Cage Match: Cloud vs Virtual vs Hosted

To me the term “cloud computing” itself is so vague as be just about meaningless, yet it carries with it all kinds of connotations.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down, and still somehow,
It’s cloud illusions I recall,
I really don’t know clouds, at all.
– Joni Mitchell

I have so many questions.

  • Does “cloud” imply virtualised?
  • What’s the difference between a cloud host and a virtual host?
  • What advantages are offered by cloud hosts vs physical hosts?
  • Or a cloud host vs a VPS?
  • How do cloud architectures differ?
  • How does cloud hosting differ as applications scale up to very large?
  • Or down to very small?
  • Are there applications that should not be run on cloud services? Why?

This coming Friday November 5th I’ll be hosting the VoIP Users Conference call when we have a panel discussion on cloud computing and its application in telecom.

To help clear away the fog presented by the passing cloud front we’re assembling a panel of people with specific experience in cloud applications. The panel includes:

Eric Chamberlain, Founder of RF.com

  • Presenter to Astricon 2009 on running Asterisk in the Amazon EC2 cloud.

Jason Goecke, Tropo

tbd*, Aretta Communications

  • Provider of virtualized Asterisk hosting based in Atlanta GA.

Tim Higgins, Small Net Builder

Also publishes a new site called Small Cloud Builder.

I’m hoping that these folks, along with the VUC regulars, can provide some enlightenment as to whether the cloud computing hype matches the reality, and how it can be used to our best advantage. Hopefully we’ll tap into the wisdom of the collective to bring some clarity to the matter.

* participation yet to be confirmed.

  • Waste of time.
    The cloud is a nebulous hazy topic – more accurately vapor. It will never materialize. I hate to throw water on your little storm, but this topic will just blow away soon enough. CPE will rain supreme. If you think otherwise, something is obscuring your view. Let the sun shine in.

    • May you always rest easily in the shade of your CPE.

  • VUC Lurker

    For me, cloud means out on the internet, somewhere. It could be a physical host but, it’s likely to be virtual because the provider can make more money that way. This brings forth my first issue with “The Cloud”.

    1. There’s no way to tell what it is or where it is. I suppose that physical vs. virtual doesn’t really matter so long as the system performs to your expectations. But, where it is could be much more important. There may be regulatory constraints on your service/data that make geographic location very important and you have no idea or control over this in “The Cloud”.

    2. Security is a huge issue. Where is your data stored? Who has access to it? How effective is the disaster recovery system when a failure occurs. You get assurances from the providers but, there is no way for you to verify ANY of their assurances. You simply have to trust them on blind faith. ‘Amazon would never store my data in China because they said so.’

    3. Along the same lines as security is privacy. Who is or could look at the data? Not just individuals like sysadmins but, automated systems looking at the “aggregate” such as Google. The opportunity for sensitive data leaking out is enormous.

    4. Further security concerns include targeting. As a small shop, Widgets Co. has a smaller chance of losing their customer credit card data to a targeted attack than a cloud service provider who, if breached, will cough up customer credit card data for Widgets Co. and 10,000 other corporations in the same breach. What if it is competitive secrets, health records, your less than mainstream porn collection?

    5. Availability. Sure, it is unlikely that your provider will go down, though it is possible and has happened in the past. But, what about your local internet connection. These are generally far from five nines reliability. Suddenly your business is completely unable to operate. Employees cant take orders and, if your PBX is in the cloud, even the phones stop working.

    There are lots of other issues that come to mind with “The Cloud” but, perhaps my biggest personal issue is the huge ground swell in favor of the cloud drowning out the voices of reason. Far too many people, in my opinion, are embracing The Cloud due to low cost, convenience, low barrier to entry, etc. while saying there’s nothing to worry about. Google/Amazon will keep the data safe and secure. Or, privacy is overrated.

    To me, the cloud makes sense for a web application. A website, or web based service is ideal for the cloud. But, storing your Excel spreadsheets and PBX out there worries me. The idea that your company might have my name in its Oracle based customer database begging to be breached, lost, go inaccessible or what have you scares me.

    I want to agree with the previous poster that CPE seems a better idea but, I think he’s wrong that it will continue to reign supreme. The Cloud is making very serous inroads in seemingly all industries and I fear that by the time my concerns are given serious consideration, possibly due to an incident, it will be too late to put the genie back in the bottle.

    The Cloud is one of those rare times where I hope that am wrong.

  • The FUD is strong in these comments. I have never joined a VUC call but will try to find the opportunity this Friday to do so. Looks like it will be a good debate.

    • VUC Lurker

      Fear Uncertainty and Doubt(FUD) certainly carries a negative connotation, most explicitly when referencing all things Microsoft. But, to me, caution and measured skepticism surely seem like prudence in this matter. Unlike Microsoft’s “hidden agenda” when using FUD, I have no stake in this argument. I simply want to avoid getting burned by being caught up in potentially irrational exuberance.

      It is my hope that you choose to join the call that you will present a thoughtful contribution to the conversation and not simply glib and derisive movie meme based remarks.

      • Sorry, Lurker. Glib and derisive weren’t my intentions at all. (I just enjoy the movie phrase.)

        No, I won’t have anything to contribute. I’m just dipping my toe in the cloud/virtualization waters in the VoIP area. I look forward to hearing the experts and getting a balanced view/debate on the subject. Feel free to remove the negative connotation from the acronym “FUD” if it reminds you of Microsoft. I’m presenting it at literal value: fear, uncertainty, and doubt–a reasonable approach to most new technologies at the very beginning. Isn’t it always the proponents trying to get us past our FUD? So I genuinely want to hear what they have to say, and you also, as you do seem to be knowledgeable in this area. Thanks.

  • The entire topic needs to be given some context. It has always been true that the devil is in the details, and The Cloud is not merely a way to avoid the details. It’s just another manner of addressing them.

    This is the very reason why a discussion of “The Cloud” is…I think…a good idea.

  • Hello,

    Next time we would be happy to talk about the cloud services of http://tropo.com and http://phono.com. And, we even provide shwag!

    http://blog.tropo.com/2010/10/29/get-some-tropo-gear-for-your-next-event/

    Looks like an interesting line-up, enjoy it!

    Jason

    • Please come on along! The more the merrier! I suspect that this will be the first, but not the last time we look into the clouds.