Thursday, May 10, 2012

Outlook: Cloudy

I'm a long-time follower of The Visual Thesaurus and enjoy receiving the daily Visual Thesaurus Magazine. Today, May 10, 2012, came this:

It's hard these days to be in the computer business and avoid "the cloud." All the big companies — Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, Cisco, and Apple, among others — tout their cloud services. For the most part, the folks who have to think about cloud computing are programmers. But odds are that you’re using the cloud today, and definitely will be tomorrow. What is "the cloud," anyway?
The linked article was contributed by a Microsoft Technical Writer, Mike Pope, who blogs about writing, and he does an admirable job of explaining The Cloud using metaphor and plain language. Since The Visual Thesaurus is a site about words, Pope includes a quote explaining, Why Cloud?

[M]any years ago those of us who built and sold client server applications, software and hardware used to draw a picture with the PC connected to a network and the network connected to a server. Since none of us actually understood how the network worked, we drew a cloud and labeled it "network" and left it at that. -Timothy Chou, Introduction to Cloud Computing (in about 1,000 words)
I've never seen a convincing story for the invention of The Cloud as a term to describe the collection of technologies and services this has come to stand for, but I am convinced that the ascendancy of The Cloud has a lot to do with the need for a label. So I've posted the following as a comment to Mike Pope's excellent explanation:

There's an another explanation for the coming of The Cloud, at least as a popularly used term for describing the nebulously amorphous services that happen off-site and out of mind. The Cloud is a marketing jackpot! 
All of the technologies that have come together to make The Cloud have existed for some time, but like so many things, they never had much application to consumer-oriented computing—Virtual Machines, client server computing, Software as a Service (SaaS), and a hundred other sugary snack terms for the Information Technology school lunch program have zero value to the rest of us. But wrap it all up in nice packaging for easy consumption, and you've got an amalgam every bit as delicious and habit-forming as chocolate granola bars. 
We may not know, understand, or care what's in this stuff, but we know it's good for us. I'll take second helpings on The Cloud, please, and don't be stingy!
While writing this, I looked up Timothy Chou and found his eBook available on Amazon as a free download. Coincidentally, it lives in Amazon's Cloud and it's now the first eBook I've examined using Amazon's relatively new Cloud Reader. I'm hoping that Mike Pope will follow up Outlook: Cloudy, with an explanation of cloudy articles and the difference between The Cloud and A Cloud!

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