Services that Exhibits the Following 5 Characteristics:

1. On-Demand Self-Service - Self-management of resources without human intervention with cloud providerCloud Service Models
2. Ubiquitous Network Access - Accessible over the network through standard mechanisms
3. Pooled Resources - Physical and virtual resources are assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand in a multi-tenant model
4. Elastic Capacity - A dynamic computing infrastructure that can rapidly scale up & down as needed
5. Usage Based Costing - Users pay for only what resources they use and are billed on a consumption-based model (sometimes free)

Cloud Service Models
1. SaaS - Software as a Service ~ Predominate Model (ex: Gmail, Google Docs, and
2. PaaS - Platform aa Service ~ (ex: Force.comMicrosoft Azure*, and Google App Engine)
3. IaaS - Infrastructure as a Service ~ (ex: Amazon-Elastic Cloud(EC2), Rackspace, and Terremark)

* Azure was originally a PaaS offering, but midway through 2012 Microsoft announced it would be available as IaaS.

Cloud Types/Models
1. Public - Internet Based and Available to General Public or Industry Group
2. Private - On-Premise of a single organization
3. Community - Shared by Several Organizations with Some Commonality
4. Hybrid - Combination of Public and Private

Who are the major Cloud Providers?  The cloud space continues to evolve and you can expect mergers and acquisitions to continue as it matures.  Below, you will find Gartner's Magic Quadrant information for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and's Top 10 providers from February 2010.  Clearly, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the market leader in the cloud IaaS based on the data from 2010 through 2012, but new providers can pop up at any time.  Rackspace, a visionary in the cloud space, has been strategically backing the OpenStack platform, which is gaining momentum in driving standardization. 

At the 12th International Cloud Expo held June 2013 in NYC, familiar names were there with new directions and products.  It seemed that everyone was talking about Hybrid-Cloud and especially a key direction for Rackspace.  Interestingly, IBM was talking about their SmartCloud platform and since the expo has acquired SoftLayer, which is a key ingredient to this platform.  SoftLayer focuses on providing consistent performance that meets you application needs through agile delivery of bare metal or virtualized solutions.  At CloudSlam'13, also held June 2013 in Santa Clara-CA, IBM references Albert Einstein’s thought about achieving different results and has realized that they cannot keep doing the same thing.  Therefore, they chose a new direction with the SoftLayer acquisition.

Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

February of 2010, listed the Top 10 Cloud Providers:

Honorable mention - NewServers: A small concern by many standards, NewServers is unique in this list in that instead of virtual machines, you buy real ones. Sold and paid for just like EC2 or Rackspace Cloud servers (and at similar prices), physical, single servers are brought online by the minute. It's a relief to those concerned with virtualization performance and security, but a head- scratcher for those who equate cloud with virtual computing. Never the less, five minutes and a credit card gets you a server, just like Amazon Web Services.

10 - Verizon: The first big telco to enter the cloud, Verizon cornered off a section of its data center in Beltsville, Maryland to offer Infrastructure as a Service to its existing customers. But like all "premium" telco services, it's expensive and doesn't appear to offer more than anyone else.

 9 - Savvis: Adding true cloud services to its hosting business took Savvis some time, but the company is starting to see revenue as a result. The hoster has focused squarely on security services in the cloud, including virtual machine and network-level security not available from other cloud providers. This could give Savvis an important edge as enterprises move into the cloud.

 8 - Terremark: The hosting company was first in line for gobs of cash from VMware and signed its platform away to VMware's vCloud Express service. Locking in to VMware's platform could be an advantage, if and when enterprises start buying cloud services. VMware is a household name among most big businesses, and some have proven themselves reluctant to trust cloud providers they do not know. Leaning on VMware's cachet seems like a good bet if you're after large enterprise accounts. NOTE: (Verizon acquired Terremark in April 2011)

 7 - GoGrid: Popular with Web startups in the Bay Area, GoGrid has hundreds of customers running Web businesses on its Infrastructure as a Service offering. Fiercely independent, rumor has it the company turned down gobs of funding from VMware to switch its architecture from Xen to VMware's hypervisor technology. Let's hope providing flexibility and choice to customers was the right bet. 

 6 - Joyent: The third largest public cloud infrastructure provider after the Big Two, Joyent puts a friendly face on cloud and remains a strong contender. Joyent, however, might not have the capacity for primetime -- after hosting Twitter during its explosive growth, the two had a surprise breakup last year.

5 - Microsoft Azure: Still nascent, the Platform as a Service offering holds the promise to let Microsoft shops trickle into Redmond's waiting arms. With the stated goal being that Azure will be as close to developing on Windows Server as possible, along with catholic support for languages and applications, Microsoft will very likely be able to use Azure to continue to dominate its favored markets as it begins to extend into the cloud.

 4 - Google App Engine: The free-wheeling search giant already has Google Apps, online search and its own verb, but it steps into the provider market with a FOSS-friendly development platform with an absurdly generous usage cap before it begins to charge. Developers are flocking to Google App Engine if only to see what it can do.

 3 - The Software as a Service giant was quick to see that a few tweaks to its business line would be enough to enjoy the unprecedented explosion of interest in cloud. As it steadily reduces subscription fees in favor of pay-as-you go, its customer relationship management (CRM) services are rapidly approaching bargain-basement cloud expectations.

 2 - Rackspace: Demonstrating an agility seldom seen in such a large hosting operation, Rackspace has moved in record time to set up shop in the cloud. Consumers, already able to trust the hoster for traditional iron, have shown no compunctions about jumping in feet first. Open for less than a year, Rackspace's cloud customer count already rivals Amazon's and it's rapidly picking up converts tired of the robotic nature of AWS. Hey, some of us still like talking to real humans.

 1 - Amazon: Who else could be in first place? The online retail giant married its astonishingly efficient model of delivering goods around the globe with virtualization, making servers available to anyone anywhere for pennies. Arguably not the first company to apply the concept of cloud computing, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is by far the most successful, and even if selling servers is only a fraction of its business, it's years ahead of anyone else in maturity and customer awareness.

On November 19, 2010, The US Federal Government announced that it is adopting a "cloud-first" policy! The US government spends over $76 billion for IT services.  Vivek Kundra (former Federal CIO), in his presentation on April 7, 2010, showed how the number of Federal Data Centers grew from around 400 to over 1,200 locations during the prior ten years. Other articles suggest there are over 2,000 Federal DCs, but the bottom line is there is an opportunity for data center consolidation. The presentation was titled "The Economic Gains of Cloud Computing", and it recognizes that the use of cloud computing will ultimately save us money.

The White House Office of Management and Budget, in announcing that cloud computing would be the "default approach to IT" for US government agencies, has validated the cloud model. This cloud-first policy is expected to reduce number data centers by 40%, reducing costs, improving security and performance, and reducing the time to deploy new applications. The federal government expects to eliminate 800 of its data centers by 2015.