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Cloud Computing Concepts - Part 1 - What is Cloud Computing?

By Andrew Pollack on 11/18/2008 at 05:24 PM EST

What is “Cloud Computing” – and why is it so attractive as a concept to business?

Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, and IBM are all talking about their “Cloud Computing” models and Sun has been saying for years that “The Network is the Computer”. What does this really mean, and what will it take to make it work?

Part 1 - What is it?

Like any other new buzzword, no exact definition is possible. You have to strip out the marketing spin associate with how each vendor wants to use it. When you get down to it though, cloud computing is about having a strong enough and standard enough local framework that you can load your applications and even store you data “out there” somewhere in the cloud. If you’re using Gmail, Quickbooks Online, Wikipedia, and almost all the so called Web 2.0 social sites out there, you’re doing cloud computing to one extent or another.

Most vendors don’t really consider it “Cloud Computing” though, unless it replaces something you used to run locally like your word processor or your graphics software. Social web sites use the cloud because the value of the data and the service results from the collaborative nature of the site. In a true cloud computing environment, that’s not necessarily true. Your word processor could be just a web site that does word processing. Your documents could be stored on a virtual drive somewhere out on the internet. You could, in theory, have almost nothing but a basic framework and web browser installed on your workstation. To add a real twist, keep in mind that the framework may very well not be a web browser at all.

Cloud Computing can come in all kinds of designs. You may have locally installed micro-apps that communicate or store data on hosted site computers – like the Twhirl client for Twitter; you may have browser based applications, where nothing at all is stored locally; you may even have peer to peer application spaces where you never really know where data is stored and processed at all. It remains to be seen which will win out.

Cloud Computing Concepts

* For those who care, I've used Planet Lotus links for the jumps in the table above, because it lets me track the count. If that bothers anyone, you can use the regular views on this blog to navigate or use your RSS reader.

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