What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing has been defined in a number of ways. Some of the definitions are clear while others add a little bit to the confusion. Is there a way to really clarify just what cloud computing entails?

Wikipedia defines cloud computing this way:

Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand, like the electricity grid.

Here’s another, similar, definition:

In its simplest form, cloud computing are virtual servers and applications available to us over the internet. This enables an organization to access capabilities beyond its present investment and capabilities in technology.

InfoWorld has a similar definition as well:

Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT’s existing capabilities.

Is the Internet really necessary for cloud computing? One could argue that it is. Obviously, this view has its proponents. But did cloud computing exist prior to the Internet? Again, let’s consult Wikipedia.

The underlying concept of cloud computing dates back to 1960s, when John McCarthy opined that “computation may someday be organized as a public utility”.

Naturally, cloud computing works better through the Internet. It makes data stored in different locations more accessible. One could argue, and I would, that future cloud computing will be conducted entirely online. But it doesn’t need to be.

Suppose, for example, that your company had a large data center in one state and an equally large data center in another state. Suppose that one was online and one was simply a place used for data storage. Suppose that data transferred from your storage facility to other points in your company were all done by disk and external data devices. Would that still be considered cloud computing? I think so.

Cloud computing is simply the distribution of data across multiple data storage units. That’s the most basic form of cloud computing. An extended view is the popular view – that cloud computing must take place in an Internet-connected environment. Just because it most often is doesn’t mean it must necessarily be.

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