by Thomas Costello

February 2009 — CLOUD COMPUTING

Thomas Costello

The early stages of every new technology or concept are marked by a "terminology tangle." Everyone tries to define the new technology's boundaries and distinctions and explain its presumed and real capabilities through examples. Cloud computing is no exception. In preparation for this issue, I spoke with an array of techies across the spectrum, from old-school CIOs to cutting edge wunderkinds. Not only did I not find any two people with the same definition, I found people flip-flopping terms and examples within their own conversations. I also found a fair number of tech leaders who gladly admitted they didn't understand it at all, but were happy to learn.

Techies from the '70s are quick to point out that they believe cloud computing is simply a return to the old days of centralized computing—that the "cloud" is nothing more than sharing a centralized infrastructure on a much larger scale, with graphics rather than text. They note that since the newbies didn't live through that era, they don't see that we moved from centralized mainframes to distributed PC computing, and that this is simply a pendulum swinging back into place.

People who entered the technology field around the dot-com era initially believed that cloud computing was just the application service provider model making a comeback with a new label. Their beliefs are reinforced as they watch major vendors roll out commercials touting the value of cloud computing.

Recent entrants into the tech market most firmly grasp both the capabilities and opportunities of cloud computing, but they do lack history's lessons on the risks, challenges, and solutions of centralized computing.

In a nutshell, cloud computing, grid computing, utility computing, and the myriad of names do have significant overlap and differences—and they all provide a vastly new landscape for computing in the future. Cloud computing is the umbrella term that would best be defined as a controlled computing environment that is outside of your self-managed infrastructure. With this definition, you can visualize Google as part of the cloud ... and you could define RIM/Blackberry as part of the cloud, too (which shows that the cloud will reach well beyond what we perceive to be computing devices of today). Grid computing is best defined as an array of computing devices grouped to act in concert to execute very large tasks—think SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence project) as the simplest example. Think of utility computing as "pay as you go," right down to the transaction level (not subscription, per seat, and so on).

Non-technology aspects of cloud computing loom even larger and require more attention. Since clouds aren't constrained by geopolitical boundaries, what laws control the privacy of information in the cloud? Who decides disputes (for example, over personal information, copyright, and patents)? How does the cloud manage the differences in existing law (such as encryption constraints)?

While we can't hope to cover the entire spectrum of cloud computing in any one issue, both Computing Now and IT Professional magazine are attacking this topic. This month, Computing Now includes several articles that provide an overview of cloud computing from slightly different perspectives. While they overlap on key definitions, each will make you think of the differing opportunities the cloud can provide. Some interesting links provide both primers and ongoing information relating to clouds. Finally, take a moment to answer our poll questions and watch the results as your peers do the same. And keep an eye out for the March/April 2009 issue of IT Professional, which will include several more articles on cloud computing.

As you'll discover, cloud computing covers a broad spectrum and is truly an exciting gateway to a new topology for global computing.

Thomas Costello is is the CEO of UpStreme, Inc. a Business & Technology Management consultancy located in the Philadelphia metro area specializing in enterprise strategies and software logistics. In addition to more than 25 years of IT experience, Costello is an author, speaker, and advisor to numerous boards, executives, and federal agencies. For more information, please check out



Cloud Computing: Does Nirvana Hide behind the Nebula?

by Hakan Erdogmus
From the March/April 2009 issue of IEEE Software

The buzzword-laden realm of cloud computing is upon us.


Is Cloud Computing Really Ready for Prime Time?

by Neal Leavitt
From the January 2009 issue of Computer

Cloud computing has become a significant technology trend, and many experts expect it to reshape information-technology processes and the IT marketplace during the next five years.

Coming Soon: Research in a Cloud

by Pam Frost Gorder
From the November/December 2008 issue of Computing in Science & Engineering

A trend is taking shape in the computing industry that could significantly change the way academic research is done.

Web Semantics in the Clouds

by Peter Mika and Giovanni Tummarello
From the September/October 2008 issue of IEEE Intelligent Systems

In the last two years, the amount of structured data made available on the Web in semantic formats has grown by several orders of magnitude.

ORGs for Scalable, Robust, Privacy-Friendly Client Cloud

by Carl Hewitt
From the September/October 2008 issue of IEEE Internet Computing

The advent of multicore architecture stands to transform cloud computing in terms of scalability, robustness, and privacy.

Trend Wars: Cloud Computing

by Dejan Milojicic
From Computing Now Multimedia

Dejan Milojicic interviews Russ Daniels, vice president and chief technology officer of Cloud Services Strategy, HP, and Franco Travostino, Distinguished Architect, eBay.

A Match Made in Heaven: Gaming Enters the Cloud

by James Figueroa
Computing Now Exclusive

Online gaming has been implemented in several ways—through traditional consoles connected to the Internet, on PCs that usually require a downloaded client, and with browser games often created in Flash with limited graphics.


What's New


Magic Beyond the Screen

by Albrecht Schmidt, Dagmar Kern, Sara Streng, and Paul Holleis
From the October–December 2008 issue of IEEE MultiMedia

In this article, the authors look at advances and trends in pervasive computing and speculate about the future of multimedia.


Progress on AI, Robotics, and Automation in Space: A Report from i-SAIRAS 08

by Richard Doyle, Erick Dupuis, Mitsushige Oda, Jean-Claude Piedbeouf, and Gianfranco Visentin
From the January/February 2009 issue of IEEE Intelligent Systems

This article summarizes notable results and trends from the 2008 International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Automation in Space.


A VR Playground for Learning Abstract Mathematics Concepts

by Maria Roussou
From the January/February 2009 issue of IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications

Researchers created a virtual environment that simulates a playground to teach mathematical concepts and evaluated it through empirical studies with primary school students.


To Game or Not to Game?

by Christiane Gresse von Wangenheim and Forrest Shull
From the March/April 2009 issue of IEEE Software

This column looks at the empirical evidence for one such method, game-based learning, and reports on a literature review that looked at what games are available as well as the degree to which their efficacy has been studied.


Putting a Slug to Work

by Konstantin Läufer, George K. Thiruvathukal, Ryohei Nishimura, and Carlos Ramírez Martínez-Eiroa
From the March/April 2009 issue of Computing in Science & Engineering

Although novel architectures are growing in popularity, conventional microprocessor designs pack a punch in a small footprint and are widely supported by commodity operating system and development tools.


Build a Smarter Government, Build a Smarter Federal IT Operation

by Wushow "Bil"” Chou
From the January/February 2009 issue of IT Professional

Inspired by the new US president's call to "build a smart federal government," this article offers one viewpoint on how to build a better federal IT operation.


Server Designs for Warehouse-Computing Environments

by Kevin Lim, Parthasarathy Ranganathan, Jichuan Chang, Chandrakant Patel, Trevor Mudge, and Steven K. Reinhardt
From the January/February 2009 issue of IEEE Micro

In recent years, one of the biggest trends in the server market has been the emergence of the large-scale data center, driven by Internet-sector growth.

Understanding Android Security

by William Enck, Machigar Ongtang, and Patrick McDaniel
From the January/February 2009 issue of IEEE Security & Privacy

The next generation of open operating systems won’t be on desktops or mainframes but on the small mobile devices we carry every day.

The Credit Crunch and the Digital Bite

by Neville Holmes
From the January 2009 issue of Computer

The title of a recent article in The Guardian asked "Was software responsible for the financial crisis?," although the first sentence more properly blamed "the analysts who built the computer software that drove the derivatives markets that, in turn, drove the financial collapse."

Semantic Email Addressing: The Semantic Web Killer App?

by Michael Kassoff, Charles Petrie, Lee-Ming Zen, and Michael Genesereth
From the January/February 2009 issue of IEEE Internet Computing

Email addresses are a means to an end. The goal is usually not to send an email to a particular address, but to a particular person.

The Challenges of Nanotechnology and Gigacomplexity

by Gadi Singer, Rajesh Galivanche, Srinivas Patil, and Mike Tripp
From the January/February 2009 issue of IEEE Design & Test of Computers

In his keynote address at the 2007 International Test Conference, Gadi Singer (vice president of the Mobility Group and general manager of the SOC Enabling Group at Intel) provided Intel's perspective on evolving computing trends, continuing and future challenges of nanoscale device integration, the resulting gigascale complexity, and the implications of all this for test.

Pervasive Computing Approaches to Environmental Sustainability

by Rolando A. Cardenas-Tamayo, J. Antonio García-Macías, Timothy M. Miller, Patrick Rich, Janet Davis, Joan Albesa, Manel Gasulla, Jorge Higuera, María Teresa Penella, José Polo, Alejandro Fernández-Montes, Maria-Angeles Grado-Caffaro, Karin Kappel, Thomas Grechenig, lhan Umut, Erdem U, Josh Wall, and John Ward
From the January-March 2009 issue of IEEE Pervasive Computing

This Works in Progress department looks at eight projects that focus on environmental sustainability.