Three ways that ogres are like clouds

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If you haven’t seen DreamWorks’ movie Shrek, you really should.  Not only is it a funny film, but you won’t enjoy this blog as much if you don’t know a little about ogres.

Ogres and clouds both float.  No — wrong ogre, wrong cloud.
Photo courtesy of Ben+Sam and is reproduced with permission.

I think you’ll be amazed to see how similar ogres and clouds are.  It will probably help if you imagine this being spoken in Mike Myers’ Scottish accent.

1.      Ogres have layers.  Clouds have layers.

Shrek tells Donkey that ogres and onions are alike because they both have layers.  I’m certain that Donkey would have understood better if Shrek had compared himself to cloud computing, because according to the NIST definition of clouds, clouds have three service models or layers:

  • At the bottom layer, clouds have infrastructure as a service (IaaS), which is where a cloud service provider offers infrastructure like what you’d use when building you own data center – computers (virtual machines), virtual networking (such as virtual IP addresses, load balancing, and DNS services), storage, monitoring, multiple locations, and more.  IBM SmartCloud Enterprise, Amazon EC2, and RackSpace Cloud Servers all offer IaaS in addition to other services.  I give up on comparing IaaS to an ogre, except that some people hate both.
  • The next layer up is platform as a service (PaaS).  If you’re using platform as a service, you don’t even care about the underlying server.  “Give me a database,” you say, “and make it snappy.  I don’t want to mess with provisioning a virtual machine or any of that other stuff.”  One key difference I’d like to point out here is that the cloud will provide a database as a service and the ogre will smash you.  There are tons of other PaaS offerings (Rational development tools, application security management, language platforms such as Java and Ruby, cloud APIs, and others.) and ogres won’t provide any of those to you either.
  • The next highest layer is software as a service (SaaS).  The distinction between the layers, particularly PaaS and SaaS, can blur a little (like your vision after being smashed by an ogre), but SaaS typically gives you a ready-to-use application.  Some great examples that you might not think of as “cloud” are Gmail,, or basecamp.
  • In addition to the layers defined by NIST, IBM has also defined a Business Process as a Service (BPaaS) layer.  Perhaps you don’t simply want a payroll application, you want the entire payroll business process provided by a cloud.  Biren has a good entry on BPaaS, but he unfortunately doesn’t explore the ogre connection.

2.      Ogres like their privacy.  Some clouds like their privacy.

Again the poor ogres lose here, because NIST defines four deployment models and ogres basically only like the private model.  NIST defines:

  • Private cloud, where a single organization owns a cloud that can then provide services to its internal organizational units, such as departments or divisions.  It’s important to note that you can realize many of the same benefits of public clouds, especially in larger organizations, and that the private cloud may itself be hosted off-premises by another organization (such as IBM!).  Private clouds can often offer security on par with or exceeding traditional hosting.
  • Public cloud, which is what people are more familiar with when talking about cloud.  An organization like IBM or Amazon offers services and bills users of those services.
  • Hybrid cloud, which is where I believe a lot of the action will be focused in the coming years.  A hybrid cloud can use business logic to determine which workloads need to be kept in-house on the private cloud and which workloads are good candidates for sending out to the public cloud, by simply asking the user a few questions.  A hybrid cloud could also pick different public providers based on metrics such as cost or reliability, again without the user having to make a decision based on those metrics.
  • Community cloud, which is like the exclusive country club of clouds.  It’s not public, but organizations with a common mission or requirements may fund it together and share it.  An example from the US might be a cloud that provides services to all of the school districts within a state.

3.      Ogres and clouds would both prefer for you to help yourself.

The clouds win it here, hands down, because on-demand self-service is only one of the five essential characteristics of clouds.  Clouds also enable:

  • Broad network access, so that you can access them from almost anywhere using standard methods such as web browsers or mobile devices.
  • Resource pooling, so that you can get some wonderful savings by averaging out peak demands.  If you have three companies (or divisions for private cloud) that peak at needing 50 servers each, then separately they’d have to buy a total of 150 servers.  If their peaks don’t line up, however, they might be able to collectively share 100 servers and still meet all of their requirements – a savings of 33 percent!
  • Rapid elasticity, so that you can provision and release resources quickly.  This is needed for resource pooling to work effectively, and also ensures that you don’t have to keep a large number of resources allocated and doing nothing in order to meet unexpected demand.  It eliminates waste.  Ogres also…  never mind.
  • Measured service, which means you pay only for what you use.  This can enable a pay-by-the-drink model instead of having to buy the whole keg (computer, network, and so on) up front.  Ogres probably don’t even pay for their drinks, but if they did, they would want to use the cloud model.

Well, there you have it.  By carefully watching the movie Shrek and reading the NIST cloud definition, I have conclusively proven that ogres really are like clouds.  I also managed to get IBM to pay me for watching a comedy movie, which is a pretty good trick if I do say so myself.

Shrek is a registered trademark of DreamWorks Animation.  Rackspace and Amazon are also registered trademarks of their respective corporations. Photo courtesy of Ben+Sam ( and is reproduced with permission (


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