Monday, July 28, 2008

Robert continues to nail Cloud Taxonomy

Perhaps partially inspired by Matias Wolsky's SaaS Taxonomy Map, my friend, co-worker, and colleague Robert W. Anderson has written a great post called The Cloud Services Stack -- Infrastructure. In his breakdown of the varying forms of services being offered in the cloud today, he proves himself to be the Linnaeus of the XaaS products on the market today.

With so many "What is Cloud Computing" posts and articles on the net that have only served to blur rather than sharpen distinctions, I think his post should be required reading. Building on his earlier post (Cloud Services Continuum), he's accurately analyzing the landscape, providing a context that allows us to group (and therefore, ultimately, compare) the differing cloud offerings.

It's not just a useful exercise, it's a necessary exercise. So many posts (and even articles in mainstream publications) say things like "You've got lots of choices, including Amazon EC2 and Google's AppEngine." Those two offerings are so very different that they can hardly be considered competitors--yet because they're lumped into the very broad category of "Cloud," people keep mentioning them in the same breath.

Rob's diagram breaks out three main parts to the cloud services stack: SaaS (or, as he sometimes calls it, Applications as a Service), Platform as a Service, and Infrastructure as a Service. It's just as useless to try to compare an IaaS offering to a PaaS offering (e.g., AppEngine and EC2) as it is to compare GMail and GoGrid--they simply occupy different niches in the ecology.

But, interestingly, Rob's Venn diagram makes it clear that unlike the Linnaean taxonomy of the the biological kingdom, these groups that make up cloud offerings are overlapping rather than heirarchical. For instance, several offerings that started as SaaS (NetSuite, FaceBook, and have added PaaS functionality to their suites.

Similarly, Twitter and have SaaS offerings that are being pushed all the way down to the Infrastructure as a Service level, being used to provide a messaging layer in the cloud. Biztalk Lab's Workflow Services sits astride the PaaS/IaaS boundary. That's not to say that all offerings can be compared, but rather that an offering can have multiple facets.

The other thing I think that is quite interesting is the fragmented nature of the IaaS market -- Rob separates it generally into three submarkets: Storage, Virtual Hardware, and "Other." (The same could be said, I suppose of the SaaS market, but that's a much more mature, well understood, and less interesting topic). I'll have more to write about this particular market later, because I think there is lots of room for analysis here.

Public domain image from the Wikimedia Commons.

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