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- Yet Another Article on "What is Cloud?"
The original title to this post was "Yet Another Article on What is Cloud?" It dawned on me how much the term "Cloud Services" has seemed to explode in the past few months. Everyone is talking cloud. Our friends in Redmond have successfully got us all saying, "to the cloud." So let's get beyond the hype and define what it really is!
First, let me start by giving the new and generic answer. "Cloud" is virtually any internet online tool. I know, kind of vague, right? It's that vagueness that has probably confused so many people. The term cloud has its origin from the whiteboard doodles of engineers and I.T. geeks. Whenever we would diagram a network connection that traveled over the internet, we would draw a squiggly cloud. That's it, cloud = internet.
A few years ago (decades in buzz-word and dog years), we were talking about the coming revolution that all our applications will be somewhere on the internet, low cost, super fast, and virtually painless to maintain. We called it Web 2.0 and SaaS (software as a service). The reality is, we have only slowly evolved into that notion of utilizing multiple online tools and resources. And yes, all those resources are called Cloud. Here's how we group them together.
Cloud Software - This is any software platform that you access over the internet for a subscription. If you ripped the shrink-wrapped plastic off a box of software, you are not using the cloud. In the cloud, software is just a web page, accessed any where from any browser. You never have to worry about a software upgrade or version patch again. Business apps like this include Salesforce.com, Google Apps, and Freshbooks.com.
Cloud Hardware - This is the evolution of "renting the processing power" of other computers that are not in your building. Physical hardware has been turned into a commodity of CPU cycles, bandwidth, and storage. You pay for only what you use and never see or touch the actual hardware. Think of Amazon Web Services, here.
Consumer Cloud - I had to add this to include all manner of consumer online tools like iTunes, Flickr, and whatever Microsoft is touting in their vague TV commercials.
So there you have it, the Cloud is the Internet. The above categories will surely blur into one another over the coming months. And we may have entirely new categories soon (I'll save that for another post). We say Cloud because it's a much happier word than Internet. The internet is a scary place with hackers, spammers, and scam artists. Wouldn't you much rather run your business in a nice fluffy white cloud and be surrounded by angels?
To the Cloud!