Cloud Computing Is Not All About Infrastructure
Within the various communities of people that I interact with, including colleagues, clients, domain experts, technical architects, sales executives, and others, I've often seen that cloud computing is predominantly linked to infrastructure and availability of infrastructure (servers, storage, etc.) as-a-service, even though there is enough evidence that it can be both "hardware and software" as-a-service.
In fact, cloud computing can be "anything IT" as-a-service, be it infrastructure-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, software-as-a-service, storage-as-a-service, security-as-a-service, data-as-a-service, business process-as-a-service, dev/test environment-as-a-service, desktop-as-a-service, or API-as-a-service.
This brings up an interesting overlap with traditional IT.
Cloud computing can replace the traditional and manual methods of downloading, installing, and configuring development software (IDEs, app servers, and plug-ins) with an automated workflow based process, enabled via an unified Web interface/portal that will provide complete development environments as-a-service and on demand to software developers, bringing in efficiency and consistency. At the same time, it can integrate architecture repositories along with the various project and quality management tools and processes, including tracking tools, charts, and reporting dashboards via the same unified Web interface/portal, to provide well-rounded development/test environments on an "as-a-service" basis.
It provides a compelling alternative to the traditional EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) and ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) architecture patterns with a "Cloud Integration Gateway" that can not only integrate on-premises applications but also on-premises applications with SaaS applications/platforms in the cloud, and even integrate SaaS applications to other SaaS applications in the cloud, via a common orchestration layer that can abstract an enterprise from the lack of interoperability and lack of standardization in the industry.
Cloud computing provides innovative options to collaborate at work with social networking, micro-blogging evolving from a traditional theme of enterprise portals, identity, and content management.
It opens up newer options on how data is handled with ability to mine sources of data previously not feasible to provide "business intelligence, analytics, and data warehousing" as-as-a-service. It provides cheaper options for high performance computing leveraging the commoditization of Infrastructure. With the automation that it brings in, it provides better efficiency and cost savings on application maintenance and infrastructure management.
Cloud-based computing is the end state when developing or evolving an enterprise's architecture and cuts across various spheres of IT architectures. It is taking service orientation of applications and infrastructure to the next level.
Of course, all this is possible with an underlying layer of infrastructure that is virtualized and automated to be available on an on-demand basis, but cloud computing is not only about infrastructure or just an infrastructure deployment model. A holistic approach is required to realize the full benefits cloud computing has to offer.