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One of the SharePoint community legends Andrew Connell recently published a great article on CMSWire discussing his perspective on the future of SharePoint in on premises scenarios in the face of “the Cloud” in the form of Office 365.

It was a balanced, well written article (as all of his stuff is) but it was fundamentally flawed as AC had lodged his leg into the semantic bear trap so commonly triggered when discussing the Cloud – comparing “on prem” with “the Cloud” when what was actually being discussed was “traditional IT operations” versus “Software as a Service”.

So, forging ahead – as with an actual bear trap, the fault of being trapped does not necessarily lay with the bear, so I am not holding AC to task here, it’s an industry issue, but it cooks my noodle nonetheless, and what’s really frustrating is that it’s actually quite simple to explain, I think…

It’s important to understand my position , I’m not disagreeing with any of AC’s conclusions or statements, merely hoping to add some clarity and try to kick-start some thought about how we’re using terminology.

The term “on prem” and, more importantly how it is used in the context of “the Cloud” is actually quite misleading.

It’s typically used as a catch-all term to describe the traditional IT operations approach of self-hosting with server rooms or datacentres and all of the procurement, management and licensing admin attached to this. The implication being that this is a polar opposite to “the Cloud”, but it isn’t and here’s why.

Traditional IT operations (“on-prem”) would likely be expected to exhibit the following characteristics (and all of the baggage associated to them):

  • self-hosted
  • non-subscription licensing
  • owned (or financed) compute/storage resources
  • facility co-location (within corporate locations)
  • etc.

There is no reason at all why “the Cloud” could not also exhibit these characteristics as none of the above necessarily exclude something from being “the Cloud”.

If we look at the NIST definition (regarded and recognised as the de facto definition of “what the Cloud is”) the key characteristics that define something being “the Cloud” are:

  • on-demand self-service
  • broad network access
  • resource pooling
  • rapid elasticity
  • measure service

None of these contradict any of the facets ordinarily associated to traditional IT operations, in fact if we have a service that utilises a Private Cloud deployment model with an IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) service model, it will quite happily exhibit all of the characteristics outlined in both bulleted lists above!

Perhaps we should be using the term “traditional IT operations” but this isn’t as catchy is it? The implied point in AC’s article poked a finger at marketing types using terminology that has become de facto – despite the fact that it is misleading.

This, fundamentally, is my issue with the term “on-prem”.

more to follow…