Cloud computing is in the air. Wherever I turn people are talking about public clouds, private clouds, enterprise clouds. It seems that the makers of cloud technology can be the next generation of rainmakers. Truth be told, the computing concept of virtualization or even time-sharing is hardly a new one.
The natural ebb and flow of computing power and application requirements has swung to the point where most applications can share a single physical platform, thus virtualization and cloud computing. This trend coupled with a high speed connected internet enables cloud computing to become a metered utility.
All of that dark fiber and infrastructure that was placed during the dot.com boom is coming into play. But, as I said , nothing really new here.
Back in Graduate School, in a time when Carl Sagan was still gazing at the billions and billions of stars, my personal computing account was metered by compute cycle. If I designed a particular program poorly and ate up a lot of compute time, it might be time to whip out the credit cad and recharge the account. This methodology certainly made you a precise and careful program designer!
While this cloud trend is particularly relevant and profit making for companies such as Amazon, RackSpace, VMware, Microsoft, etc – what does it mean for the guy on the street?
The companion trend that will have more far reaching implications for the consumer is personal clouds. A personal cloud is a collection of your data and applications that is accessible from any device, anytime. This includes documents, photos, videos, games, TV and movies, applications and personal preferences. Everything that now sits on your semi-connected home or work PC, mp3 player or smartphone just waiting for a hard-disk crash, or the device to break or be lost ,will now be available in your personal cloud.
This has already started. Gmail, Hotmail, and other online mail providers store and manage your email accounts. Goggle docs can store any document type and has online versions of word processing, spread sheeting and presentation software. The majority of my TV viewing is done online. I do not even know the original air date of most of the shows that I retrieve form Hulu or the network sites.
What a netbook does well is get on the Internet and get to your stuff. The personal cloud does for the individual what enterprise cloud computing does for the corporation – it turns computing power and storage from device centric (PC, Laptop, Phone, TV) to a network utility. Display and connectivity is what will be needed in the future.