You've probably heard the buzz-word "Cloud Computing" tossed around recently. Cloud Computing is the next big thing in remote and distributed computing and is very much in fashion now for many industry bellwethers like IBM, Sun, Amazon, Google and storage giants like EMC. You don't have to have a degree in IT to see it coming together. If you've played around with Gmail or Google Docs, even as an end user, you've already seen the beginnings of something big, really big. As with any budding new market however, there are a lot more questions than answers these days, perhaps because the possibilities are seemingly infinite. Let's take a quick gander at a basic high level understanding of how the cloud works and what the building blocks are.
Cloud Computing High-Level Diagram, Courtesy: Wikipedia
The term "cloud" was originally coined by networking technologist to explain a group of resources connected together as one. These days, coupled with the word "computing", the cloud takes on a whole new meaning. The concept is quite simple actually but it's the forces at play that leave us all speculating how the landscape will take shape. As the internet's capacity has scaled and enabled powerful new functionalities, real-time virtual resource access and billing/metering of those resources, the Cloud Computing model gained serious traction. The market has evolved from offering not only enterprise and educational institutions, services like Amazon's EC2, but also services like Google Apps are being offered all the way down to the average end user.
In the final analysis, there's no question that Cloud Computing, Grid Computing, Utility Computing or whatever else you'd like to call it, is definitely the wave of the future for many applications and usage models. Granted, the average power user or enthusiast will likely still have a powerful desktop or notebook system for many years to come. However there's something taking shape on the horizon that looks a little like Web 2.0 for computing hardware and compute resources -- a shared, collaborative and leased commodity, always accessible and shaped by the customer. It's a compelling business case to be sure with lots of competition filing into the market place. The questions that remain are many and various. What will the dominant player be for the various service types? What will the killer apps look like? And probably more importantly, will the transport providers supporting the internet backbone -- the Ciscos of the world -- be able to scale quickly enough with it? Some rather smart folks better have a few precision crystal balls at work for these questions because it's coming fast and furious but there are many of us that can't quite make out what it looks like just yet.
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