Cloud dispersal: Demystifying the latest tech buzzword

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Craig Sharp

There’s a cloud on the horizon, it’s big, white, fluffy and everyone is talking about it! It’ll link you to your enterprise solutions, it’ll allow you to store your documents and most treasured photographic memories. It’ll even let you send money from one part of the world to another in a thousandth of a second!

I’m talking of course about THE Cloud, the latest buzzword in IT. But what is cloud computing? Here, we aim to clarify and explain three of the marketing terms behind technologies you may already be acquainted with.

If you ask an IT expert they might tell you it’s a network of servers, providing you applications and services remotely with all of the information and data taken off of your hard drive and sent ‘up into the cloud’. If you asked, say, Larry Ellison, the former CEO of Oracle (at least until very recently), you might get a response a little more like this:

As I hinted at before the video, Larry is now a cloud champion as opposed to a cloud critic, quite right too, as naming and commodotizing online computing has revolutionized business. Of course it took a portfolio shift towards cloud enterprise solutions on Oracle's part before Larry saw the light.

THE Cloud

So what is The Cloud? The simplest possible answer I can provide is that The Cloud simply a marketing term for online, for the internet. And Cloud Computing? Cloud Computing is simply web-based applications – those same applications that you’ve been using for years!

Ever used Hotmail or Gmail? How about online banking? Google Docs? Maybe Google Analytics? All Cloud Computing!

Public, Private, Hybrid or Undecided?

We’ve established that The Cloud is simply a marketing term for the Internet (much like the Web) and Cloud Computing is simply utilizing web-based applications rather than those stored natively on your own hard drive. But of course marketing wouldn’t be marketing if the jargon ended there.

Oftentimes the literature will go beyond referencing the all-encompassing, giant cloud that is the Internet and refer to individual clouds. Essentially, these are just private networks, hosted online and accessible remotely.

How about Private Cloud? A Private Cloud is simply a cloud based (read: online/networked) system protected by a secure login and firewall. It’s no different to your run of the mill corporate computer network except this time, yep you guessed it - it lives ‘in the cloud’.

Public Cloud, from a functional standpoint at least, isn’t all that different from Private Cloud. The services are open for ‘public’ use of course, but usually still require login credential and some kind of payment model. On closer inspection however, levels of security, size and hosting capabilities of public cloud services will usually differ from its private, more corporate-leaning counterpart.

Finally a Hybrid Cloud is two separate clouds combined. Each is still an individual cloud (or network) in its own right, but they communicate with each other and may share some resources.

Cloud computing/Software as a service, etc

So we’ve boiled down the cloud networking terminology and hopefully lifted the fog of confusion, but how about some of the other terms? As I alluded to, cloud computing is the practice of using applications or software, something we’re all familiar with.

The difference here is that this software isn’t installed locally on your machine – it’s stored remotely on someone else’s machine. Ultimately, whether it’s Salesforce, a BPM suite or even just Gmail that you’re using, someone somewhere had to install it on a hard drive. And because this hard drive is within a server (or shared across many servers in a ‘cluster’) and is hooked up to the internet (or cloud) – it’s accessible from any web browser, provided you have the address and login info.

So the next time somebody starts talking cloud, software as a service, cloud apps or cloud computing, despair not – they’re simply using new-fangled terms dreamed up by sales and marketing gurus.