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Cloud Computing – Details Don’t Matter

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Cloud computing details don’t matter. What does that mean and is it true?

It’s pretty hard to avoid the cloud. It’s even harder to understand what it means. While there are many origin stories for cloud computing, three things are central to the paradigm.

First, it’s a place where details don’t matter. Back in the 1960’s, engineers started using a cloud symbol on their network and systems diagrams. The cloud symbolized an aspect of complex systems where details did not matter. For example, you might have a diagram of how information systems worked at your head and branch offices. Lot’s of detail locally. But the links between locations were just depicted as a cloud. Somehow, the data and processes were connected, but you did not care how. Sure, you might describe bandwidth and reliability expectations. But the details of how these were accomplished did not matter to you. Eventually, we came to consider this cloud symbol as the Internet.

Second, it’s someone else’s problem. Historically, for most organizations and even individuals, computer systems have been our problem. We built or bought hardware and software and managed it ourselves. No one gave much thought to computing as a utility or shared service. One analogy is power systems for manufacturing. At first, factories located beside rivers so that they could generate their own power with water mills. Later, most factories and large buildings generated their own electricity. But when AC power was invented, it suddenly became cheaper and easier to generate electricity at a central station and just transport it to customers. Thus, utilities were born for things like power, water and waste disposal. The contemporary shift towards computing as a utility falls into this pattern.

Third, is ubiquitous connectivity. Many-to-many, many-to-you. It’s just there for any device, any friend, any customer.

So, cloud computing just means that any computing device can access anything it needs over a network, usually the Internet. It means that you can use someone else’s hardware, software or processes without caring how it is provided. It means you can access anything or anyone you want, whenever you want. How you do it doesn’t matter.

Cloud Computing Details Might Matter

Cloud computing details might matter when it comes to trust. Is your cloud secure? Is your data protected? How is your identity being used? How much trust are you trading off for convenient and cheap?

When we created the Internet, we forgot to consider trust. It was all about technology and convenience. Our rush into the cloud is not much different.

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