Cloud computing, the idea that all kinds of computing can be delivered totally over the Internet, is changing everything.It affects our daily lives … you don’t have to go into the office to grab a file. You can share stuff with anyone across any device.
It affects billions of dollars in IT spending. Enterprises are quickly moving from buying stuff to renting what they need.
One day, it may even make the PC as we know it irrelevant.
But none of this is going to happen on its own. Right now, its all being figured out by the companies building clouds. They’ve got a wide range of tactics — from giving stuff away for free to owning more of everything.
Last year, Verizon acquired cloud up-and-comer Terremark in a $1.8 billion deal. With that, Verizon became the big cheese among telco carriers who offer cloud services, including AT&T and Qwest.
Cloud telcos control the computing infrastructure and the network pipes between the customer and the cloud.
Verizon grabbed Terremark's co-founder and CTO John Considine in the deal. He's also known for founding another cloud startup, CloudSwitch, also bought by Verizon.
VMware doesn't offer cloud services itself, but it makes vCloud which is software used to build clouds.
A giant market is at stake. An enterprise will also buy the same software to build their own 'private clouds.' This lets it easily move workloads between a datacenter and the cloud.
So far, VMware says about 100 clouds are built on vCloud. Verizon is one big example. The more clouds that are built on vCloud the easier it is for enterprises to move their software between their datacenters using VMware and many different clouds.
There are lots of ways to do clouds, and Linode stands out for doing it their way -- at a fixed cost, not a pay-as-you-go model.
Linode is a favourite cloud for Linux users.
Fixed cost clouds are called 'virtual private servers' or VPS, and whenever anyone talks about VPS, Linode is always one of the options they're talking about.
Linode is always on the list whenever anyone looks at an alternative to Amazon's AWS, too.
Salesforce.com not only showed the world that software can be bought as a service, but it also has one of the most popular clouds for running your own home-grown applications: Heroku.
Salesforce bought Heroku in 2010 for $212 million and developers have been known to call it 'freakin' magic' because it lets them pop their apps onto the cloud very easily. (For the techies: it is best loved for apps written in Ruby, Node.js, Clojure, Java, Python, and Scala).
Citrix is another company building software for clouds, and it's really putting the heat on VMware and others on this list.
It bought startup Cloud.com about a year ago for a reported $200+ million which gave it instant access to open source cloud software used to build clouds.
Then it gave that open source software, called CloudStack, to the Apache Foundation, the big non-profit group that manages many popular open source projects.
Now there's a choice between buying VMware's vCloud or getting CloudStack for free. Of course, Citrix has its own commercial version, too. Getting people to use CloudStack also helps Citrix sell more of its other software that competes with VMware.
Red Hat's OpenShift is a controversial name on this list because it actually uses Amazon's AWS -- Red Hat didn't fire up its own data centres.
OpenShift makes it easier for Linux lovers to plop their applications onto Amazon. (OpenShift basically competes with Heroku. It's for apps written in Java, Ruby, PHP, Perl, and Python.)
And it's FREE. Red Hat is using it to show off its own technology that competes with VMware. But Red Hat also uses it ito scout out early stage projects that it may want to support, buy, or partner with, Red Hat's Jackie Yeaney told Business Insider.
Google is doing a whole bunch in the cloud. Google App Engine is another spot where developers can park their apps (Java and Python) and a popular destination at that.
Google Apps has given Microsoft Office a run for its money. Google Cloud Storage has been an alternative to Amazon S3 for enterprises for a while.
Now there's Google Drive, which could give Dropbox and Microsoft's SkyDrive a run for their money.
And Google's got a whole bunch of cloud experiments too, like Google CloudPrint, Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, and more ... Not to mention ChromeOS, the entire premise of which is that a computer can run every app from the Web instead of on the computer itself.
Microsoft has its big enterprise cloud, too, Azure. This is the cloud for the millions of developers who already write for Microsoft's platform.
Microsoft has made Azure relevant beyond its own fans because it is happy to compete in price wars with Amazon. It offers some interesting uses for Azure, such as Media Services for streaming videos.
rumour has it that Azure will soon support Linux, making it more of a head-to-head competitor with Amazon and the others on this list.
Microsoft also has its own consumer cloud freebies, like Hotmail and SkyDrive, and its enterprise cloud apps, Office 365.
Rackspace is a cloud provider. Its power comes from OpenStack, an open source method for building clouds. Rackspace's OpenStack is to cloud computing what Google's Android is to mobile device makers.
Rackspace didn't want to pay companies like VMware for software it couldn't control. So it partnered with NASA after NASA invented some really great cloud software. It invited all the other players in (although it also kept a lot of control for itself, at least at first). And lo and behold, more than 160 of them did, contributing code to make OpenStack work well and stay free.
RackSpace competes with Citrix's CloudStack and VMware's vCloud -- although Citrix also contributes to OpenStack. That's because there's so much power behind OpenStack that they have to work with it.
There's no question who the most important cloud player is: Amazon. But what we love about this company is that it is still the most innovative. It still works like a startup, always staying one step ahead.
It's wild to think that a company founded to sell books could have been the catalyst for so much change in the IT industry. But it was -- and still is.