Cloud Computing Reaches the Masses

January 27, 2011
By djohnson

Lost in Translation

Cloud computing is everywhere. Some more evidence was in the Fall/Winter edition of Scholastic Administrator Magazine that dedicated a special section of their publication to Cloud computing.

An Information Passing Exercise

In school we performed an exercise where an instructor told a story to a student who then repeated what he could remember to the next student. After 4-5 students, the last person would retell the story. Not surprisingly, the story was a lot different than the initial one told by the instructor.

In the Cloud computing world, the above exercise is complicated by the fact that ‘technical instructors’ are frequently passing information along to ‘non-technical users’. As you can imagine, the story will change substantially.

Cloud Computing in the Classroom

The good news is that in the article “Cloud’s Clear Benefits“, Eric Butterman correctly identified several Cloud benefits: scalability, lower hardware costs, fewer IT headaches, pay as you go. He also mentions 24/7 access from anywhere (more a web-based software application benefit than a cloud benefit) as well as avoiding long-term costs (in fact you will have continual recurring charges in many cloud computing environments).

But, a highlight box labeled “9 Terms Demystified”, provides the following definitions.

Private Cloud: Just like cloud computing (Internet-based computing, where the applications and data are stored off-site and accessed as needed), data and services are accessed through the Internet. In this case, however, the information is only available to registered users.

This definition might be a bit over-simplified. It’s important to point out that business or school district can setup a private cloud on internal assets and facilities. This means that clients can access data without going through the public Internet. In addition, it’s important to differentiate the Cloud from the applications that run on it. An application running on a public Cloud such as Windows Azure or Amazon EC2 can restrict access to data. For example, email, ERP, and other applications are run on a public cloud, but that doesn’t mean people can access your email or financial data. In many cases, the application, not the cloud, restricts access to data.

The simplest way to think about a cloud is as a collection of resources (hardware, bandwidth, software, applications, data) that can be accessed to do work as needed. A public cloud can be accessed via the Internet and is always off-site. A private cloud can be accessed via the Internet or an intranet and may be on-site or off-site.

Another definition:

Hosted Services: An Internet-based application accessed via a PC.

This is certainly true, but the definition should be expanded because a hosted service can be accessed by a thin client or a mobile device as well as a PC. Such is the case when somebody deploys an application to a dedicated server that is maintained by a hosting company.

The Cloud Prophet’s Responsibilities

As the Cloud is evangelized to the masses, the technical folks (prophets) have the responsibility to take the time to tell the story consistently and in simple terminology so everybody can understand. This involves extra work, including asking questions to make sure the ‘students’ of your teachings are understanding the story correctly.

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