Cloudy terminology

Cloud computing and cloud services. Overused terms though they are, they do actually mean something useful.

Draw a cloud. One of those nice, fluffy ones you used to draw as a kid (I still do), and then draw a few square boxes in it. There you are, you’re now an IT designer! Well, maybe not but this is all that “cloud services” means – that there are some boxes somewhere “else” which are providing you with a service. It’s hardly new. If you’ve ever had a bog standard analogue telephone, you’ve used a cloud service – all the clever stuff is in the network, all you have in your home or office is a microphone, a speaker, and a few buttons to tell the service where you want to call. For network now substitute cloud. It’s the same, but updated for the internet age.

But the significance of cloud services is that the cloud does not have any geographical meaning. So your service can be hosted from a server in the next office, the next city, or the next country. It could be managed by your IT department, by a third-party of some kind, or by an explicit Service Provider. The key though is that you don’t need to know about any of that in order to access the service – most people would expect that a service offered from the cloud can be accessed from anywhere on the internet.

Other terms are also used, such as “borderless network” to describe a service which is secured not (necessarily) in network-edge firewalls but within the end device. Security may be provided either through secure tunnelling between the device and the home service (encrypted or at least authenticated to the device). A borderless network allows services to be accessed on a device which may roam around the internet. When the device crosses between domains (eg: between Service Providers, or from home to office), it still gets the same service with the same features – hence no border to the service. It’s cloud services by a different name but, at least in Cisco parlance, also defines a set of technologies used to achieve the services with business-level security.

Cloud computing is nothing different – it’s simply a particular cloud service. If you want a server to run your database applications, but don’t want to own and manage the server yourself, you can buy either a whole dedicated server, a virtual server, or space on a shared server from a Service Provider. The service being provided is a cloud-based computer, which makes it pretty flexible, but it is a service nonetheless – just as a telephony service is.

So there it is: the idea of “cloud services” is not new as a concept but, with the addition of the requirements of ubiquitous access via the internet and business class security, it is the most important change happening in the communications and computing industries today.


About mikbarne
I'm a writer and freelance communications and collaboration consultant with nearly 20 years experience in UK telecommunications, specialising in VoIP, Unified Communications and Collaboration, and building effective communications architectures. Visit my Google+ Profile

2 Responses to Cloudy terminology

  1. Pingback: Cloudy Terminology Mike Barnes’ Blog

  2. I don’t think I have seen this depicted that way before. You really have made this so much clearer for me. Thank you!

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