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7 responses to “What is the Sound of One Cloud Thunderclapping?”

  1. Randy Bias

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the great response. Just wanted to clarify a few points. First, I’m not arguing that EC2 is not a cloud because Amazon doesn’t get elasticity from it. My argument is that elasticity is essential a benefit of cloud computing customers, not cloud computing in and of itself. As someone who has looked closely at 5-10 IaaS clouds, where by ‘closely’ I mean done deep technical and business due diligence, I can tell you that none of these infrastructures are ‘elastic’ internally.

    In fact, most of public IaaS clouds *must* run at 70-80% capacity for the business models to work out properly. That means that they are rather inelastic to be certain. There is certainly no doubt that Amazon customers derive tremendous benefits from elasticity and in fact, most new cloud-based applications depend specifically on this benefit. But is that cloud computing? Or is it just cloud applications consuming cloud computing?

    I think about it sometimes like I would electrical power. Specifically electrical power from to a factory. IaaS is the feed from grid, PaaS is the electrical power distribution system within the factory and SaaS/CloudApps are the end systems inside the factory (computers, robotics, machinery) that consume the electricity.

    Again, thanks for the response. I can appreciate your particular viewpoint here.



  2. Bob Warfield

    Randy, I’m glad you brought up the electrical power analogy.

    Once upon a time, everyone generated their own electrical power on site, where the power was to be consumed. There was no elasticity available, and no grid.

    We learned pretty quickly what the shortcomings of that model were.

    So it is with Cloud Computing. Clouds without elasticity may as well be the old model where the electricity is generated where it is to be consumed. Again, no elasticity. It makes no sense to call that a Cloud, unless you’re just pushing it as hype.

    You haven’t made a believer out of me.



  3. What is the Sound of One Cloud Thunderclapping? | Digital Asset Management

    […] What is the Sound of One Cloud Thunderclapping?. […]

  4. Walter Adamson

    OK I see what Randy is driving at, I hope. That’s just from reading this post which I found fascinating so thank you both. To the supplier it is not elastic it is simply a bandwidth management and capacity management/utilization problem, over fixed assets or a “sunk cost”. Unless they are in a grid to a 3rd party cloud provider. To the consumer it is elastic. To the provider it is about capital and risk management, and the consumer about economies and responsiveness, sort of….

    Walter Adamson @g2m

  5. Randy Bias


    Walter Adamson is correct. My point is that the cloud itself is inelastic, not the usage. A 10 MW power plant is a 10MW power plant. Elasticity is a benefit that emerges when 1) there is an abundance of a commodity resource and 2) the resource is tied into a distribution system that allows easy access.

    Your example shows this. It turns out that it’s the combination of “cheap” *and* “easy to get” that turns any kind of business tech/infra into something that be a ‘utility.’ The side effect and a key benefit for customers of this change is elasticity. But there isn’t anything fundamental to electricity or a power plant that is elastic.

    As Walter Adamson says, for the provider(s) it’s a capacity management problem.



  6. Phil Wainewright

    “The side effect and a key benefit for customers of this change is elasticity. But there isn’t anything fundamental to electricity or a power plant that is elastic.”

    – except its business model.

    But surely the context in which the output is delivered is part of the definition?

    Or are we going to say things like, “there isn’t anything fundamental to currency that is spendable;” or “there isn’t anything fundamental to a hot dinner that is edible” ??

    I too agree with Walter Adamson, and if Randy wants to define cloud computing in strictly technology terms with no reference to the context in which it’s consumed, then I guess I agree with him too. I think he makes a useful point but it seems rather academic.

  7. Bob Warfield

    Phil, this discussion is about the critical difference between a technology/product and a service. As you say, the context of consumption matters. It matters a lot.

    When people say they are delivering “X” as a Service, there frequently is not a good understanding of the real difference between “X” as a Service and “X” as a product or technology.

    Delving into that difference, both as it applies to this specific blog topic as well as how it applies to almost every “X” as a Service discussion, will be a topic for another Smoothspan blog post before too long!