Cloud Series: The Cloud

by Dave Michels

There is extraordinary confusion around the cloud. This is the first in a series of posts about cloud telecom. The series will look at cloud computing, and then tie back to cloud telecom specifically. It starts of with a simple definition.

The Cloud: A service delivered over a network.

It is a bit ironic, but the term “the Cloud” is indefinable and that is the point of the term. Its use has expanded over the years, but it basically means a service function one cares not to understand.

The cloud is a very convenient concept. In The Hitchhikers Guide, the SEP force field is a similar device. It emits a nervous energy equating to Someone Else’s Problem – causing people to look the other way.

Voice is the original cloud service. Dial tone was (is) delivered over a dedicated network and network engineers claimed the cloud icon back when whiteboards were black. Electricity is also a cloud service – or also known as a utility service which will be discussed soon. Cellular service is another cloud example.

The term may seem too obvious or broad, but it is an old term and pre Internet it was a bit more unique. There just were not very many cloud services pre Internet. Anybody remember CompuServe? Go cloud!

We, as customers, rarely care about how a cloud service is created, managed, or maintained. If we are unhappy with our cellular service we don’t think about the types of antenna being used at the base towers, or the number of towers, or the operating systems or computers involved – we think about switching to a different cellular service.

If you don’t like the term, consider SaaS (Software as a Service). The most common example is vs. traditional CRM software solutions. There is a huge migration taking place away from the purchased software model to cloud services or SaaS. This is a threat to the traditional revenue base of many software companies such as Microsoft and an opportunity to organizations offering SaaS. For example, Google Apps (service) compared to Exchange and Office, or in voice; a hosted voice solution vs. a PBX. Some cloud services are free- others a flat rate, some charge based on usage.

It is surprising how many cloud services have worked their way into our daily lives: Cable or satellite TV, OnStar, and 100000s of others delivered over the Internet including my computer back-up service, IM, email, calendaring, etc.

As mentioned voice is the classic cloud service. VoIP has eliminated geography as a factor in services, so there’s been a proliferation of voice cloud offerings. This includes hosted voice, messaging services, and SIP providers. Voice will be the center of this discussion, but it has to start with basic computing evolution as a point of reference.

So what’s the big deal? This is all old stuff and cloud computing is new. The next post will discuss why cloud services have nothing (and everything) to do with cloud computing.

One can utilize a cloud service that does not utilize cloud computing and visa versa. Upcoming posts will discuss, colos, the other (X)aaS models, cloud/utility computing, private, public, and hybrid clouds, and cloud APIs. And, most importantly, what it all means to SMB and enterprise users.

Yes, there is a ton of cloud confusion. My terms and definitions are mine, and unfortunately not everyone uses them properly. But the reality is the cloud is coming and voice is changing (tempted to make a puberty reference here about voice getting deeper and louder, but I won’t).

Stay tuned for details.