IDG Contributor Network: How Many Clouds Are There?

How many clouds are there?

If you’re reading this, there is a good chance, like me, you are the most technical person in your family. No matter how hard I try not to work at family events, it doesn’t usually take long for somebody to come up and drag me into some tech issue. Usually it has to do with recovering a lost file or getting a suborn virus off an old laptop, but every once in a while my family stumps me. 

Recently, I was asked how many clouds there are. I was ready to shout out some answer when my brain really started to churn. I was trying to decide what counted as a cloud. The cloud is generally considered anything that delivers services over the internet. Quickly I gave up on counting major services that are provided over the internet, and my thought process changed to “How many clouds will there be?”; “How many should there be?”; “If one cloud provider runs on another generic cloud provider does that count for one or two clouds?”

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For more than 15 years, Gary Smith has been at the helm of Ciena, leading the company through the so-called ‘telecom nuclear winter’ following the early 2000s dot-com bust to its global leadership position today in the optical networking and metro Ethernet markets. In this installment of the IDG CEO Interview Series, Smith talked with Chief Content Officer John Gallant about Ciena’s expanding enterprise business, including its data center connectivity strategy. He also discussed how Ciena is reshaping the portfolio of WAN services for enterprise customers – from the explosion of Ethernet services, to on-demand links and, ultimately, the software-defined WAN. Smith also explored the back-office work and revenue challenges ahead for service providers as big IT shops push for a more dynamic WAN.

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Though the software giant will stay very much in the background — its role will focus primarily on providing Azure cloud services for a compliance-focused software push — the move is still widely viewed as a telling sign.

“Having them come out and say, ‘We’re willing to have our name in the same sentence as the word cannabis,’ adds to the legitimacy of our industry,” said Kyle Sherman, cofounder and CEO of software maker Flowhub.

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