Mulholland, Andy, Pyke, Jon and Fingar, Peter. Enterprise cloud computing: a strategy guide for business and technology leaders.. Tampa, FL: Meghan-Kiffer Press, 2010. 264, [2] p. ISBN 978-0-929652-29-0. $39.95 [Also available as a pdf file]

Cloud computing is one of the buzz-words of the day: search for it on Google and you'll get ten million hits, on Scholar you'll get over 8,000 and if you search only for books, reports 312. Add a search for the related idea of Software as a service (or SaaS) and you'll get nearly 6,000 items reported on Scholar. And these are not the only terms associated with the idea: check out Krissi Danielson's Attack of the -aaS Acronyms, or a Quick Glossary of SaaS Cousins, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek glossary. The authors of this book even add one more: BPMaaS—Business Process Management as a Service, bringing the total to nineteen acronyms.

So—cloud computing is the next big thing, or perhaps the current big thing; but what is it? Our authors, with a combined total of 120 years of technology-related business experience behind them, naturally give a definition early on in the book:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. (p. 26).

I'm not sure about this: if cloud computing was only a 'model', would anything be happening? Surely it is more than a model: it is a mode of computing service delivery that is actually now in operation. Also the use of the words 'provisioned' and 'released' is rather strange in the context—I think the first of these is simply been used to mean 'provided', but it seems to have become an IT-management jargon term. I prefer the Wikipedia definition:

Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like the electricity grid.

Much more straightforward and intelligible.

However, writing styles and semantics apart, the detail the authors provide on the nature of the 'cloud' makes it clear that they know what they are talking about. They point out that 'cloud computing' has five essential characteristics: on-demand self service; ubiquitous network access; location independent resource pooling; rapid elasticity (by which they mean that capabilities can be rapidly scaled up (or down)); and measured service - i.e., the ability to meter and monitor activity. They go on to discuss the delivery modes and the different kinds of interrelationships between the enterprise, the cloud, the end-user and the customer.

Following the introduction to the basic concepts of cloud computing and its relationship to the enterprise. The books chapters explore the relationship between corporations and social networks, the impact of cloud computing on the service-oriented business, rethinking business processes, and the implementation of cloud computing in the enterprise. There are seven appendices (including a glossary) and I think that some of the material in these appendices could have been incorporated into the text and might have made a useful contribution there. Finally, there is a useful bibliography and a good index.

Overall, this is a useful book for its target audience, i.e., businessmen who are seeking to understand what this phenomenon is all about and how they might take advantage from it. The authors have obviously tried to write in a clear style (which they term 'non-academic' - and perhaps academics in the IT management area do have a lot to answer for, but to tar us all with that brush is a little unfair) but are perhaps too close to the world of the management consultant to avoid jargon altogether. There's a little too much 'leverage', 'envisioning' and the like for my taste, but the intended audience will probably not mind. So I recommend the book to that audience.

In fact, I would also recommend the book to anyone who wants to know about 'cloud computing', although the list price quoted above is rather steep. You can, however, buy it for less through the Amazon link on this page.

I have the impression that the publishers are trying to market themselves as e-book providers, hence the availability of pdf files and it is perhaps this that makes the front matter of the book rather oddly arranged. Thus, instead of the title page appearing on the recto, it appears on the verso, with the publication data on the facing recto. This is the result of having some font matter without a blank page to enable the title page appear in the customary position. Also, there's no price on the book jacket, nor on the provided press release - I had to do some hunting to find it on the bookseller's Website.

Professor Tom Wilson
May, 2010