Opinion

Column: Why do they call it cloud

OK, this week I'm not going to mess around. I'm going to come right out and ask the big question: Why on earth did they call it cloud computing? 

As far as I know, the only thing that comes from clouds is rain (sometimes snow or hail) so it seems a bit strange to try and get people to use cloud as a means to visualise the concept (and practice) of accessing remote computing power and services.

It certainly doesn't work when I try to explain it to people who don't have a great interest in the IT world. 

The only other phrase that springs quickly to mind when I think of the word 'cloud' is "head in the clouds".

This is hardly the most positive association you could think of, especially as it usually means someone who is miles away from reality. Or you might think of planes "lost in the cloud".

Again, not a very positive association although, potentially, a truthful one. 

When you think about it, cloud is a perfect illustration of how the IT approaches new technology concepts and developments.

After all, if the IT industry was thinking about it from the user's point of view but wanted to keep the idea of something up there, it could have opted for something more positive like sun computing (power, heat, light etc, etc), sky computing, planet computing (new world, new beginning etc).  

But no, it decided to go for something that usually hides the sun, that you can't see through, obscures your view, and precedes rain, storms and potentially, lightning.  Not the most apposite piece of labelling I would have thought.

But if you were looking at it from the point of view of what the real experience is likely to be, using the term cloud computing probably works very well. It looks simple on the surface but there's so much mist and well, cloud, that it's hard for anyone to see what's actually inside it - if there's anything at all.  

No surprises then, that so many people are confused about what cloud computing actually means, what it can do and what they can get out of it.

All of which, the cynic in me suggests, is good news for the IT industry.

This was first published in December 2011

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