The Cloud is the name that is given to the amorphous entity of binary digits, not rain drops, that hovers in the global atmosphere, that our economies and social interactions are increasingly dependent on, and that touches down from time to time to earth at industrial sized server farms that are starting to pose a threat to the global climate.
This week the Economist has both a full article and a leader on the subject of the energy guzzling Computing Cloud: Down on the Server Farm These global entities are run by large internet companies in huge warehouses, some as big as several football pitches. “These data centres are filled with thousands of powerful computers and storage devices and are hooked up to the internet via fast fibre-optic links.” The article refers to the place “where the cloud touches down”. The servers on these farms are so numerous and powerful that as much power may be required for cooling the computers as for the actual data crunching. It concludes: ‘In future the geography of the cloud is likely to get even more complex. “Virtualisation” technology already allows the software running on individual servers to be moved from one data centre to another, mainly for back-up reasons. One day soon, these “virtual machines” may migrate to wherever computing power is cheapest, or energy is greenest. Then computing will have become a true utility—and it will no longer be apt to talk of computing clouds, so much as of a computing atmosphere.’ For the Economist Leader on the topic see: Buy our stuff, save the planet
Wikipedia tells us that the term “cloud computing” “derives from the common depiction in most technology architecture diagrams, of the Internet or IP availability, using an illustration of a cloud”. “The architecture behind cloud computing is a massive network of “cloud servers” interconnected as if in a grid running in parallel, sometimes using the technique of virtualization to maximize the utilization of the computing power available per server.” It states that it is not the same as the business model of “Software as a Service”.
Alex Barnett in his blog gives some rather more people friendly explanations, as for instance the tentative, “maybe it’s more like one giant thought-bubble in the sky?”, along with pretty pictures and some interesting links.
One of these links leads to an article called The Internet Cloud by Jessie Holliday Scanlon and Brad Wieners from Wired magazine. They use wonderful phrases like “the great cloud of unknowing has many disciples” and they discuss the reasons for the cloud being the main icon for representing the net, seemingly because it hides a lack of understanding about, or ability to explain, the inner workings, and it has no clear boundaries: ‘We always drew networks as amoeba-like things because they had no fixed topology and typically covered varying geographic areas,” says Vint Cerf, cocreator of TCP/IP, the language of networked computers. In short, no one needs to know the exact route their data will take to get from point to point. Everything is fine as long as it comes out of the cloud at the correct address.’
The Cloud is a giant thought bubble in the sky, with more thoughts even than Dilbert.
The Cloud is a vast grid of server farms that are themselves vast collections of data centres.
The Cloud is Software as a Service on the net as well as Software that is not a Service on the net.
The Cloud is trillions of millions of billions of bits zooming around like an infinite swarm of bees in the great bit dump in the sky.
The Cloud is like a traditional cloud – it has an impact on the environment. It may serve us well, with gentle rain, or it may cause a deluge that may drown us all.
The Cloud is the internet energy guzzler that far from being a green technology may cause climate change by the vast amounts of power it consumes.
My mind Clouds over and I ask these Questions:
Does Humanity have its head in the Clouds?
Is this the new the Cloud on the Horizon?
Traditional Cloud (water vapor)
Mushroom Cloud (nuclear explosions)
Electron Cloud (the atom)
Information Cloud, Info Cloud (mobile communications)
Tag Cloud (social software)
As the the Rolling Stones sang way back in the sixties:
“Hey! You! Get off of my cloud.”
Apologies for absence – I’ve been off on my own cloud!