How new is Cloud Computing?

I have spoken to several of Sun’s customers over the last 3 months about Cloud Computing and have often used the following quote, to show the commonality in distributed computing architectures.

“When we build a distributed computing platform and run one application on it, we call this HPC, when we build a distributed computing platform and run many copies of one application on it, we call this Web 2.0, and when we build a distributed computing platform and run many applications on it, we call it Cloud Computing.”

Who said it? Me!

Its not quite true, but the difference between the platforms is not necessarily as great as some might like to make it seem. Web 2.0 platforms are rarely as economic as running many copies of one application but it’s a pretty small portfolio often supporting only one end-user application. I accept that elasticity and metering are important, unsolved, or not well solved problems in the cloud world but I think the quote is worth publishing here and repeating and offers insights into planning an evolving the next generation of IT platforms.


Originally posted on my sun/oracle blog,, and republished here in 2016; it seems I was very proud of the quote, since it was orginally posted the previous year, here….


  1. This was copied across nearly seven years after it was originally written. Times change, in particular, and it’s taken longer than expected but a storage system is beginning to look quite different from those used in 2009 despite Sun’s launching of “Thumper/x4500” at that time; Sun’s failure to deliver on N1 and the evolution of software products to perform this functionality has been and gone. The key infrastructure software products, memcached, map/reduce, & global file systems were there, they were to be supplemented by provisioning products such as chef, puppet and latterly docker. The distributed OS, originally conceived as “Plan 9” is here by 2016. The quote wasn’t wrong, but possibly suggested an endpoint earlier than happened.