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Working on cloud for Seagate, I spend a lot of time trying to explain what cloud is to friends and family who have no idea what I am talking about.  It’s no fault of their own. Sometimes the concept of cloud can be confusing to people, especially those that dont spend a bulk of their days with their heads up in them, like me.

So, I got to thinking…what could I compare the cloud to that would make my less technophile family understand?  There’s the apartment building analogy, which has been done by the likes of Rackspace in their CloudU training (I highly recommend it by the way).  There’s using everyday examples like GMail, Facebook, Twitter, even Netflix, but the true concept of cloud still falls on deaf ears.

Then came the typical Friday night dinner discussion with my wife and kids. You know the one…

“What do you want for dinner.”
“I don’t know. What do you want?”
“I don’t care. You choose.”
“No, you choose.”

…and round and round we go.  Then it dawned on me. When we have run out of food to prepare at home, and don’t have the time to run to the grocery store, we rely on a restaurant to meet our needs. Imagine a lightbulb appearing above my head.

Let’s look at restaurants…heck food trends in general. What are the similarities?

1. The Menus:  The cloud and restaurants are both menu driven.  You order what you want, it’s prepared for you by someone else, and delivered to you as a service.

2. The Ingredients: Restaurants typically buy ingredients in bulk and assemble the meals based on recipes created by some expert chef. Cloud (at least public cloud) is very much the same. Very talented cloud architects (the chefs) create the data center design (the kitchen), and choosing only the best components – flash, hard drives, processors, motherboards, chassis, etc. (the ingredients), they create “the stack” (the recipes) that are required to deliver the best services (the meals).

3. The Chefs: A lot of times, the best restaurants have the best chefs.  I’m thinking Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Cat Cora, Masaharu Morimoto…you know, Food Network’s Iron Chef America cast. The same holds true for cloud. Public cloud providers like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Rackspace, Microsoft, they all employ the brightest engineers and architects to design their infrastructure – to come up with the recipes. Typically, the better the architect (the chef), the better the services (the meals).

4. The Kitchens:  Above I mentioned data center design (the kitchen) is typically something we see in public clouds. The same trend holds true for private clouds (it’s the home kitchen).  Think about the one room in the home that typically gets the most attention, requires the most efficient design, and typically costs the most money. It’s the kitchen. Businesses are like families with talented cooks (IT architects) in house who want the most efficient use of kitchen space (data center), using the latest appliances, countertops, cabinetry(hardware and software), to deliver the best meals (services) in the most cost effective way to their family (employees).

5. The Reputation: Outages, security breaches, delivery speed, customer service…restaurants have those too.  The called health inspections, ambiance, wait staff, and food quality. They can make or break a restaurant, and a cloud provider as well.

6. Food Trucks: What about this mobile food truck craze?  The cloud has those too.  They are called Mobile Data Centers or modular data centers / pods. Elliptical Mobile Solutions is one example, but the likes of HP, Dell, and others have their own versions of the food truck.  Each one uniquely serving it’s own take on cloud services (the meals).

7. Cookbooks & Cooking Shows:   Want to mimic what the best chefs do?  First learn how they do it.  In the cloud they’re called open source hardware and software designs (the recipes) like Facebook’s Open Compute Project, or Rackspace’s promotion of Openstack.

8. Organic: Whether you eat at a restaurant or cook at home the trend towards the freshest organic ingredients is apparent. The same holds true for cloud.  Cloud providers want to use the latest and greatest technology (the freshest organic ingredients) at their disposal. Faster technology refreshes and faster innovation are critical to companies like Facebook. This was made evident at the Open Compute Summit just this past January.

9. Fast food:  Same concept as cloud bursting. When you are hungry now, what’s easier than fast food?  The same for cloud. If you need extra compute or storage now, you burst to a public cloud provider like Amazon.

10. All you can eat buffets:  Over-provisioning – need I say more?

So, what type of cloud do you and tour family operate?

Public – you only eat at restaurants
Private – you only cook at home
Hybrid – you do a mix of home cooking and a night out.

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