I continue to hear the question "what is cloud" being asked by people who are pretty well versed in IT. I am talking about people who are working in various levels of IT today and have been for years. I also hear many professionals (vendors, analysts, press, experts, bloggers, etc) who have been involved and following the cloud cycle lamenting that every article, presentation, paper and blog has to define cloud, that all the definitions of cloud are different, and these professionals are tired of the definitions. "We've done this already. Let's move past it!" they collectively cry and either point to their own cloud definition or to NIST's. Ironic or what? The answers to what cloud is and how it is implemented is every bit important and relevant today as it was three years ago.
Scott Stewart wrote a short blog, "There is no real definition for Cloud Computing," where he says many of the things that I have thought for a long time about how and why the definition of cloud computing is cloudy at best. That blog is an extract of a longer thought piece he is writing, but he wraps up with this: "Sadly they may be missing the real point that this cloud computing disruption is not actually about a technology, it is not about a product, it is not a service offering, it is not something that we have always done, it is not even about a deployment model, rather it is really more about a transformation, a paradigm shift and a change in attitude and behavior that is occurring under their very noses."
That's some pretty lofty transformation he's arguing and that shift may well be going on. If it is, I think the transformation is a side effect stemming from how IT delivers services to the organization via cloud regardless of the definition of "cloud" or where it is located. The other side effect is how organizations' expectations of IT are changing.
Still, cloud is most definitely about technology, service models, and deployment models. Maybe my view is narrow because technology, services and deployment are the things I think about. Certainly, the transformation in the data center is shifting from a model of siloed applications and services that are essentially custom-sourced to a generalized model of standardized OSes, networking, storage and configurations defined by runbooks, which are automated in a manner that reduces provisioning time and increases reliability and robustness. This is happening and will continue to happen.
But for it to be transformational, IT needs to buy stuff. When I hear statements like "cloud moves cost from capital to operational," "cloud delivers services without capital cost," "IT won't buy servers any more," "internal cloud computing for enterprises isn't cost effective," and similar statements, I just shake my head in disbelief. In order to deliver these transformational shifts, IT has to spend capital budget.