Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The wispy cloud

Cloud computing is the latest IT trend. Conferences are promoting it, vendors are pushing it and CTOs are buying it. Amazon EC2, Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure are the big technologies dominating it. And Gartner identifies it in their 10 Strategic Technologies for 2010. But what is cloud computing?

Spend time with vendors and you'll quickly find that the definition of "cloud" is whatever the customer wants to hear. Last year's anti-virus is this year's cloud anti-virus. Last year's FTP is this year's FTP in the cloud. Cloud seems to be the ultimate Rorschach Test, both in the real world and the IT world.

So as a new startup dealing with cloud computing, I feel that I must somehow define what cloud computing is and what it can offer. I believe that the cloud can be most concisely defined as a self-service environment for the immediate provisioning of platforms and applications, with billing being based on granular usage consumption metrics. It's very similar to your usage of electrical and telephony services, with per-minute billing and a service that "simply works".

Amazon EC2 provides a great example of what cloud computing can be. They deliver a self-service application that enables hourly rental of server time, with billing that is based solely on the CPU power and bandwidth consumed by the client. If you wish, it's possible to lease a unix machine for a single hour, turn it off, and get billed by Amazon a measly 3 cents for the service!

And our new startup... LabSlice extends the Amazon EC2 cloud to create an environment for IT and Sales Engineers to distribute and share Virtual Demos, Evaluations and POCs of their thick and thin client applications. We use the Amazon EC2 on-demand servers to host your demos in the cloud, adding workflows that enable you to easily share demo machines with your peers, business partners and prospective customers.

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