The Cloud — How Well Do You Understand Tech’s Biggest Buzzword?

June 24, 2010 at 11:16 am Leave a comment

One of my jobs as a technology PR consultant is to stay current with industry trends, as I’ve written about previously here. No trend is bigger right now than cloud computing, which Gartner pegs as a $150 billion market by 2014. However, the term “cloud” is rapidly becoming like the term “2.0” — meaning whatever the speaker wants it to mean. So here’s a quick primer.

There are three main types of cloud computing:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) — examples, Google Docs and Twitter
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) — examples, Microsoft Azure and Google App Engine
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) — examples Amazon Web Services, Rackspace and GoGrid

To over-simplify just a bit, if you’re a consumer you care most about SaaS. If you’re a developer you care about PaaS. And if your company is looking to move to virtual servers, you care about IaaS. So from a business perspective, a lot of hype around the Cloud is focused on IaaS. Here’s how that market has evolved:

  • Began as simple collocation – still very important
  • Managed Hosting — getting closer to IaaS, but involves dedicated servers, usually long-term contracts and more expense
  • IaaS — possible today due to advances in virtualization, multi-tenant, economical and flexible, some providers can customize solutions

A great way to stay current on big trends is to track the popular conferences that form around them. As I write the GigaOm Structure 2010 show is going on in San Francisco, now in its third year and approaching must attend status for providers in the cloud space. Om Malik has a parade of big names hitting the stage and sharing their views on where the market is going. And as always, a lot of companies like to release information just prior to shows.

Here’s a totally subjective list of the big stuff so far:

Obviously this post just covers the basics, but I hope it’s helpful for those (like me) who are neither engineers nor sysadmins. It’s a confusing market right now, and having the framework down first made it easier for me to comprehend. If you can devote a bit more time than this post requires, Lenny Rachitsky has a great slide presentation on his blog Transparent Uptime.

Now let me hit save, and my blog post will be published and hosted… courtesy of Amazon’s cloud!

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