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Confused about cloud computing?

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Join the club, says Mike Bernhardt, founder and senior investigative reporter, The Exascale Report

A big factor behind the confusion is the many self-serving definitions of ‘cloud computing’ being used by the various hardware, software and service vendors. As we’ve been discussing the topic of ‘exascale’ with many different companies, I have heard people comment that ‘cloud computing will be a key factor in achieving exascale.’

This is very interesting – and also very misleading. While cloud computing may very well be a factor in supporting an exascale-level ecosystem, it will not be a factor in achieving exaflop levels of computation. The market hype, over simplification, and the many (usually vendor-driven) definitions of cloud computing make it difficult for companies looking to make an investment in cloud computing technology. Even the analyst firms align the market forecasts based on different ways of looking at the cloud computing infrastructure and revenue-generating components and services. This is nothing new for the analyst firms, however the challenge in intelligently using these market forecasts is that they are being tossed around (by vendors and users) without adequate differentiation.

No matter how you slice it, and for the most part, no matter how you define it, cloud computing holds tremendous promise. It will likely be a significant part of the exascale world, but not a factor in achieving exaflop computation. The analyst firms are aligned in predicting strong growth of sales and services in this colourful and somewhat controversial market segment. As an example, these numbers are taken from recent publicly stated forecasts. Rest assured, you can expect these to change at least every six months moving forward:

Cloud computing market forecast

IDC - $42b / 2012

Merrill Lynch - $95b / 2013

AMI - $100b / 2014

Gartner Group - $150b / 2013

Is there a lesson in here for marketers? Sure.

Whether talking about exascale, cloud computing, grid computing, or anything else, be transparent in your definitions and understand the subtle (or not so subtle) differences in the other definitions being used so you can talk intelligently and factually to your audiences – without trying to sell them or convert them. Don’t get lost in the hype. This is true for exascale – and it’s true for cloud computing.