The Blind Men and the Cloud

150 150 CloudPulse Strategies

blind_men_and_the_cloud Earlier this month I had the opportunity to deliver two presentations on cloud computing at the Next Generation Data Center (NGDC) conference. The first talk was part of the Executive Summit, an all-day event for senior IT professionals moderated by Don Tennant of ComputerWorld. The second was a stand-alone presentation as part of the conference’s Applications Track.

Since so many of us still struggle to define cloud computing, offering my perspective on what it’s all about seemed like a natural place to start.

I took a bit of an integrative approach with the definition I presented. Granted, it’s not the kind of definition that satisfies the engineer in me, but I think it helps capture the essence–and promise–of cloud computing.

Cloud computing is the evolution and convergence of many seemingly independent computing trends.

My main point is that when we try to define cloud based on some subset of the technologies used to implement it, we risk missing the forest for the trees.

Unfortunately this is done all-too-frequently, in part because of the different perspectives that we bring to the task. To illustrate a few of these perspectives at play, I read Executive Summit attendees a poem called “The Blind Men and the Cloud,” which I wrote with help from Noreen Barczewski, the Appistry office bard.

The poem, based on “The Blind Men and the Elephant,” by John Godfrey Saxe, tells the story of six "blind men of Info Tech," each trying to define cloud computing. If you look around at the various cloud definitions being proposed, I think you’ll see these six perspectives–and more–at play.

The Blind Men and the Cloud

It was six men of Info Tech

        To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Cloud

        (Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

        Might satisfy his mind


The First approached the Cloud,

        So sure that he was boasting

“I know exactly what this is…

       This Cloud is simply Hosting.”


The Second grasped within the Cloud,

        Saying, “No it’s obvious to me,

This Cloud is grid computing…

        Servers working together in harmony!”


The Third, in need of an answer,

        Cried, "Ho! I know its source of power

It’s a utility computing solution

       Which charges by the hour.”


The Fourth reached out to touch it,

        It was there, but it was not   

“Virtualization,” said he.

        “That’s precisely what we’ve got!”


The Fifth, so sure the rest were wrong

        Declared “It’s sass you fools,

Applications with no installation

        It’s breaking all the rules!"


The Sixth (whose name was Benioff),

        Felt the future he did know,

He made haste in boldly stating,           

        “This *IS* Web 3.0.”


And so these men of Info Tech

        Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

        Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right,

        And all were partly wrong!

So, what perspectives are you seeing out there? Does keeping the different perspectives in mind help make sense of the different definitions being proposed?

  • Sam J

    Hi Sam,

    I’ve spent a good part of the last month overhauling Wikipedia’s cloud computing article and have ended up essentially rewriting it from scratch. You may well have seen that there are many similarities between it and your post (and also with my earlier The Cloud and Cloud Computing consensus definition? post) so it seems that we’re definitely on the same page… hopefully others will realise there’s little point trying to align cloud with their preferred technology and accept that there’s no harm done in having a broad definition (rather the opposite could see it pigeon-holed as grid was with high performance computing tasks).

    Nice work with the poem by the way…


  • Pjkerpan

    Agree with your convergence point. My take is that the way applications are assembled, deployed and managed is being completely reshaped and in the process the data center is getting slammed by the convergence of 4 key trends: virtualization, open source, open standards and loosely coupled architectures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.