Using computers to gather information, organize information, and arrange information in a variety of ways is something that software developers have been working on since the initial invention of what we know as computer systems. In the early days, the focus was on making computer systems easier to program. We started with having to program the computers with buttons and switches, toggling settings that generated a 1 or a 0, representing a change in voltage, and the values represented were used to "program" various types of information. We went from there to the creation of various forms of "Assembly Language" - a set of machine instructions representing collections of those numbers and switches. We needed to move far beyond that, and there was a rapid expansion of programming languages to make it easier to "tell" the computer what to do.
All of that was useful, but in very limited ways. As computers grew more powerful, it became useful to exchange information between those computers, and the earliest forms of networks were created. That, of course, created the need for additional, faster, more capable networks. As networks grew in speed and function, the ability to transfer files between the networks was developed, then the first of many important changes took place. The ability to send notes, files, letters, and other information evolved, and it was called Electronic Mail or EMail. News groups also developed that allowed people to share information, not only one-to-one or one-to-many, but many-to-many as well. Of course, that was not enough either. When the World Wide Web (WWW) was created, this further exploded the use of the network, Email, news groups, and other forms of communication. Instant Messaging also became popular.
By this time, it was clear that using networks of computers to communicate, both machine to machine and people to people, could create a whole new range of possibilities. More than once, the creation of "network computer" systems was attempted. Many early attempts failed or had only limited success, but these also assisted in the development of further technologies, as we learned what works, what could work, and what failed to work as planned.
The term "Cloud" was used in the eighties, often referring to one of the early types of networks, a network using the X.25 International Protocol for messaging, which was actually only one of several similar standards created by ISO, an International Standards Organization for communications. The term, therefore, is not a new one when used in the context of network computing. It is, and has become, one of the most popular buzz words in the industry as developers and businesses look for more effective ways to utilize and capitalize on the available technology.
A question worth asking at this time, then, is whether Cloud Computing is really catching on, is it just the popular buzz word for today, or does it offer something tangible and useful, even in its current state of development?
I would argue that Cloud Computing is certainly not as mature as we would like it to become, and it is not the answer for every possible issue or problem, but it is a technology that promises to deliver a greater level of network access to an ever increasingly mobile centric and data hungry economy. If you question that premise, just look at the number of people carrying around some kind of device nearly everywhere they go - a cell phone, a smart phone, an iPod, iPad, GPS, you name it, just turn around and someone has one. At church, they now have to announce each week to please mute or place on vibrate any electronic devices so they do not interrupt the services. Can you even imagine such a thing, even a decade ago?
As for me, a decade ago I did not even seriously consider having a cell phone. and though I had a laptop computer, I never carried it around with me. I am still somewhat resistant to carrying electronic devices wherever I go, though I do frequently bring them with me. At work, they are an absolute must, but even in every day life, there are people who want to be in contact with me. My resistance is that sometimes I do not want ANYONE to be in contact with me; I want peace and quiet. That is one thing to consider in this information age - how much information becomes TOO MUCH? But considering Cloud Computing and its relevance, who can argue, given the overall thirst for information and entertainment, that a Cloud Computing model, where not only Email and Web browsing, but all kinds of information and entertainment, is available at any time, in any location, isn't not only a hot topic, but a reality that nearly everyone has to face?
Is Cloud Computing an idea whose time has come? I say it is, and the thirst for information and entertainment, and a desire for constant change are several of the factors that are driving it. Fast, broad band mobile networks are making it possible, and small, fast, inexpensive equipment is calling for it.
Google, a company that makes its money by selling information, is betting on it. I believe that they have every reason to do whatever they can to advance the cause - it certainly benefits their bottom line. Now to me, the responsibility is on each person. Use this information wisely; don't allow it to USE YOU!