The End Of "Cloud Computing?"

If you think Larry Ellison's re-definition of cloud computing was confusing, get ready for a compete replacement of the term. If some companies get their way, "cloud computing" may be dissipating rapidly.

Of course, it's not like the phrase has a close connection with the public to start with. Even prominent members of the technology community have issues with it, if Ellison's marketing-spiel is any indication. A recent national survey by Wakefield Research, commissioned by Citrix, showed that most respondents believe the cloud is related to weather, while some referred to pillows, drugs and toilet paper.

"When asked what 'the cloud' is, a majority responded it’s either an actual cloud (specifically a 'fluffy white thing'), the sky or something related to the weather (29%). Only 16% said they think of a computer network to store, access and share data from Internet-connected devices," Citrix said in a press statement.

It doesn't help that marketing departments are "cloud-washing" any remotely relevant piece of technology sold or delivered these days. The most egregious example of this was Apple's iCloud, introduced in 2011. The online storage service certainly uses cloud computing to actually hold users' data, but it is not, as a whole, what cloud computing really is.

Saving The Cloud From Itself

In an effort to free cloud computing from the clutches of such marketing efforts, a few technology companies are starting to push their own, more literal definitions of cloud computing.

One such term is "software-defined datacenter," a term heavily touted by VMware, which is trying to leverage its virtualization expertise.

"A software-defined datacenter is where all infrastructure is virtualized and delivered as a service, and the control of this datacenter is entirely automated by software," stated VMware CTO Steve Herrold in a VMworld talk he gave on the topic back in August.

Now, given that the most definitions of cloud computing describe it as services that are delivered over a network, with resources automated and orchestrated by management software and applications that run within those services, it seems like VMware's "software-defined datacenter" is indeed a close fit to "cloud computing."

Something More Vendor Neutral?

The question is, will anyone bite? "Cloud" is harder to define, sure, but it's certainly a lot snappier, even if not everyone knows what the heck it means. It's easier to make a cool logo with "cloud" than "software-defined datacenter." Plus, let's not kid ourselves here, VMware is also trying to supplant "cloud computing" with its own term so it can better control the conversation.

Nor is "software-defined datacenter" the only candidate to replace "cloud computing." Companies like Puppet Labs and Reflex Systems are working to build better configuration tools that will more smoothly automate control of the cloud from within. The term used to describe this process is the "programmable datacenter," and its definition is very similar to that of "software-defined datacenter." Only without the VMware-oriented spin.

Programable datacenter may have some traction, since the vendors using the term are steeped in the use of open source software, which is where a lot of cloud computing innovation comes from. But even if neither of those terms make any headway, given the sour taste that many in the IT industry are getting from the predictable overuse of the term cloud, it's not a far stretch to imagine the rise of some alternative descriptions.

"Cloud computing" won't be the first term to journey to the Island of Misfit Buzzwords, joining "fuzzy logic," "information superhighway" and "data warehousing." But cloud's increasing overuse as a descriptor could be buying get the term a one-way ticket.

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