Beware of 'false clouds,' warn the people who sell clouds you can't build yourself

Internal clouds don't qualify as 'sacred' or cloud, Amazon and Salesforce bosses claim

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels and CEO Marc Benioff warned attendees at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco yesterday to beware of "false clouds" -- the kind end-user companies could build themselves on top of their own data centers rather than buying from an external service provider like, say, Amazon or Salesforce.

I had some important not-being-there to do, so I missed the session, but I imagine VMware CEO Paul Maritz -- who was sitting on the same panel to talk about the development of cloud -- didn't like that much.

"It's important to use the word cloud to describe not just where the computing takes place but how computing is done," Martiz said, according to a note-taker in the crowd who was sharp enough to realize the difference.

,a href="" target="_blank">VMware thinks cloud is something you build on top of virtualized servers to abstract them even further than spending their whole lives trapped in a small box in a VM farm does to the poor things. Cloud lets you reassign compute power, memory, I/O or other resources wherever in the data center(s) you need them to do load-balancing and performance-management on a colossal scale.

Rather than just making sure one server with one app runs as well as it can, you tune the whole data center and, when you run out of juice there, you throw open a link to an external cloud and start using its power, too. It's like being connected to a power grid or -- having seen the result that often comes out of those elegant and sophisticated computing structures -- a sewage system that flows both ways, but does it really well.

Vogels and Benioff think a cloud is only a cloud if it's outside the firewall, owned by someone else and, apparently, is worshipped by people who don't realize they're only SAAS providers.

"Cloud computing is a sacred thing," said Benioff, who was obviously trying way too hard and probably went home alone at the end of the night after his obvious desperation turned off every potential customer at the party.

He's right that it's a religious issue; everyone has their own opinions, there's no definitive evidence which one is completely right, and most of their assumptions are mutually exclusive.

If you pull Larry Ellison into the mix, as they eventually did, you even have a built-in heretic, who apparently pointed at a piece of hardware onstage at Oracle OpenWorld and said "This is my cloud."

Being that hardware and clouds are similar in the same way as water and fire, and that Oracle is a software company anyway, and doesn't really sell either clouds or hardware (except, just barely, Sun boxes), it looks as if Larry might be more confused about what cloud is and what you do with it than even the people who really are trying to sell it.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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