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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Is Cloud Computing Bringing us Back to the Future?





ThoseinMedia, a web site where media professionals connect and blog, has a group on the social networking site LinkedIn where it promotes itself as "THE group for Media Professionals." Its membership includes people working in social, online and broadcast media, advertising sales, PR, SEO and pretty much every other media category you can think of. It's a popular LinkedIn group with thousands of members and as you'd expect, its members are highly engaging. If you work in media and you're not a member, you'll be doing yourself a favor by checking it out. In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm a member.

Exactly three weeks ago, an online marketing and social media strategist for a U.K. provider of domain names and Internet services -- GroupNBT -- posted an open ended question to the ThoseinMedia group on LinkedIn: "Cloud Computing - What's your take on it?"

Three weeks later, group members continue to post responses to Francois Hotte's seemingly innocent question -- though the question isn't that innocent since Hotte's company sells a "Virtual Private Server" which, he says, is a "similar product to Cloud computing." Ok, so he's selling a bit, but I give him credit for engaging the group's membership on a very interesting topic.

What's really interesting to me is that responses to the question are coming from all corners of the world and from a broad range of industries and professional disciplines; and from the very young and the not-so-young. If it takes a discussion of cloud computing to get Gen Y talking with Baby Boomers, then it's a good thing.

One year ago, McKinsey&Company published "Clearing the Air on Cloud Computing" and in it claimed there are 22 separate definitions of the cloud. One year later, and based on some of the opinions reflected by ThoseinMedia group members, it isn't clear if we're any closer to a unified definition. But what is clear and what is important is that the discussion around cloud computing is at a fever pitch. It's become a lightening rod for some of the most stimulating and provocative thinking in technology in recent memory and marketers and communicators everywhere are spending cycles trying to help their customers find clarity in the clutter.

I hope the thread on ThoseinMedia continues. If we keep working on it together, I bet we get to the point where we can agree on what cloud computing is.

Here are a few of my favorite comments from the thread:

"Like many others I hate the term 'cloud computing'. It's BS. The cloud is just the internet."

"I've seen EMC cut huge checks for not being able to protect and serve remote data. IBM shovels cloud computing services like they're going out of style, and they're no experts either."

"The term 'Cloud Computing" may have a marketing connotation, but its widespread adoption by companies offering web-based applications means the 'cloud,' as it were, really is different than just the plain-old Internet."

"The simplest cloud computing I use is zumodrive. It is easy to use and it allows me to access my files regardless of where I am."

"Cloud is not the internet...What Cloud is, is the business model that takes virtualization and makes it a profitable opportunity for infrastructure providers on a 'one to many' basis -- build it once and sell it to many uses."

"Think of the Cloud Server as the mainframe, and each computer connected to it as a 'smart terminal' capable of processing its own data. ...Today's Cloud Computing almost brings us full-cirlce, back to the mainframe-terminal relationship."

"With iPhones, iPads and other devices like these for on the go and on the spot information, 'Cloud computing' is only going to increase. Welcome 2010 (grin)."

And this one from the head of a NYC-based marketing and advertising firm: "With all due reverence to the interesting insights offered above, I would just like to point out that the term 'cloud' in 'cloud computing' is a decades old reference to the original cloud-like diagrammatic representation of Public Switched Telephone Networks."

Is that really true?

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