The conversation about cloud is trending these days. Earlier last week, during SolidWorks World 2011, I had a chance to share my opinion about cloud application development with many people there. SolidWorks was “talking about cloud” a lot during the past year. Last year, I read a nice review of platform shifts and online security from SolidWorks’s co-founder Jon Hirschtick published on SolidWorks blog. Actually, new SolidWorks CEO, Bertrand Sicot, put some clarification behind SolidWorks cloud program during the last event. Despite the fact everybody talks “cloud”, I found a lot of confusion around the cloud topic especially with the notion of different “types of cloud” environment.
Cloud: Server + Network + Virtualization
The best short definition of the “cloud” I’ve heard over the past few weeks was the following one: cloud means “not here”. I found it may be a bit over simplification. I found very meaningful to talk about cloud in terms of servers, network and virtualization. I can see servers is something that remains the same regardless on the notion of company IT as well as the cloud. However, in the case of IT option, servers are located in the company IT data center. Cloud can move these servers out of your company IT data center room. Network is another element that actually bridge between our traditional understanding of IT and cloud. In the past, we operated with terms LAN and WAN. Today the Internet is included into the network scope. However, network remains the same. Another topic is Virtualization. This is not an absolutely new topic, but getting a new notion these days. The ability to make a virtual environment isn’t new and this is not invented by cloud. However, this ability is getting new meaning when multiple virtual environments are able to run on physical servers over the network. Depending on the server location we differentiate between dedicated, private and public clouds.
This is simple and, in my view, very similar to traditional corporate IT environments. You still have a physical instance of the server. However, the server will be located “not here”. This practically means the outsourcing of physical servers from corporate data centers.
The next step in “not here” option. In addition to outsourcing servers, you can run multiple virtual environment on top of physical server boxes. You can also have a firewall option. So, this “private cloud” environment will be a bunch of virtual machines running on top of physical server boxes.
This option is probably the most interesting. Cloud providers (i.e. AWS, Rackspace) can provide virtual servers running on top of “some servers” located “not here”. However, in this case, you won’t be able to control physical boxes. This option can provide a maximum of elastic cloud capabilities. However, it brings a compromise with regards to security options.
No Agreement About The Cloud?
I still cannot see an agreement between different players on the market of cloud computing. On the following video, you can see how Cloud is explained by salesforce.com – the most clean and straightforward definition, in my view.
However, life is not as easy as it presented on salesforce’s video. To prove that, you can join this fascinating video of Larry Allison talking about his perspective on cloud computing.
What is my conclusion? I think we are in the middle of cloud transformation. Still the definition, terminology and lots of other stuff can be modified in the next few years. I’m expecting some marketing buzzes to go away and some practical definitions to get in to clarify what means cloud for the enterprise, in general, and specifically for engineering and manufacturing software. Just my thoughts…