The confusion over cloud service model definitions continues to be driven by the pace of evolution in the market, according to Darryl Humphrey, senior manager leading the Canadian cloud practice at Deloitte & Touche LLP.
Definitions that sufficed one or two years ago “are not granular or sophisticated enough to reflect what is being offered in the market today,” he said. And this confusion is likely to continue, according to Humphrey, because the market types of services available will keep changing and pushing the definitions.
Jay Muelhoefer, vice-president of enterprise marketing at Markham, Ont.-based Platform Computing Corp., a private cloud provider, expects 2011 will reach the inflection point where there is “more or less an agreement” over the definitions of software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS).
But the industry continues to spend a lot of time defining what the three cloud service models are, and also how vendors sit within that larger picture, said Muelhoefer. “It’s almost comical,” he said. “Pretty much any Webinar you attend starts out with a few slides that are just definitions.”
Cloud definitions are beginning to clear, according to Brian Wolff, vice-president of sales and co-founder of Indianapolis, Ind.-based public IaaS cloud provider BlueLock LLC. “I see it getting clearer and clearer as companies begin to evaluate what it is that they want that as-a-service to do,” he said.
“I think the confusion comes in when you have companies that attempt to ‘cloudwash’ or just call what they’ve done in the past ‘cloud.’ People are confused by the fact that they didn’t call it cloud yesterday. Why are they calling it ‘cloud’ today?” said Wolff.
David Senf, research director of infrastructure solutions at IDC Canada Ltd., also believes part of the problem is marketing wanting to “associate as much product as possible” with the cloud. “SEO was the last time we saw … this much confusion,” he said.
Defining the cloud
Analysts, experts and vendors agree that the definition of cloud computing set forth by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a good place to start, and several use the two-page NIST document as a foundation for their own definitions.
NIST’s outline is “generic enough that you can leave the politics out,” said Jack Daniel, community development manager for Internet security provider Astaro GmbH & Co. KG. “Even to the people who want to argue about everything, I say, ‘At least let’s use this as the starting point for an argument,’” he said.
Platform Computing also adheres to NIST. “The NIST definition has really come to help as an independent third party,” said Muelhoefer. “People are understanding how they can actually use these types of services in their company for businesses to benefit and that is making the conversation a lot easier,” he said.