Cloud 101 - is it really new?

It's commonplace today.  There's cloud storage for our phones and you use apps in the cloud and stream movies from the cloud, it seems like everything has gone to the clouds.  That's actually true, but maybe it was always there.  Now some tech aficionados will want to debate more modern or technical definitions of "the cloud" but for the rest of us, thinking of it as the Internet is a good place to start.  It's definitely more than that, but the Internet is the foundation.

Where did the term come from?  While it's not entirely clear, there are computer network diagrams dating back to the mid 1990's that use a cloud symbol to represent the Internet.  Other servers are connected to the cloud, but external to it.  Since then, the cloud symbol became increasingly common in these diagrams.  As the Internet exploded, "the cloud" on the diagrams became a hot topic in meetings.

Now that's only one piece of the puzzle.  FYI - I'll try to limit it to a few pieces, just so we keep this to a manageable read, especially for the first one.  Anyway, the Internet has been big since the late 1990's so why does it seem the cloud has only caught on over the last couple years?  Short answer, virtualization technology, mobile devices, and bandwidth.  Especially the last two.  Virtualization has been around forever.  It's where we started with mainframes and vax computers.  Over the years it's evolved to delivering a rich, full featured PC desktop experience so well that you don't know whether you're running locally or remotely.  Gratuitious plug:  VADAR has been a market leader in this regard, supporting virtual platforms since 2000.

One of the big changes over the last 5 years has been the shift to mobile devices - smartphones and tablets.  These fundamentally changed how we work and play, further overlapping the two, which may not be a good thing but that's a post for another day...the traditional PC business is on a steep decline with mobile devices taking over.  And what do we do with these devices?  We consume content.  Whether it's music, movies, games, work apps, social media, texts, email, whatever, we consume.  Where does the content come from?  You got it, the cloud.  Which brings us to the other big change.

How do you get to the cloud and more importantly, get stuff from the cloud?  That's easy, it's over the Internet.  It's on, I connect, it's fast, it's reliable, there's not much to it.  For a lot of people, that's all they know and all they want to know.  Which is great.  That's what good technology should do.  The part a lot of us don't see is how much bandwidth has increased.  Think of bandwidth as the size of the road between you and the internet.  The wider the road, the more traffic that can flow through.  And the faster it can go.  Speeds are literally doubling for the same price or less than what they were 3 years ago.  You may have seen the recent news about Verizon supposedly limiting Netflix bandwidth b/c Netflix uses an insane amount during peak periods.  The result is likely a "toll" Netflix will pay, and probably without much argument, to Verizon.  As those who control the information superhighway open up more bandwidth and make it cheaper, businesses respond with more and better options to deliver their products and services to we the consumer who appear to have an insatiable appetite.

So to answer our original question, the cloud isn't really new.  It's natural evolution in our hyper-connected world.

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