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Amazon Web Services boss Andy Jassy believes that so-called cloud computing will ultimately help the hardware market – not hurt it.

"I think that [cloud computing] is going to lead to more hardware," Jassy said on Wednesday afternoon at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, California. "Look at the amount of startups that are able to get started now without having to lay-out all that capital. Look at the amount of innovation."

But VMware boss Paul Maritz believes things could go the other way. "There are two ways you can argue it," Martiz said, sitting to Jassy's right. "Techniques like virtualization and cloud are all about driving hardware to higher levels of efficiency. In that sense, we're going to be able to get more done with less infrastructure. But the efficiencies you can get might still drive higher demand."

This (slight) difference of opinion also highlights the fact that Amazon and VMware don't quite agree on what cloud computing is. Amazon believes it's limited to AWS-like public web services that provide world+dog with ready access to computing resources, such as processing power and storage. But VMware also believes in so-called "private clouds," which provide access to readily scalable resources behind the firewall.

"It's important to use the word cloud to describe not just where the computing takes place but how computing is done," Martiz said. "The very techniques [used by public clouds] can also be applied within the enterprise. There are new architectures and new ways of doing things that are being incubated in the public cloud that I think are going to be very distruptive to the way things have been done in the traditional enterprise, that need to come back into the enterprise as well."

This is true. But Amazon chief technology officer Werner Vogels has taken strong exception to traditional infrastructure outfits co-opting the cloud moniker, and his view is most famously shared by Salesforce.com boss Marc Benioff, who also joined Jassy and Maritz on stage. Saleforce offers an online "development cloud" known as Force.com, a service that offers hosted development tools, as opposed to raw infrastructure resources.

Like Vogels, Benioff refers to private clouds as "false clouds." And yes, he took another swipe at former boss Larry Ellison for backing the private cloud idea.

"Cloud computing is something that's democratic, something that small, medium, and large companies can all use," Benioff said. "It is shared infrastructure, efficiency." He said that Force.com runs applications for about 90,000 customers on a mere 1,500 machines, and that the service's carbon footprint is 0.02 grams per transaction, compared to 1.30 for Oracle. "[Cloud computing] is about lowering costs. It's about ease of use."

At Oracle OpenWorld earlier this fall, according to Benioff, Larry Ellison stood on a stage, pointed to a piece of hardware, and said "This is my cloud." "I was one Twitter. I was watching it live. It was at 7:30 at night on a Sunday," Benioff said. "First of all, I was like: 'Who does their keynote at 7:30 at night on a Sunday?' Then, I go on Twitter and I go 'beware of false clouds.'"

In short, Amazon and Salesforce believe that everything should move into the so-called public cloud. But traditional infrastructure outfits like Intel and IBM and, yes, Oracle are pushing to keep computing in the private data center, and part of that push involves nabbing the competition's marketing speak. VMware, of course, is caught somewhere it middle. ®

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