Illustration (see below) copyright by Daniel Kasun, Yoottopia, 2009

Guest illustrator Daniel Kasun takes a lighthearted poke at the fever-pitch marketing campaigns that have rebranded almost everything as cloud-based. Kasun's day job happens to be with a Redmond, Wash.-based software company that has declared itself "all in," where the cloud is concerned, at a time when cloud computing has become an "all skate."

This cloud-is-everything and everything-is-cloud chatter is really not helpful in determining how the cloud forecast fits with your environment. The cloud originated as a way to illustrate the Internet on technical diagrams, but its usefulness as an analogy has not been teased out, until now. A little amateur meteorology may be in order.

Cumulus clouds in nature have vertical development and may appear alone, in lines or in clusters. The analogy to hybrid computing clouds is rather obvious, mixing and matching among private clouds (your organization alone), community clouds (your organization plus closely aligned peers) and the public cloud (usage-based provisioning to multiple organizations on the public Internet through secure connections).

Stratus clouds are the lowest to the ground. Think e-mail, online backup and other utility functions hosted by a third party.

Altostratus are middle clouds where, if you can virtualize it, they can host it. Cirrus are the high clouds. By analogy, this is the highest-performance cloud - providing configurable development environments or operating systems in the sky.

The higher you go in the cloud, the more configurable the environment becomes. But there remains a bright line of distinction between configuration and customization, the latter of which is still only available on the ground. ¨

Paul W. Taylor  |  Contributing Writer