Bringing Cloud Down to Earth

A Jargon-Free Explanation

It’s tough to take the technology out of cloud computing – as we debate in the “Marketer’s Dichotomy”, we’re often forced into using the jargon of the day as it enters common parlance. However, that doesn’t help non-technologists or normal business people to understand the topic any better. We don’t really want to do “Cloud for Dummies” as it’s a bit insulting. But if we did, this is probably what we’d say…

One of cloud’s previous guises was “utility computing” – the idea that, like gas, water and electricity, computing resources would be available on demand. That’s still a workable analogy, but one that needs to be built upon to be more accurate. Below are some real life comparisons.

Block of Flats versus Hotel

Imagine two buildings. Both have 100 people living in them. The hotel rooms are nice and they have kitchens. How do you consume your utilities in each model?

Flat Life

In the block of flats, there are 100 boilers, 100 water tanks, 100 central heating systems, 100 gas systems, 100 electricity meters, and so forth. Highly inefficient with you paying for things you don’t need and (as we’ve all experienced) running out of hot water at the wrong time.

Hotel Life

100 people all have running water on demand, a warm room and electricity when needed. The systems that deliver this are centralised and shared, bringing operational efficiencies and economies of scale. And when you check out, you receive a single bill, as everything is delivered “as a service”.

Cloud Computing looks to replicate the hotel scenario – e.g. the resources you need are centralised, managed by somebody else, available on demand with enough capacity to meet your needs.

Office Space

One of the advantages of cloud is “elasticity” – it’s able to expand or contract as needed. To understand this, think of your own office space. You need some extra space for a period of time. Your options may be:

Expand Your Own Premises

If you know you’re going to need extra space regularly, you might consider doing it yourself. This may be more costly initially but the lifetime costs will be lower. Think of this as a private cloud.

Rent Some Shared Office Space

If you know you need it for only 3 months, you might rent some space in a managed office. Your bit of the building is still yours, but the building itself is shared. Think of this as a virtual private cloud.

Hire a Hotel Conference Room

Only need the space for a couple of days, perhaps for a customer seminar or internal conference? Easier just to hire a room. Much more expensive in terms of cost per unit of time but much more sensible than building your own facilities for a few days a year. Think of this as a public cloud.

In other words, depending on what to do and for how long, you can expand your business through cloud in the same way as you can expand your real estate.

Road Transport

You need to do some short-distance travelling. Here are your options:

Travelling Once

Get a cab. Expensive on a per mile basis but better than the other options. Think public cloud.

Travelling for a Week

You’re on holiday. Hire a car. Cheaper than getting cabs everywhere, and it’s yours when you need it whilst you’re there. Think virtual private cloud.

Travelling for Years

Daily commute? Buy a car or take out a lease if you prefer the rental model. Think private cloud.

Hire a Driver/Get a Bus

Maybe you don’t know where you’re going or you don’t know how to drive. It might be easier to spend your money by paying somebody to take you there instead of buying your own car and skilling up on operating it; even easier might be to get a bus. Think “managed cloud”.

A little bit over-simplified, and with hybrid clouds you can combine all of the above, as many of us do in our day-to-day, year-to-year lives.

There’s also kit cars, of course, which would be more colocation hosting – for the DIY guys. That’s fine too, if you like to build your own stuff and maintain it yourself.

Ownership and Personalisation

Too many commentators forget that we’re human. There’s a logical argument that says it makes little sense for us to strive to own our own home and our own car then to spend a fortune personalising them. In pure rational economic terms, all we need is a roof over our heads and a means to get to where we’re going. But we’d be pretty dull – bordering on Vulcan – if that’s how we behaved.

It’s unrealistic to think that we somehow behave differently in the workplace. No. We’re still humans. Whether we own or rent, we all want to personalise. We’re programmed to dislike homogeneity and one-size-fits-all. We like variety, we think of ourselves as individuals, and we project this into our working lives too. After all, no two people are alike and neither are any two companies. That’s why cloud is so great – it can be whatever you want it to be, if you ask the right questions and work with the right suppliers. Our Cloudchoice tool is designed to help you understand your own preferences and how they map to the hosting options available.

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