Clouds in the forecast

Happy New Year, bloggers and readers! Hope you had a jaunty start to 2011! After a self-imposed and self-indulgent exile, with my head in the clouds so to speak, I am back with a new post on NewsOutsideMyWindow.

Since the view outside my window on New Year’s day was grey skies and ominous dark clouds, I figured a fine topic to start off a new year of blogging would be about Clouds. No, not the cirrus or cumulus variety but the SaaS, PaaS and the IaaS kinds. Huh? I hear you say … Clouds or Cloud Computing is taking over compu-speak and its time us non-geeks learn what it means.

You probably use Cloud Computing already without realizing it. When you use your laptop or your desktop to read the News, watch a video on YouTube you are plugging into the collective power of millions of computers all over the world through the magic of the Internet. Okay, so that’s the Internet but what’s Cloud Computing?

You know those box-like towers sitting under our desktops that hold and crunch data? Big offices have them in hundreds, whirring away in basements or data centres. They cost lots of money and take up lots of space. Enter, Clouds. These are Virtual Servers housed in a remote location and offer a subscriber-based service or pay-per-use service in real time over the Internet.

There are three basic layers of Clouds, the first layer being Software as a Service or SaaS where a single application is offered through the web to thousands of customers. The Customer has no upfront investment to make in servers or software licensing; the Provider has just one app to maintain keeping its costs low. Examples of SaaS you may be using already? Gmail, iTunes, eBay and YouTube.

The next level of Cloud Computing is the Platform as a Service or PaaS which allow software developers to write custom applications for the web and for mobile devices. It works like a utility service such as Hydro or Water where users “tap in” and only pay for what they use without worrying about the complexity of the application running in the background.

Applications are programmes or software designed to do broad intensive tasks like Accounting or Word Processing. Web Apps are nimbler programmes that focus on one task only and have the following advantages:

The data you need can be accessed from any computer or device that connects to the Internet; Web Apps update themselves automatically so you always have the latest version; Web Apps run on the browser, don’t need to be downloaded, are not subject to viruses, malware or spyware and never interfere with other tasks running on the computer. A good example of a Web App is Google Maps.

The third level of Cloud Computing is Infrastructure as a Service or IaaS that offer basic computing services like number crunching and data storage. The market leaders are Amazon Web Services – that recently made headlines by kicking WikiLeaks off its servers – Rackspace and GoGrid. Amazon says it stores 200 billion digital “objects” of which 200,000 records are accessed every second!

Joni Mitchell sang, “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down …” But far from being an illusion, Cloud Computing is here is stay and, to paraphrase InfoWorld’s editor Eric Knorr, it’s a metatrend that is hardest to argue with in the long term.



Lots of space
Over 7537.472099 megabytes (and counting) of free storage.




One response to “Clouds in the forecast

  • Lynne Furgason

    Thanks for this post. I also agree with what you are saying. I have been talking about this subject a lot lately with my father so may perhaps this will get him to see my point of view. Fingers crossed!

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