Dueling Definitions for Cloud Computing

The term “cloud computing” has become ubiquitous, yet means many things different things to many different people and providers. A discussion at Slashdot looks at the many different attempts to define cloud computing (including definitions from 20 technologists) and the resulting need for clarification whenever the term is invoked. This isn’t the first time this topic has been vigorously batted around, either (see What’s In A Name? Utility vs. Cloud vs. Grid).

What’s missing from the discussion? Visualizations! Given the density of some of the attempts to define cloud computing, I thought it would be useful to consider several attempts to map the cloud with charts and graphics:

  • Cloud Vendors A to Z: John Willis has put together one of the most complete lists of cloud vendors, indicating where they fit in the cloud ecosystem (using a 3-level classification scheme) and what platform each provider is using.
  • Kent Langley at ProductionScale has put together several charts that seeks to provide a visual guide to the different layers involved in cloud computing and how they relate to one another. “The challenge in explaining cloud computing is that there is more than one answer to the ‘what is it’ question,” Kent writes.
  • Perhaps the most ambitious effort to map the cloud has been put together by architect Peter Laird of Oracle (ex-BEA), which segments providers into categories. Check out the large version of the map. If you scroll to the end of Peter’s post, he also has links to all the providers on the map.

The debate about defining the cloud won’t be settled anytime soon. Slashdot notes the observation by IBM’s Irving Wladawsky Berger that “There is a clear consensus that there is no real consensus on what cloud computing is.”

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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