There is a storm of confusion out there regarding cloud computing across pundits, technology insiders and non-techies alike. A recent survey by Wakefield Research highlights some of the confusion. Here are my favorites:
- 95 percent of those who think they’re not using the cloud actually are
- 51 percent believe that the weather can affect cloud computing
- After being provided with the definition of the cloud, 68 percent recognized its economic benefits
- 14 percent have pretended to know what the cloud is during a job interview
From the technology community, I hear questions like, “If a community cloud is deployed on public cloud infrastructure, but is kept private through the use of security, is it a public or a private cloud?”
It is surprising to me that we are still discussing what constitutes cloud computing given the maturity of the offerings. Part of the issue is that providers have gotten ahead of the definition provided by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in part due to simple confusion about the available service models as previously defined.
The example above appears to blur the lines in the NIST definition. A community cloud could either be deployed on a private or public cloud. Many would argue that the hosting infrastructure is public, therefore it is a public cloud.
The NIST definitions are as follows:
- Private cloud: enterprise owned or leased
- Community cloud: shared infrastructure for specific community
- Public cloud: Sold to the public, mega-scale infrastructure
- Hybrid cloud: composition of two or more clouds
Strictly, speaking, the definition from NIST would suggest that in our example a community cloud deployed on public cloud infrastructure is a hybrid cloud.
According to NIST, “Cloud Computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
The definition focused on cloud basics such as the ability to easily provision services through on-demand self-service catalog, broad network access, resource pooling and location independence, as well as rapid elasticity and a pay-as-you-go, measured services model.
Today mature and complex offerings from IBM SmartCloud solutions allow you to choose the best mix for your needs with regard to private cloud managed services, for example. Where some customers may choose to have the private cloud provider manage the entire stack, others choose to split the management (above versus below the hypervisor) and keep some portion of the work or some specific environment internal to their organization.
IBM SmartCloud Service Catalog
The ability to mix and match services to requirements, to a lesser degree may be causing confusion as well. Today, IBM has a Services Catalog which providers a variety of choices, typically through a self-help web interface, completed through a series of automated processes, to provision services both above and below the hypervisor layer.
The service catalog offerings allow customers to specify some basics such as how the servers are configured through predefined server templates, the number and timing of backups, user and entitlements management.
Beyond the basics, IBM SmartCloud customers can request custom server templates, or modifications to existing templates. Choose the selected Operating System that they will support (like Linux, Windows XPorWindows 7), the number of server or DB images per server type, the number of backups which constitutes the default setting, and lastly, the customer may specify user entitlements, and user mappings to cloud roles.
A managed private cloud includes everything, top to bottom, above and below the hypervisor. An unmanaged private cloud means that the private cloud provider manages everything below the hypervisor, while you, the customer, manage everything above the hypervisor in an environment.
Below the hypervisor
Below the hypervisor refers to the physical hardware, the virtualization stack and cloud software which comprise the private cloud offering. The sorts of support items included here are:
- Image build and maintenance support
- Cloud delivery support
- Hardware delivery and maintenance, including network and storage support
- Installation and configuration services
Above the hypervisor
Above the hypervisor is a virtual machine and the services required for its support. The sorts of services include the following:
- The new Virtual Machine – UNIX / Intel support
- Hardening and security management
- Database support
- Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCRS) support
- User ID Management
- Asset Management
While complexity has added to the confusion, choices are a good thing. Because the sector will continue to grow it is important that the cloud standard be updated to include new offerings such as IBM’s Business Process as a Service (BPaaS), and break out services like Desktop as a Service (DaaS), and more.
Let me know what you think. Let’s start a conversation.
For more on this topic, see also:
- Managed Private Cloud: Delivery Models.
- What networking services are you paying for when you buy a piece of the public cloud?