What is the definition of cloud computing?

Several Salesforce.com speakers at the company’s Cloudforce conference in Singapore yesterday went to great lengths to define what exactly they felt the term ‘cloud computing meant’.

There is a great deal of debate at the moment within the IT community about whether cloud computing can encompass a variety of platforms — for example, extensible infrastructure hosted within a companies’ own datacenters, infrastructure hosted within an IT services company’s datacenters (for example, Fujitsu or CSC), and then infrastructure hosted within a technology vendor’s datacenters (for example, Salesforce.com or Microsoft).

Many in the industry are also interested in defining the term ‘private cloud’ in this context.

Salesforce.com executive vice president for the Asia-Pacific region and Japan, Lindsey Armstrong (pictured), referred to what she called “cloudy” or “ghost cloud” for solutions that didn’t go to the level of software and hardware abstraction as Salesforce.com’s — which are hosted entirely within its own datacenters.

“Private cloud to me is just a datacenter, re-branded,” said Armstrong.

The executive added that the term ‘private cloud’ was really more towards the ASP model that received quite a degree of hype throughout the 1990s and earlier this decade.

Referring to cloud computing solutions that were on customers’ own premises, Salesforce.com director of Platform Research Peter Coffee was even more blunt.

“If someone shows up with a large truck and says ‘I have your cloud here’, contradiction alarms should ring,” he said.

Coffee also took a stab at Microsoft’s rival Azure cloud computing solution, which he said had “finally” arrived this year, “after a year and a half of it being discussed as a brand”.

In general, Coffee is a strong evangelist for cloud computing. He said he was “happy to be challenged over dinner” by anyone who could find an example of where something couldn’t be done in the cloud. “I’d be very happy to find you an example,” he said.

You can view the full video of Armstrong’s presentation — which also included details of Salesforce.com’s APAC financial results for the first quarter of 2011, below.

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