5 Most Surprising Things about the Cloud in 2010

The five things newbies and experienced IT managers learned about cloud computing during 2010.

By Kevin Fogarty
Mon, January 03, 2011

CIO — 2010 was the year "cloud computing" became colloquialized to just "cloud," and everyone realized "cloud," "SAAS" and all the other xAAS's (PAAS, IAAS, DAAS) were all different implementations of the same idea — a set of computing services available online that can expand or contract according to need.

Not all the confusion has been cleared up, of course. But seeing specific services offered by Amazon, Microsoft (MSFT), Oracle (ORCL), Citrix, VMware (VMW) and a host of other companies gave many people in IT a more concrete idea of what "the cloud" actually is.

What were the five things even experienced IT managers learned about cloud computing during 2010 that weren't completely clear before? Here's my list.

1. "External" and "Internal" Clouds Aren't All That Different

At the beginning of 2010 the most common cloud question was whether clouds should be built inside the firewall or hired from outside.

Since the same corporate data and applications are involved — whether they live on servers inside the firewall, live in the cloud or burst out of the firewall into the cloud during periods of peak demand — the company owning the data faces the same risk.

So many more companies are building "hybrid" clouds than solely internal or external, according to Gartner virtualization guru Chris Wolf, that "hybrid" is becoming more the norm than either of the other two.

"With internal clouds you get a certain amount of benefit from resource sharing and efficiency, but you don't get the elasticity that's the real selling point for cloud," Wolf told CIO.com earlier this year.

2. What Are Clouds Made of? Other Clouds.

During 2010, many cloud computing companies downplayed the role of virtualization in cloud computing as a way of minimizing the impact of VMware's pitch for end-to-end cloud-computing vision -- in which enterprises build virtual-server infrastructures to support cloud-based resource-sharing and management inside the firewall, then expand outside.

Pure-play cloud providers, by contrast, offer applications, storage, compute power or other at-will increases in capacity through an Internet connection without requiring a virtual-server infrastructure inside the enterprise.

Both, by definition, are virtualized, analysts agree, not only because they satisfy a computer-scientific definition, but because they are almost always built on data-centers, hosted infrastructures, virtual-server-farms or even complete cloud services provided by other companies.

3. "Clouds" Don't Free IT from Nuts and Bolts

Cloud computing is supposed to abstract sophisticated IT services so far from the hardware and software running them that end users may not know who owns or maintains the servers on which their applications run.

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