I was in a Twit-based cloud discussion last week about the role of the “cloud” term and how it has essentially replaced or should be renamed (or reverted) to the term “utility.” There are surely many opinions on this, but I tend to think of cloud computing in terms of architecture. Utility computing reflects a more specific spectrum that is essentially a business model. Mind you, this is a very basic recap of what these things mean. People love to debate stuff and bring up related subtopics like grid computing, etc.
Utility computing: the concept and analogy of power utilities.
This is based on a delivery concept that is significant and is evidenced by the rise of a growing number of providers in this space. The client cost is associated with usage, much like your light switch and energy utilization. Underneath it all, end users utilize computing resources from a provider that encompass actual power consumption, management, hardware, software costs, etc with the distinction that the actual client usage is billed. As a shared model that utilizes resources more efficiently overall, it frees the client from having to purchase excessive resources and dedicated servers.
Cloud computing is a higher-level concept that describes the architecture of how computing is essentially designed to work. Many understand this as applications that run out on the cloud – the somewhere out there concept that can refer to the internet or an internal network. The revolution in design here is in that performance, provisioning, development, and scalability all offer distinct advantages within the model. This is due to the fundamental focus or rather lack of focus on the underlying infrastructure. The perceived freedom from the limitations of hardware and infrastructure is what makes cloud computing different.
My point is if you want to call utility computing a utility service, well then that is fair. But cloud computing is different and represents a radical change in capacity, evolution, and presence in technology. It deserves its own name. I don’t believe the name is something that has just changed. It certainly has evolved and perhaps the name may have as well, but this is not one for one. Cloud computing is actually a movement and one that is currently evolving. True cloud computing must deliver on the many promises that this model provides. I suppose utility computing hosting doesn’t have that “sexy” ring of cloud provider. A repackaged managed/shared hosting offering is not cloud computing, no matter how sexy the marketing or interface.
Cloud computing and utility computing are evolved concepts whose time has come, yet elements have basically always been around. We can trace the timing to several things, all of which are debatable, but they include innovation, marketing, and timing. It’s a great conversation and as interesting as the technology itself. The debate I’m sure will go on, but I believe as advocates of the cloud, we need to distinguish cloud computing from all the hype and wanna-be’s.