Buzz Words That Suck: "Cloud"

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
— Inigo Montoya

I've been talking to a lot of people lately. Colleagues, friends, people I'm meeting for the first time, even family. What I find myself talking about most is what I do for a living. More specifically, people ask: "So what are you up to these days?"

Part of what I talk about in answer to this question is Raika and the projects we are working on, and that inevitably leads to discussions about technology. And invariably, at some point in most of these conversations, someone uses the word "cloud". And you'd be amazed at how many times the person using the word actually points up to the sky when they say it.

Say what?

The concept of "the cloud" has been around a very long time (relative to computing and technology). In the 1960s, very smart people were already well down the road to creating the super-network that is the modern Internet. Anytime a diagram or flow chart was drawn to help express this concept a white, fluffy cloud was used to indicate a user's connection going out into the network. Because networks are designed to use the most efficient path at any given time, and because there are hundreds of millions of computers on the Internet, there is no really reliable way to know which actual path a particular request will take to get to its end. Thus using a cloud in a workflow to indicate that the connection goes out and finds the best path before getting to the end result (i.e. the rest of the flow chart) makes perfect sense.


Fast-forward to the modern era. In 2006, Eric Schmidt (then CEO of Google) introduced the phrase "cloud computing" at a technology conference, and oh boy did THAT get out of hand. Technical neophytes started relating a physical phenomenon (clouds in the sky) with a computing phenomenon (advanced networking by efficiency) simply because they still really didn't understand the latter.

The reality is that the cloud is still just a huge super-network... Of actual, physical computers. When someone refers to putting their data "in the cloud", or hosting their service "in the cloud", what they mean is that they have off-loaded some type of computing or processing to a service that they do not own and that is provided by someone else on someone else's hardware.

Dropbox, for example, is a "cloud-based file storage" service. Translation: You used to keep all this crap on your hard drive, but now you can keep it on ours. Our hard drive, that is. Which is a real machine in a real data center. Really.

So please... Stop pointing up when talking about the Internet or your cloud-hosting provider. There's nothing "up there".

By: Cynthia Delaria, CEO/COO @ Raika Technologies, LLC