Cloud Computing: New Stuff or Legacy Revisited?

By | March 21, 2009

There’s a lot of information hitting the bitwaves touting the value of cloud computing and it seems that within the IT industry those that profess positive opinions of an emerging market during a hype cycle seem to get more attention than those with negative or pragmatic opinions on the issue. Thus, the hype cycle reinforces itself and the hype grows larger. With regard to Cloud Computing, I’ve commented before on the two leading opinion groupings–the Gray Hairs and the Newbies. The Gray Hairs look at Cloud Computing as time-sharing redux and the newbies look at it as the only way computing will be done within the next 20 years. Ho hum!

Let’s look at what is the same about Cloud Computing:

1. Outsourced hosting – IaaS, HaaS, etc. are just fancy new ways to talk about a model that has been employed for many years now. Effectively, the Cloud provides an economic way to leverage shared computing resources for an economic benefit.
2. Hosted applications – SaaS is just a new way to talk about application service provider (ASP) model, which has been in operation since the 1960’s.
3. Disaster Recovery – Even those that have built their own data centers often contract with companies that maintain the necessary hardware and operating systems to enable continuance of operations in the event of a disaster.

Now, let’s look at what’s new about Cloud Computing

1. Scale – due to the massive reduction in the costs of memory, storage and CPU, we can now offer unprecedented linear scaling.
2. New distributed computing architectures – projects like MapReduce and Hadoop leverage our ability to scale linearly and turn it into an ability to scale exponentially. Linear scale still suffers from an inability to have a 1:1 mapping between storage and memory, thus the speed to read a gigabyte of information limits many of the scaling benefits. Architectures like Hadoop and MapReduce parallelize the access to the data across multiple processors and multiple data stores dramatically reducing this limitation.
3. Virtualization – the ability to leverage a single machine architecture to host multiple operating systems changes the DR costs significantly. In many cases open systems DR costs can be cut by a 1/3 of what they costs prior to mainstream inexpensive virtualization and the development of the hypervisor.
4. Metering – in IT has typically driven by transactions or fixed fees, but, the Cloud treats resource usage like telecommunications industry treats data and voice by billing based on usage, which allows for more affordable pricing models

So, Cloud Computing takes advantage of some of the advances made in computing and combines it with ideas and business models that have been working for the past forty years.

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