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Cloud Computing: So You Don’t Have to Stand Still

The New York Times tries to explain the inevitability of cloud computing, though I don't agree with the notion that this movement is the "jargon of the moment," unless of course the contention is that the phrase cloud computing will simply be replaced by "computing." That, I feel, is accurate. In any event...

What, you may be thinking, is cloud computing? Basically, it means obtaining computing resources — processing, storage, messaging, databases and so on — from someplace outside your own four walls, and paying only for what you use.

It’s a mushy term that is being applied loosely to many things on the Web. is now called a cloud application — after all, companies let it store their sales data, rather than running it on their own systems. Facebook, too, is a cloud platform, because software developers write applications for it and distribute them on it.

Then there’s the infrastructure cloud, where companies offer up their servers, storage and other technology to anyone who can pay. Previously, that was called grid or utility computing, because you tap into it as you need it, as you would with the power grid, and pay only for what you use. In the early days of computing, it was called time-sharing.

What looks to be new is the way high-speed Internet access and almost limitless supplies of storage and processing power can now be pulled together.

In fact, cloud computing is poised to do for technology what the electrical grid did for power, says Nicholas Carr, author of "The Big Switch," which compares the rise of the cloud to the rise of electric utilities. The electrical grid streamlined operations for companies; when every home had cheap power and outlets, "you had incredible innovation in how to put all that cheap power to use," Mr. Carr says. He thinks that cloud computing will prompt a similar cycle over the next decade.


The "technical problems" with cloud computing are overblown--this article cites a two hour outage at Amazon S3 as evidence of "thunderheads" in the clouds. Baloney. Pervasive Internet access is getting faster, more reliable, and more common, and will only become more so in the years ago. One imagines a farmer lighting candles each night 100 years ago and making similar dreadful claims about electric lighting. Time marches on, with or without you.

Of course, this is high tech we're talking about here, and things are still happening quickly. So it's important to move forward gingerly. As long as you're simply moving forward.

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