Denis McCauley | June 13th 2012 | @Technology
Until around eight months ago, hype surrounding the technology phenomenon known as "the cloud" – which essentially means doing your computing on the internet – had snowballed to Everest-like proportions. It was, said technology vendors and analysts, as big as the internet itself or mobile phones. The cloud would literally transform how businesses operate and how people live. But jaded CIOs and other business executives who thought they'd heard it all before said "enough" to the hype, and the vendors and analysts appear to have listened. Since late last year, much of the cloud noise has seemed to subside. To me, this is a clear indication that the cloud has truly arrived. It's no longer hype – now it's reality.
My wife provided another pointer last week by telling me that all of the desktop PCs at her place of work – a local council in London – have recently been replaced by "thin clients" connected to the cloud. Given my technology research role here at the EIU, she hoped to make me envious. She succeeded.
For the uninitiated, a "thin client" is a desktop terminal without the fat CPU (or computer processing unit) attached on or under the desk. Thin clients have been around a long time, but mainly running off a central server located in a cooled space somewhere in the building or in the vicinity. But a thin client running from the cloud – or, as some call it, a "cloud PC", accessing all the work applications and data one needs directly from the internet? I've read about it but not had the pleasure of using anything like this. All the more surprising, then, that a local council has made the leap into the cloud before my supposedly nimble, commercially-oriented media firm.
The reality is, however, that my firm – and many others – have already made numerous little leaps into the cloud. Outside of work, most of us have done the same as individuals, probably without realising it. Think, for example, of those popular photo-management sites like Flickr, Picasa and others, which operate completely in the cloud. Or music-sharing sites such as Spotify. For companies, salesforce.com may be the oldest and most obvious example – all that data about customers, meetings, contracts, invoices and the like is served up from any one of (at last count) seven big Salesforce.com data centres situated around the world. Anyone using Google Docs for their personal productivity applications is in the cloud, whether they know it or not.
So the cloud is well and truly here. Even hype-allergic CIOs acknowledge the genuine virtues of cloud-based services for data storage, application development and many other things. Many don't feel they need to hear or talk about the cloud anymore, because it's simply a reality of the technology landscape. Perhaps this is an indication of the cloud's supposedly transformative nature. Will it be truly transformative, and if so, for some type of businesses more than others? That's a blog for another day.