Buzzword compliance is making things a little, um, cloudy

Network equipment vendors are getting a little buzzword-crazy when it comes to one of the biggest buzzwords today - "cloud computing" - and suddenly all of their switches and routers have "cloud" capabilities. Give me a break.

Network equipment vendors are getting a little buzzword-crazy when it comes to one of the biggest buzzwords today - "cloud computing" - and suddenly all of their switches and routers have "cloud" capabilities.

Give me a break.

Let's take a step back and look at what cloud computing is. Actually, my fellow newsletter writers Jim Metzler and Steve Taylor tackled this question just last week, and Jon Brodkin answered a lot of open questions about cloud computing in a FAQ also published last week. They discussed how cloud computing is a computing paradigm where users access various resources as they need them, across a network. You can get your infrastructure as a service, or your software as a service.

The network is the "cloud." This is of course not a new term in itself. It dates back to countless sketches and PowerPoint presentations over the years, where you draw a system on one end and connect it with a straight line to a big amorphous blob labeled "Internet" or "WAN" or whatever. Then perhaps on the other side of the amorphous blob is another line drawn to another system.

The cloud is the height of abstraction - it is the blob, the black box that conceals the gazillions of connections and equipment that actually extend between the system on the left and the system on the right.

So, when network equipment vendors start saying their switches are "optimized for the cloud," what does that mean, really? That the switches would be a great addition to the amorphous blob? Sure, there may be some real value that the switches are adding here, but it all gets lost when you start slinging this buzzword around.

Industry analyst Frank Dzubeck wrote a great column last summer that basically said there isn't a whole lot new with cloud computing. So, what is really new here, other than the buzzword to comply with? I welcome your comments.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10