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Cloud Convergence Council Blog: The Converged Cloud Needs a Name

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By Lawrence M. Walsh, CEO and President, The 2112 Group

What’s the difference between “Infrastructure as a Service" (IaaS) and “Platform as a Service" (PaaS)? There’s a substantial difference, but probably not for much longer. In fact, the arbitrary lines drawn between many cloud-computing services is quickly blurring as service providers consolidate and simplify their services.

Recently the blog Cloud Tweaks mused that IaaS and PaaS – two stalwart acronyms of cloud computing – would disappear from the cloud lexicon by 2012. The reason? The companies delivering these respective services are quickly encroaching on each other’s turf, making the division irrelevant.

Cloud Tweaks’ logic is infallible: Amazon Web Service is a classic IaaS offering in that it provides users access to elastic computing infrastructure (virtual servers) at a low cost, where as Microsoft’s Azure is a classic PaaS, in that it provides users access to computing infrastructure but not the underlying hardware.  However, companies like Amazon – with its recent Beanstalk launch – are making it easier to have both PaaS and IaaS in the same instance, rendering each term essentially moot.

The idea got me thinking about the converged cloud in which telephony and IT applications are integrated as a holistic offering. What will we call that cloud service?

Nomenclature consolidation in cloud computing is nothing new. In the last 15 years, cloud computing has been known as utility computing, distributed computing, Web services, grid computing, application services, software as a service (SaaS) and hosted services, to name a few. With every iteration on the road to the generic “cloud computing" came greater capabilities, which then led to the subsegments of SaaS, IaaS and PaaS.

The cloud has even been divided into different types, such as public clouds, hybrid clouds (the mix of on-premises and public services) and private clouds (data centers acting as hosted applications providers, which kind of sounds like service-oriented architectures). We’re now beginning to hear terms such as “managed clouds," which is another way to describe the full outsourcing of managed IT hosted in a cloud environment.

What happens when we start consolidating IT and voice services in the cloud? What will we call those? “Hosted unified communications" or “cloud communications" aren’t really sexy enough for marketing messages and probably won’t resonate in the minds of cloud consumers; “communications as a service" is just plain clumsy.

Happening now is a convergence in which communications are quickly becoming an integral part of common business applications. Anyone who watched the Super Bowl knows about Chatter, the private Twitter-like service integrated with Salesforce.com. UC companies such as Siemens Enterprise Communications, Cisco and Avaya are rapidly blurring the lines between voice, data and applications in their communications platforms, and it’s only a matter of time before those platforms make their way to the cloud.

Ultimately, EaaS – “Everything as a Service" – is the way we’ll describe cloud computing with the discreet implementations taking on unique monikers to describe their functions and forms. But it’s doubtful everyone – especially marketers – will be satisfied with that.

So, what will we call the converged cloud that includes integrated communications and IT applications?

Lawrence M. Walsh is CEO and president of The 2112 Group , a technology business advisory service that specializes in optimizing indirect channels and partner relationships, and principle blogger at Channelnomics . He’s also the executive director of the Channel Vanguard Council and moderator of the Channel Partners Cloud Conference Council . He is the former publisher of Channel Insider and editor of VARBusiness Magazine. You can reach him at lmwalsh@the2112group.com .
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