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Internet industry is on a cloud - whatever that means
|26 марта 2009|
Ever since Google Inc. Chief Executive Eric Schmidt publicly uttered the term "cloud computing" in 2006, a storm has been gathering over Silicon Valley.
Companies across the technology industry are jockeying to associate themselves with clouds. Amazon.com Inc., better known for peddling books online, began selling an Elastic Compute Cloud service in 2006 for programmers to rent Amazon's giant computers. Juniper Networks Inc., which makes gear for transmitting data, dubbed its latest project Stratus. Yahoo Inc., Intel Corp. and a handful of others recently launched a research program called OpenCirrus.
While almost everybody in the tech industry seems to have a cloud-themed project, few agree on the term's definition.
"I have no idea what anyone is talking about," said Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison, when talking about cloud computing at a financial analyst conference in September."It's really just complete gibberish. What is it?" He added:"When is this idiocy going to stop?"
In its broadest sense, cloud computing describes something apparent to anybody who uses the Internet: Information is stored and processed on computers somewhere else --"in the clouds"-- and brought back to your screen.
But no two clouds, apparently, are alike. A company's backroom mass of servers and switches is cloudlike. So are social-networking sites like Facebook Inc., or the act of buying a book on Amazon. Some clouds, like Google's email service, Gmail, are public. Others, like corporate networks, are closed to outsiders.
Part of the problem, say observers, is that the tech industry has become bogged down in jargon. Companies have long pushed the likes of "network-distributed parallel processing," often packaged as "solutions" that are "end-to-end" and "scalable." Cloud sounds much nicer.
"What took them so long? Cloud-based services seem much easier to grasp than 'Application Service Provision.' ASP -- who came up with that?" says Michael Litchfield, a creative director at Omnicom Group's Doremus, a communications firm that specializes in technology and financial topics. "The cloud is accessible. It may, in fact, be brilliant."
And possibly overused, says Hewlett-Packard Co. executive Russ Daniels. He says H-P, a backer of OpenCirrus, tries to use the catchphrase only when appropriate."There is so much pressure to just go with the flow and wrap everything up in this single word," said Mr. Daniels, H-P's vice president and chief technology officer of Cloud Services Strategy.
Despite its recent surge in popularity, the cloud is among the oldest pieces of computer jargon, says Alex Bochannek, a curator at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. For decades, engineers drew them in schematic diagrams to show where their own network joins another whose inner workings are unknown or irrelevant."You symbolize that with a cloud, or some amorphous shape," says Mr. Bochannek.
By the late 1990s, clouds had become the go-to metaphor for all things Internet. The PowerPoint set used cloud icons in their presentations, at times referring to the Internet simply as "the cloud." New shades of meaning emerged over the past decade as Google and other Internet companies created software that could run simultaneously on multiple servers -- hence, operate in a "cloud."
At a 2006 conference, Google's Mr. Schmidt delivered his public description of the emerging model. He added:"I don't think people have really understood how big this opportunity really is."
Estimates, in fact, vary wildly. Research firm IDC predicts cloud computing will reach $42 billion in 2012.(It defines the segment as "an emerging IT development, deployment and delivery model, enabling real-time delivery of products, services and solutions over the Internet.") Gartner Inc. projects world-wide cloud-services revenue will rise 21.3% in 2009 to $56.3 billion.(Gartner calls it "a style of computing where scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are provided 'as a service' to external customers using Internet technologies"; its forecast includes online advertising.) Merrill Lynch last year estimated cloud-computing revenues would reach $160 billion in 2011.(Merrill declined to provide a copy of its report.)
Analyst Frank Gillett of Forrester Research, which doesn't currently measure the cloud market, says makers of existing technologies --"grid computing,""virtualization"-- are attempting to co-opt the word. Mr. Gillett calls this process "cloud washing."
Marc Benioff, CEO of online business software company Salesforce.com Inc., cottoned on to the term in December 2007. That was when he read a magazine article that dubbed Google and Amazon cloud-computing leaders.
"We were a laggard in using that name," Mr. Benioff says. For years, Salesforce had described its offerings in terms of "enterprise applications as online services,""online customer relationship management" and "on-demand business services." For his next presentation, Mr. Benioff added two slides on "cloud computing" and berated his staff for not getting Salesforce mentioned in the magazine.
"I couldn't believe how worked up he was about the term," says Tien Tzou, Salesforce's chief strategist at the time."We had tried all sorts of terms to get the marketplace to understand what we were doing. Cloud computing was going to be the one that would stick," says Mr. Tzou, who went on to found Zuora Inc., a cloud-computing company.
In November, Salesforce held a conference that one of its speakers dubbed the "Woodstock of cloud computing." It hired people to stand outside a convention center in San Francisco, wearing white puffy jackets and holding oversized cloud balloons. Inside, projectors painted a digital sky on the ceiling. The Rolling Stones' "Get Off of My Cloud" blared on the sound system.
In the full fiscal year since Salesforce started using the term cloud computing, its revenue grew 44%."I think it's the most powerful term in the industry," Mr. Benioff says.
Cloud-themed puns have since multiplied, generating even a few seemingly contradictory uses. Sun Microsystems Inc. recently unveiled a product called the "Sun Cloud." Microsoft Corp. sells a cloud service called "Azure," which the dictionary defines as a cloudless sky. Apple Inc., of course, is doing its own thing: Its new Mobile Me product is branded not with the word cloud, but with an image of one.
Dell Inc. applied to trademark the term cloud computing last year. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office initially approved the application. But it changed its mind in response to an outburst of criticism, including from bloggers incensed that the term could fall under one company's control.
A Dell spokesman says the trademark was intended only to cover "the design of computer hardware for use in data centers." He adds that the computer maker has no plans to pursue the issue further.
Historian Mr. Bochannek says that cloud computing could join past tech terms --"cyberspace,""Web 2.0"-- that have gone from boom to bust."The problem isn't so much the term," he says,"but the extended usage of it to subsume other things."
For some, clouds are already empty puffery."We've redefined cloud computing to include everything that we already do," Mr. Ellison said at the analyst conference in September."I can't think of anything that isn't cloud computing with all of these announcements. The computer industry is the only industry that is more fashion-driven than women's fashion."
Still, Mr. Ellison acknowledged he was powerless: Oracle, too, would probably start using the label. Last week in an earnings call, Mr. Ellison made good: He described Oracle's upcoming software as "cloud-computing ready."
Источник: Total Telecom