Happy 2011! Are we headed for cloud heaven?

Cloud road

A new year and a new decade are now upon us. Yes! Everyone loves new beginnings. Even though January 1st is just another day, it carries with it a special type of symbolism. During the holidays I watched more television than I typically do. What really stuck out to me was the constant mentions of cloud this and cloud that in commercials. After a Microsoft ad declaring everyone must head “to the cloud” for business solutions my Dad asked, “so what is the cloud?” Wowa I thought, my worlds collide!

Cloud road

The road a la cloud...

Now that the ephemeral cloud computing concept is on my family’s radar, it has definitely gone main stream. Why so popular all of a sudden? I suspect the marketers for the tech industry wore out the ‘web’ as jargon…? After all, most people cannot distinguish the technical definitions of web vs. internet vs. cloud. Web vs. internet is the easiest to explain to non-technical people. The web is just one piece of the internet. There are many facets (protocols) to the internet, the world wide web represents a small slice of it. The more intricate concept to explain is the cloud, but nevertheless I shall try.

My response to Dad was fairly simple. I said that companies are now using ‘cloud’ to illustrate sharing and manipulating files through a web-based interface rather than a static one, like altering a photo then burning it to media. This is really nothing new to photo sharing, ofoto, flickr and others have been around for years. Back in the early ages of computing it was actually commonplace for people to use mainframe terminals reporting into bigger networks.

Now we return to a virtual data mobilization concept, but with service-oriented architecture to support users in new and amazing ways. Gone are the days of shrink-wrapped boxes and hard drive space requirements! Web-based tools circumvent the shrink-wrap and the functionality feels mostly the same. The biggest distinguishing factor for the cloud is that data gets handled in a non-static environment, physical infrastructure is completely abandoned.

My concern with data virtualization is the potential loss of privacy. For once I actually agree with the curmudgeon they call Richard Stallman. Handing over all of your data to a third party is not without risks. We should not hand over all of our data without question. Recently I went on a Facebook photo deletion spree… Despite my constant review of privacy settings, friends told me my shared photos were being served up in ads to them. Not cool!

This cloud trend doesn’t impact end-user consumers as much as tech marketers would like us to think. Just make sure to have enough bandwidth…