Special Reports

A Cloudy Future Isn't Always a Bad Thing

This former disc jockey thinks cloud-based services is music to his ears.

For former disc jockey Dave Macli, hosted services are like music to his ears because the services mean that he can actually concentrate on his core business -- music.

Macli, founder and chief executive of social networking and music file portal The DJ Booth, thought it was a good idea out of the gate as the perfect example of a Web 2.0 enterprise client.

"In order to be successful we have to be on the cutting edge of the music industry," said Macli. "If an artist releases a song and we don't have it up the next day, our users will let us know about it."

It's for this very reason that Macli says he needs to keep focused. His company chose to have its IT infrastructure hosted by Dallas-based The Planet. Macli's firm is headquartered in New York. Such is the nature of leaving IT to someone else Macli says.

Macli's relationship with The Planet is a prelude to how cloud computing services can and will be deployed in the future.

"The initial reaction among hosted service providers was that the onset of cloud computing could be a problem," said Rob Walters, The Planet's director of product management. "It was definitely seen earlier as a way that hosting companies would be replaced especially with the hype that the cloud and its associated vendors started to receive."
 
Hosted Services, Cloud Computing -- One and The Same?
Like any new or enhanced IT initiative there are pros and cons.  

In a cloud computing upgrade situation, a customer of a hosted service provider would typically customize their existing hosted server and processing environment packages based on storage and processing needs.
 
And of course the prevailing sales pitch from cloud evangelists everywhere is that if you're an IT shop hosted in the cloud, you don't have to buy a physical machine. This is also true, though, with hosted services as they stand right now -- with physical machines, an enterprise doesn't have to buy a physical server or maintain a data center on their own premises. In that sense, a leap to the cloud is a leap of faith in the service, which, with hosted services, a client would have presumably already taken.

For its part, The Planet started out with cloud storage products and is developing various cloud products and services.

As time went on, Walters and his colleagues found that the value proposition of virtual machines, which will eventually draw in clients into full-fledged cloud computing, was just as appealing as traditional hosted services on shared servers in a physical location.

To that end, Walters sees a big play for his company's install base.

"When you think about the customer demands large and small, it becomes clear that the values people want or will eventually want in cloud services are similar, if not one and the same conceptually, to what they've been getting from hosting services," he said.

Virtualization vs. Cloud Computing
A common misnomer, even among learned techies, is to lump virtualization and cloud computing together as they are often discussed in tandem and since they are currently two of the biggest buzzwords in enterprise computing.

That said, virtualization is one of many steps that will complement and enable cloud computing. Rather than a purebred subset or distant antecedent of the cloud, virtualization allows software to transcend hardware, making an operating system platform agnostic, delivered over networks instead of locally.

Meanwhile the cloud is a shared workstation deployed via the Internet and accessible anywhere in the world that has an Internet connection. At least that's the theory.

"Virtualization and cloud could be the CFO's best friend and the savior of internal IT departments, because you'll be able to get cloud bursts on demand," said Walters. "It breaks down the walls of internal IT while making existing walls stronger in a sense on the internal side. We've all heard of cloud...cuts out that middle man."
 
This is why Walters says there are many steps along the way toward cloud computing, where a hosting service provider can create its own lane as the IT enterprise space evolves.

"The addition of cloud products is something that the hosting services provider will have to have eventually and would probably want to have," he said, "but in the short term, won't cannibalize the industry."
 
According to Walters, The Planet has spent a lot of time talking to customers about use cases and then adding cloud product lines and storage cloud and a cloud compute product in beta.

"We aren't looking to price cloud services over and above our existing services, but some might place a premium on the offerings. For us, our install base is going to say that they can already buy -- a physical server -- so they want the price comparisons on virtual services," Walter said. "There are good reasons that multi-tenet infrastructures could cost more, but it's a case-by-case basis."

What's been most valuable so far is the type of service that Dave Macli's DJ Booth gets, which is sort of a hybrid Web and IT environment hosting that mixes traditional offerings with environments that will lead to virtual and cloud products being consolidated on the same stack.

In that sense hosting, virtualization and cloud computing are all up in the mix where hosted services are concerned.

About the Author

Jabulani Leffall is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times of London, Investor's Business Daily, The Economist and CFO Magazine, among others.