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Cloud Computing — in All Its Variations — Popular at SIFMA

Allowing firms to build, test, deploy and run applications without an infrastructure, cloud computing promises new time and cost efficiencies.

Cloud computing is a popular buzzword these days, and many exhibitors at the SIFMA TMC show are touting cloud offerings or related partnerships. But it's still a fuzzy, ill-defined buzzword.

You might talk to one vendor of cloud computing and come away thinking it's software-as-a-service. Another vendor might leave you thinking it's utility or on-demand computing. A third vendor might talk about thin provisioning, and a fourth might be selling desktop or server virtualization. Cloud computing seems to have become an umbrella term under which these and other existing solutions can be remarketed.

"When there's a bandwagon, everyone jumps on," says Luke Flemmer, managing director of consultancy Lab49. "The main thing is, you're moving away from having an intimate relationship with a specific computer and more toward having a relationship with a network of computers."

Geva Perry, chief marketing officer at GigaSpaces (booth #2217), says cloud computing is virtualization gone wild. "Virtualization is essentially taking one machine and making it behave as many," he says. "Grid computing is the reverse — taking many machines and making them behave as one. Cloud computing is a term for all that behavior. It describes an idea, an architecture in which an application runs on a bunch of machines — we don't know where, when or how much, and we don't care."

Renny Monaghan, VP, financial services, Salesforce.com (booth #2117), says, "Cloud computing is about allowing developers and partners to build, test, deploy and run applications without an infrastructure. It's driving innovation and not infrastructure." Salesforce's Force.com "cloud" platform lets developers create and run applications based on an Eclipse-like tool set. Companies pay on a per-user, per-month basis, with per-log-in pricing for lightly used applications (such as automated time-off sheets), according to Monaghan.

GigaSpaces' Perry says there are two forms of cloud computing: One targets the end user, such as hosted Google apps, in which a user can work on documents or spreadsheets "in the cloud." This category includes desktop virtualization, in which a firm internally feeds applications or files to desktops and, again, the user has no idea where his applications or documents are coming from.

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