Cloud/Grid/Utility Computing what is it & must you have it?

Today I want to discuss the latest hype in the HR technology space, Cloud/Grid/Utility Computing. Now the terms utility computing and grid computing have been around for a while now, however cloud computing is areasonable new term.

First up they are not the same thing! They can be related but they are not the same.

Let me start with utility computing. According to Wikipedia the first real reference of utility computing goes back to 1961!

If computers of the kind I have advocated become the computers of the future, then computing may someday be organized as a public utility just as the telephone system is a public utility… The computer utility could become the basis of a new and important industry. – John McCarthy, MIT Centennial in 1961

So utility computing is:
  • Pre-packaged resources
  • Low or no initial cost for hardware
  • Typically rented
  • Rapid growth of capacity
  • Always on like electricity or water

Grid computing on the other hand is completely different:

  • Applying the resources of many computers in a network to a single problem at the same time
  • A form of distributed computing
  • Usually based on open standards
  • High levels of reliability

Finally we get to cloud computing, again from Wikipedia we get this quote:

According to a 2008  paper published by IEEE Internet Computing “Cloud Computing is a paradigm in which information is permanently stored in servers on the Internet and cached temporarily on clients that include desktops, entertainment centers, table computers, notebooks, wall computers, handhelds, sensors, monitors, etc.”

So attributes of cloud computing are:

  • Customer do not own the infrastructure
  • Access is usually based on rental
  • Can be based on the utilitiy model
  • Delivered as a service with data stored in the cloud

Now this is very confusing as how do all these terms different from “Software as a Service” (SaaS) or Application Service Provider (ASP) models for software delivery?

I see things in a rather simple fashion. To some degree ASP has become SaaS with some addtional features, which is now moving towardds cloud computing but not always as there are other pieces to cloud computing. All can be done with a grid or utility model again not always. Now some technology architects will disagree with this simplified model but I feel it works.

Marketing folks will repackaging existing tools to use the new buzz words. For example Taleo back in September at Taleo World annouced “The Talent Grid, built on Taleo’s on-demand application platform, will deliver the infrastructure and resources to power organizations’ future talent needs”. Based on the press release it is not a grid computing model but using the name gives the average person the wrong sort of messages. They are certainly moving towards a cloud model but if they are not really doing grid are they really doing cloud or is it just marketing? To be honest I have not seen the details of all their products so I cannot answer the question.

I would suggest Taleo are not doing cloud 100%. Why? Review these 15 items by James Governor from MonkChips to get the general idea, some are a bit tongue in cheek but should give you a starting point.

If you peel back the label and its says “Grid” or “OGSA” underneath… its not a cloud.

If you need to send a 40 page requirements document to the vendor then… it is not cloud.

If you can’t buy it on your personal credit card… it is not a cloud

If they are trying to sell you hardware… its not a cloud.

If there is no API… its not a cloud.

If you need to rearchitect your systems for it… Its not a cloud.

If it takes more than ten minutes to provision… its not a cloud.

If you can’t deprovision in less than ten minutes… its not a cloud.

If you know where the machines are… its not a cloud.

If there is a consultant in the room… its not a cloud.

If you need to specify the number of machines you want upfront… its not a cloud.

If it only runs one operating system… its not a cloud.

If you can’t connect to it from your own machine… its not a cloud.

If you need to install software to use it… its not a cloud.

If you own all the hardware… its not a cloud.

Am I wrong? Thoughts, comments?

2 thoughts on “Cloud/Grid/Utility Computing what is it & must you have it?

  1. I’m quietly confident that “cloud computing” is actually a reference to the bong haze that can be seen over some CxO’s at IT trade conferences, and your blog goes some way to confirm that theory.

    Suggesting that all three models have a low entry price, can be distributed, can be serviced centrally and can be utility driven, does not demonstrate that cloud computing has any point of difference over its predecessors. Wrapping that detailed analysis up with inconclusive conclusions such as “All can be done with … again not always” and “I have not seen the details … so I cannot answer the question” go a long way to suggest that the cloud really has landed, and that this might be some strong skunk indeed.

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