It's time: Out with 'cloud,' in with computing

Cloud computing is now simply a pattern of computing, but no one's about to retire the term

Cloud computing is about 10 years old. We're not talking the technology -- that's decades old -- but the term "cloud computing" itself. When it got a name, the cloud became a real phenomenon, and after all this time, it's gone from being the enfant terrible of enterprise computing to the assumed platform for new enterprise computing. That change was clear at this week's AWS Re:Invent cloud show.

Although computing as a service -- what we call the cloud -- remains an evolving notion, it is now fundamental to pretty much everything. Whether you're thinking Internet of things, big data, mobile computing, or gaming, they are all affected by the use of public and private cloud services. In fact, cloud computing as a concept is systemic to most of what we do in the world of computing these days.

But if everything is a cloud, then nothing is a cloud, and that may be the next phase of this shift. Practically everybody -- not only Amazon Web Services, which got all the attention this week -- is a public cloud provider. Likewise, all the features that make a cloud a cloud -- elasticity, self-provisioning, tenancy, and usage-based cost -- are now common even in enterprise data centers.

There is no line any longer between where the cloud begins and traditional computing ends.

Perhaps we should retire the phrase "cloud computing" and call it what is really is today: computing. 

I doubt we will. Successful labels have long lifespans that outlive the need for them. Plus, having a name lets everyone define it in their own self-interest, such as to use it as cover for a regular data center by a cloud-adverse IT organization or to make some unrelated technology more appealing by calling it a cloud technology.

Even when marketing reasons fade away, it's hard for pervasive terms to die. As an architect, I see the cloud as I do past innovations such as distributed computing, client/server, and the Web: They're attributes and patterns. All are now baked into how we do computing and are no longer separate items. But few people see it that way, especially when marketing concerns are paramount as they still are for cloud computing.

I know that truth firsthand and have found that I get more business and more money as a "cloud architect" than if I called myself an "IT architect." An IT architect today is or should be a cloud architect. But whether the issue is reality or perception, people don't equate them -- which is why despite my belief that cloud computing has become simply computing, I still call myself a cloud architect.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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