There are at least six views on Cloud Computing out there, and why they're important. Some people are pretty adamant that their definition is the one true definition, others tend to admit the overlap. Optimists would call this state of affairs "synergy", pessimists would call "vagueness", cynics would call it "sophistry".
I'd like to distill, briefly, how I see things.
1. Theme: Scale without skill, Availablility without avarice
Why Cloud? "Don't worry about Scale or Availability, SuperCloudPlatform Will Take Care of It"
Do: Adopt a Cloud Platform, like Google App Engine, Azure, or Force.com
Don't: Worry about Infrastructure as a service, that's so .... 2006.
Laugh Nervously About: The Magic Architecture & Buzzword Bingo required to make this work. Also, all those PaaS APIs seem rather proprietary....
2. Gimme an A! A! S!
Why Cloud? "Consuming IT as an On-Demand Service instead of as a capital intensive product"
Do: Build out your cloud architecture, with its various layers, and invest in software & services at each layer.
Don't: Get locked into anyone's narrow concept of a cloud. PaaS, IaaS, some SaaS, etc., are all contenders.
Laugh Nervously About: That, as with SOA, everything is a cloud; that you can't buy a cloud, yet everyone seems to be trying to sell you one.
3. Efficiency through Outsourcing
Why Cloud? 1. "Owning your computers is as passe as owning your own energy generator" 2. "Do more with less"
Do: Find one or more strategic cloud partners and begin piilot outsourcing
Don't: Buy more hardware or software to use the cloud. It's snake oil.
Laugh Nervously About: The observation that outsourcing has been a panacea for IT's woes for over 15 years, and last we saw, it seemed like a shell game.
4. Efficiency through Consolidation
Why Cloud? "Your DC's Power, Thermal Hardware utilization are awful; you really could improve that. Virtualization was the start, this is the next step"
Do: Buy Cloud Management & Data Center Automation software, use a Cloud Services partner/SI, keep maturing your use of virtualization.
Don't: Really jump into Cloud Definition #3 until your own house is in order.
Laugh Nervously About: The extra software you're expected to buy, and that it seems to require extra hardware too. "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who seems like an apt theme song, particularly the final verse.
5. Process Networks
Why Cloud? 1. "The next-generation of the Internet that will tie together process specialization, information integration, social networking, and contextual data" 2. this is sort of where the "Web Services" vision, circa 2002, left off, after which time they made some poor investments in personal hygiene protocols and associated chicanery.
Do: Meditate on the Zen nature of this future evolution of the Internet. Sign on to Twitter. Attend lots of conferences with "2.0" in the title. Maybe buy a BPM tool, or invest in some Strategic Cloud Consulting Services. Clouds #1, #2, #3, and #4 may be useful on the path to nirvana.
Don't: Worry too much about technical details, it's all about your business anyway.
Laugh Nervously About: 1. That no one knows what the fuck these people are talking about, even though there's probably something interesting happening here. 2. That the paint is still wet on BPM vendors renaming themselves Cloud companies.
6. The Rise of Lean IT
Why Cloud? "Reduced lead times to enabling change in your IT environment, thus driving greater business value"
Do: Start redesigning your IT processes. ITIL v3 ain't bad, if you take it with a grain of salt. Pick up some IT automation and management software while you're at it.
Don't: Think that technology alone will solve your problems, this is mostly about organization & culture, baby.
Laugh Nervously About: 1. That the primary industries that have embraced Lean concepts are Automotive and Telecommunications, and the telcos have been talking about it for 10+ years with little sign they're really serious about it. 2. Agile/Lean proponents tend to be backed by a posse of folks that like to write manifestos.