A Gmail Failure Is Not Cloud Failure
September 24, 2009
We need to clear the air about cloud services and hosted services (SaaS). A lot of people conflate Software As A Service (SaaS) with cloud service, and that is a wildly inaccurate view of the world. The moment that SaaS was included in any cloud definition, the definition of a cloud become entirely unusable. Anything can be a SaaS, therefore anything can be a cloud. When Gmail or some other hosted service has an interruption, it does not indicate a cloud failure. It's a service failure. The distinction is important.
We have applications services, aka SaaS, like Gmail and Salesforce CRM, that lets customers rent or lease applications. You don't necessarily get a whole lot of say about features and functions. While you can add users, documents and other objects, you don't really have any direct control over scaling. You use the application and if performance drops ito the dumper, you call support. We also have clouds like Google App Engine, Amazon Web Services, Rackspace Cloud that are hosting environments for applications you write or install in the cloud providers environment. You can also host entire virtual machines on a cloud.
In Cloud Computing Isn't The Emperor's New Clothes, I summed up, saying "taken together, cloud computing becomes a computing resource that lets application developers and managers focus on the things they need to do, like developing and managing applications, rather than worrying about the implementation details of which server and network to use."
If only product sets were that clear cut. Salesforce has a cloud service called Force.com, which is a Platform As A Service (PaaS). Salesforce also sells Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, which looks to me like their CRM apps renamed with "cloud" (My assessment could be wrong). Google has a bunch of applications like Gmail and their AppEngine. Amazon has AWS along with their storefront. I think it's confusing to conflate a company's SaaS offering with the cloud offering and call it all cloud. Thus a failure on one side of one type of service is proclaimed as a failure of "the cloud." That is inaccurate.
When Gmail suffers a service failure, it means exactly this: Google's hosted email had a disruption. This does not, as Ian Paul says, cast a dark cloud on cloud computing. InformationWeek's Michael Hickins points out, correctly, that "Gmail's Outage Says More About Google Than Clouds." Google is not the cloud. Neither is Amazon. These two companies are, arguably the poster children, or whipping posts, depending on the day, of cloud computing. But they are not the end-all and be-all of cloud computing. There are many other cloud providers like ElasticHosts, Force.com, GoGrid, GridLayer, Rackspace Cloud. More popping up like mushrooms.