The term "cloud computing" is being loosely applied and defined differently – and it's creating a lot of confusion in the market.
Gartner analysts say it is imperative to understand these different perspectives and set the proper expectations to obtain the anticipated benefits.
Gartner defines cloud computing as a style of computing in which massively scalable IT-related capabilities are provided "as a service" using Internet technologies to multiple external customers. However, there have been different perceptions of what is included in cloud computing.
"The term cloud computing has come to mean two very different things: a broader use that focuses on 'cloud,' and a more-focused use on system infrastructure and virtualisation," says David Mitchell Smith, vice-president and Gartner Fellow. "Mixing the discussion of 'cloud-enabling technologies' with 'cloud computing services' creates confusion."
The two prevalent views of cloud computing are as follows:
* The cloud is an idea that derives from the perspective of the internet/Web/software as a service (SaaS). The focus is more on cloud than computing with the emphasis placed on access to services from elsewhere (that is, from the cloud). This cloud is a global-class phenomenon and a high-level concept that can refer to a range of services extending from system infrastructure (for example, compute services and storage services) through applications (for example, CRM) and business processes (for example, payroll services). Gartner's definition is along these lines, with the off-premises nature of cloud services being the point of reference, and applicability to intra-enterprise use as a secondary effect.
* The second popular interpretation is a use of technologies, including virtualisation and automation that focuses more on the computing than on the cloud aspect, with emphasis placed on the technologies that enable the creation and delivery of service-based capabilities. This perspective is an extension of traditional data center approaches and can be applied to entirely internal enterprise systems with no use of external off-premises capabilities provided by a third party.
"Although these perspectives are different, there is a connection between them. Any provider of cloud computing services must have an environment that includes an infrastructure to support their delivery. Virtualisation often is used to implement this underlying infrastructure to support delivery of the cloud computing services," says Smith. "Cloud system infrastructure services are a subset of cloud computing, but not the entire picture."
Gartner recommends that users clearly separate the consideration of cloud computing and cloud computing services from the use of cloud computing-related concepts and technologies for the creation of internal systems. Both perspectives (services and technologies) are valuable and should be pursued; however, they are two separate but related initiatives.