Cloud Computing in Plain English

If packaged software is like buying a fully tricked-out luxury car, then surely cloud computing is like taking a taxi.

Yesterday I received a Christmas e-Card from rPath, which specializes in virtualization, virtual appliances and cloud computing. The card contained an invitation to view a video titled, "Cloud Computing in Plain English." Being a sucker for videos, I gave it a spin. It was pretty amusing and remarkably informative, all in less than five minutes.

One of the interesting things about the video was a metaphor it used to describe different types of software delivery. Packaged software, it says, is like buying a fully tricked-out luxury car, replete with all kinds of expensive options that you have to purchase whether or not you're going to use them. (The video showed a picture of a Lexus, but in my experience, a lot of enterprise software is more like a Ferrari—complete with all the problems one would encounter in attempting to use a Ferrari for commuting and hauling groceries.) And by the way, you have to pay cash up front for your expensive vehicle.

SaaS, by contrast, is like a leased vehicle. The advantages include little money up front and predictable payments throughout the terms of the lease, but the drawback is that you have no ability to modify the product to suit your desires or needs. The video didn't really emphasize this point, but SaaS, like leased vehicles, ends up being as expensive—if not more expensive—over the life of the product than purchased package software.

Cloud computing, the video goes on to say, is like using a taxi—fixed fee per use (mileage in the case of a taxi), with the immediate ability to decide how far or near you want to travel.

The video admits the metaphor is not perfect and breaks down at the taxi analogy, but it's well worth a view. As a nice plus, it's a great overview of the underlying drivers for cloud computing, including virtualization. There are some folks that dismiss the importance of virtualization for cloud computing, but from where I sit, it's the critical foundation for the cloud. Furthermore, it is going to transform the way IT is done in the future. Server consolidation via virtualization is just the initial baby steps for the technology.

And, as a holiday treat from me, here is my all-time favorite video, an Isuzu commercial from the 80's featuring the most amazing synchronized driving (and flying) you've ever seen.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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