What's In A Name? Utility vs. Cloud vs Grid

As tech bloggers discuss definitions of utility computing and cloud computing, a cautionary tale from grid computing.

Rich Miller

March 25, 2008

2 Min Read
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In recent weeks there has been a rolling conversation on tech blogs about the definitions of utility computing and cloud computing, with contributions from Geva Perry at GigaOm, Simon Wardley, James Urquhart of Cassatt, James Governor at Redmonk and IBM's Gerrit Huizenga. John Willis has sought to classify cloud computing providers.

And what about grids? The IEEE has published a classification scheme for grid systems (link via 3Tera's Bert Armijo). Are all these definitions and classifications helping or just adding to the confusion about these terms? This week Derrick Harris of GRIDToday looks at the parsing of technology terms and how "grid computing" and "high performance computing" scored poorly in a recent Forrester report gauging enterprise interest in various technologies.

"When it comes to enterprise IT mindshare, 'grid' has been bandied about so much that no one knows what it means or what business benefits they might derive from it," Derrick writes. The Forrester report by Frank Gillett also predicts trouble ahead for "virtualization" as a marketing term because it is being used to describe so many different concepts and products. Here's a comment from Gillett about why naming problems have become such an issue:

"We have a bunch of complex ideas, products and technologies whose application is specific to certain situations, and we're trying to talk about it in generalizable terms because, frankly, most people can't wrap their heads around all the details," he said. "I can sit down and in an hour sort of go through the landscape with someone, but that's a terrible way to sell a product."

Do customers/end users know the difference between utility computing and cloud computing and grid computing? Are they hearing competing definitions from vendors? I think the recent conversations reflect concern about a clash in the marketplace, not just between technologies but between terminologies as well.

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