Browsing the Big Computer Library in the Sky
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because, like it or not, you’re in the cloud. Meet some of the movers and shakers in this thing we call shared computing.
Let’s be honest. We hear about the cloud all the time, but unless you’re a serious tech geek, you probably have no clue what that really means. In short: It’s software (email, sales programs, music downloads) that we can borrow or buy from a big computer library in the sky instead of buying it to live on our hard drives. The cloud is coming: All you have to do is wait for the big guys to get out of the way — or wait for the little guys to beat them up. For consumers like you and me, the cloud is our great “revenge of the customer,” saving individuals as much as 90 percent annually. Even though it’s taking some time, something good is coming your way. And you get to watch one of life’s great lessons play out on the big digital stage.
Most CEOs aren’t tech experts. And even old-school IT teams may not know how to engineer the transition, or weigh the range of benefits and, yes, the downsides that exist in the nebulous, jargony and rapidly evolving world that is “cloud computing.” Enter the middlemen. Or the sherpas for the cloud. They’re the enterprising folks selling tools and services to make companies’ leap to the cloud a little simpler. It’s big business, given the scale of the transition now taking place; market researchers estimate spending on cloud services could reach as much as $180 billion by 2015. Adoption by medium- and large-sized companies is just now picking up steam.
The cloud probably consumes you — whether you know it or not — and it’s about to be steered around a sharp turn, thanks to a former NSA contractor named Edward Snowden. Big changes are forecast for the American side of the cloud-computing industry. Most people picture it in terms of email. But that’s just the retail — and arguably less important — side of the business. The cloud also has a gigantic wholesale side that provides backroom operations for just about every major company you interact with on myriad everyday tasks at home and work — from file sharing and banking to filling out health claims and storing photos online. Cloud services offer an outsourcing haven that has rendered many basic in-house computer jobs obsolete. American companies were the world’s dominant players when it comes to cloud services. But then Edward Snowden stormed onto the field, casting a long shadow over the industry. Could the power center of the cloud be shifting away from Silicon Valley and toward Europe?
The ”Earth’s Biggest Bookstore” may eventually be eclipsed by the “World’s Largest Cloud.” Meet Amazon 2.0. As of January 2013, Amazon’s “killer cloud,” originally built by a small remote team in Cape Town, South Africa, hosted more than 1 million websites, 9.3 million host names, and more than 5 percent of the world’s 1,000 busiest sites. CEO Jeff Bezo first imagined Amazon as a retail marketplace without boundaries, and he fundamentally reshaped how the world shops. Now he’s turned his gaze to the clouds — and the computing universe could be in for a similarly monumental shift.