Opinion: Webjet brings 'cloud' claims back down to earth

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Opinion: Webjet brings 'cloud' claims back down to earth

Ah, no, that's not cloud computing. Sorry.

If ever there was a sign that the 'Cloud Computing' buzzword was confusing just about everybody outside the industry (let alone within it), Webjet managing director David Clarke today made it abundantly clear.

Clarke, who runs one of the country's most successful e-tailers, was so incensed by a story in the Australian Financial Review [paywall] claiming his company had signed a $3 million "cloud computer deal", he put out a statement on the Stock Exchange to refute it.

The story claimed that Webjet.com.au had ordered a "private cloud computing environment" for its web site and ticketing system.

But Clarke quickly informed shareholders that the "cloud computer description is not accurate".

Webjet owned all its own web servers, he assured them - some forty physical machines and 100 virtual machines.  The fact that they are "massively scalable" and managed within a third party data centre operated by Macquarie Telecom does not make it 'cloud computing', he said.

Clarke told iTnews that somewhere between Macquarie Telecom mentioning the word "cloud" in its press release to the AFR and the journalist writing the story, somebody "totally screwed up."

"Its gobbledegook headline stuff," he said.

"We won't be putting the core of our business in a cloud anytime soon, I can assure you."

iTnews has since witnessed the Macquarie Telecom press releases sent to the AFR, which uses the word "cloud" seven times.

Hot air

Clarke's comments reinforce the opinion of Longhaus analyst Sam Higgins, who controversially told iTnews in August 2009 that most vendors touting a 'cloud' solution were misunderstanding the term.

"When you scratch beyond their use of the word 'cloud', you find they are offering nothing more than the provision of virtual servers," Higgins said at the time. "They are not offering truly elastic computing power."

Under the virtual server provisioning model, the customer is allocated a pre-defined server image from the service provider, plus access to a control panel or interface for the managing of what the customer chooses to do with the virtual server. This, Higgins had said, is not cloud computing.

"Just because something is virtual, it doesn't instantly make it a cloud computing offering."

The confusion is exacerbated by the tendency for Software-as-a-service (SaaS) plays and Platform-as-a-service plays to also run under the banner of "cloud computing".

Higgins is of the opinion that for simplicity's sake, the 'Cloud Computing' term should only apply to "infrastructure-as-a-service" - raw compute power on demand.

What do you think? Does virtual servers equal "cloud computing"? Do you only need a few virtual machines to say you've got a "private cloud"? Should the definition of cloud computing include SaaS and PaaS? Please comment below.

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