Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have been hearing about this term for close to 5 years now. I have read about services from Microsoft (Azure), but I have never saw it adopted in the mainstream usage. The thing I am trying to understand is this:

  1. What happened to cloud computing? Is the infrastructure at present insufficient to implement this?
  2. Is it still in its infancy?
  3. Is it being used in other forms, like all the services Google seems to provide (plus Plus Google OS, etc)?
  4. If it has failed, then why?
share|improve this question

put on hold as primarily opinion-based by MichaelT, Robert Harvey, Snowman, durron597, gnat yesterday

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

there are a lot of goodies in Could Computing, yet people want to have their own stuff on a PC. nuff said. –  lukas Jun 22 '11 at 19:50

9 Answers 9

up vote 26 down vote accepted

Cloud Computing, like most new technologies, was painfully over-hyped by the industry media. As it matures and is adopted -- or not -- as a working strategy, it is finding its valid place in the ecosystem. It is neither a panacea for all infrastructure problems nor a failure.

share|improve this answer
+1 for the moderate approach. –  Rook Oct 26 '10 at 11:41
I wouldn't say new, I would say "re-cycled with a modern name". –  mattnz Jun 23 '11 at 0:55
@mattnz, what older technology would you say that could computing is a recycled version of? I suppose that in some of the more trivial cases of things that someone calls 'cloud computing' you have little more than old-fashioned shared hosting, but such uses of the label should not define the meaning of the label. When I think of 'cloud computing,' I think of on-demand scaling and Platform-as-a-Service. I think that those cases represent something meaningfully novel. –  Adam Crossland Jun 23 '11 at 15:30
ASP of the mid 90's comes to mind. –  mattnz Jun 30 '11 at 2:31
@ Adam: The ASP acronym has been though several meanings. ASP in this context was "Application Service Provider". It came an went so fast that most blinked and missed it (Now I think it was late 90's - early 00's.) However going back further, how is "The Cloud" different to PDP-11 or VAX and dumb terminals? (in context of computer capability of the time and now) –  mattnz Jul 3 '11 at 23:10

Mate, it has not gone away. It was not over hyped, niether has it failed. I will try to take a moderate approach to answering this. We are still years behind in using the cloud to full potential. It is a paradigm shift not just a technology adoption. Also adopting a new technology takes years to be in practise. The Mainframes never went away ? There are solutions scalable enough to run Mainframe Applications but they are not getting adopted, why ?

A clear problem with the cloud is the Application Readiness. So your Application can run in the Cloud but the Applications that provides your App Security are they Cloud ready ? Is your customer Ok to host his data on the Cloud ? Are there any compliances which certify that your data will be safe in the Cloud ? Some of these things are in Progress and will take time to come in.

Also all the Applications that are going to provide Software As A Service are good candidates for Cloud. Most of them are actually having thier own Clouds, they might/will eventually move to the Cloud with better standards and adoption of the Technology.

share|improve this answer

Distributed resources is what defines a grid.

Although good answers thus far I believe most of you have missed some of the big key points.

To my knowledge there was a committee which has defined protocols to standardize cloud computing. Google, amazon, microsoft, the big name players have all implemented their own cloud solutions to provide SAAS provisions for internal and in some cases external use.

In terms of cloud computing for the end user it is just not there yet. People think of the cloud as in: "My computer is strictly virtual with as client accessing it wherever I am physically located." This idea is not yet ready and will take much effort to form protocols and specifications for interoperability.

There are great examples of cloud computing though. One example in the educational sector is "ChindaGrid". Google it if you wish. It was a project from CERNET in China to provide computational resources to institutions such as universities. IBM has extensive interest/effort put forth towards grid computing.

Also it should be noted that p2p is a form of grid computing. Distributed resources is what defines a grid.

Remember the internet came about in the 60's for physicists to communicate across distances and then expanded to DARPA/ARPNET project for government use to have a decentralized network with no single point of failure. We are talking how many years before the internet as we know it became alive. The grid is still in its infancy and will take time to mature but the idea of scalable on demand provisioning is where computers will go without a doubt.

Great question, looking forward to other answers/comments!

share|improve this answer
DDS is a protocol which deals with distributed data. Microsoft was not involved nor was Google. It has been in existence since 2003. –  staticx Jun 22 '11 at 15:57
@0A0D: I never said they were. I said there is a group defining protocols and also said the big name IT players have implemented their own cloud solutions. –  Chris Jun 22 '11 at 17:51
@Chris: I was more responding to your comment that there is committee still actively defining protocols, when it has already been defined and is being used by many mission critical applications via DDS. The end user probably has not seen this yet (such as for home use). –  staticx Jun 22 '11 at 17:54
@0A0D: Does that mean they are not still actively defining a protocol? 2 years ago when I spent some time researching the subject I came across a lot of material discussing current development on standardization of exactly this which is why I worded it that way. –  Chris Jun 22 '11 at 18:43
@Chris: You could say that like HTML it is standardized, but when I read actively developing, its almost like it is beta. Thats how I read it anyways. Not to discount what you are saying, just augmenting. –  staticx Jun 22 '11 at 18:45

Look to the enterprise. You will find cloud computing on the consumer side, but it is often not as you think of cloud computing. You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned Google Services, also look at all the Web services business popping up, Evernote, Mint.com, etc. They are all in the cloud.

If you think of Cloud Computing as an Infrastructure service, then you will be more likely to find that on the enterprise side, with Amazon, Rackspace, and even IBM all offering Infrastructure on Demand services. I've heard that a lot of startup web companies love to use these services to quickly get their servers up and running and to ease the task of anticipating demand.

To sum up, the cloud isn't dead, and is still growing at a strong pace. That said much like Web 2.0 there are multiple definitions to what Cloud Computing actually is.

share|improve this answer
+1 for the comparison of "Cloud Computing" and "Web 2.0" –  Inaimathi Oct 25 '10 at 14:52

The cloud was originally invented by companies like Amazon and Google for their own internal use- they needed a way to make things scale, stay available and be resilient because they depend on making their services reliably accessible.

Once those technologies had matured somewhat they started making them available to others and companies like Microsoft saw the possible benefits of this approach and began working on their own service. By now there are a few different services available and they all have their positives and negatives.

It's being used now by the big players. They're not making a fuss about it, just taking advantage of the things it offers. It's very convenient if you want to build a service and be ready for future capacity without having to worry about the hardware underneath it. Takes a few considerations out of the equation in a very helpful way.

I think if anything the term is going to become less popular/buzzwordy because it will just be acknowledged that people are using this technology and it will be nothing special.

share|improve this answer
No. 'Cloud Computing' was invented by marketing departments. The idea has been around since the early days of computing. In fact, I'd say the very first computers were 'cloud' - centralised mainframes with hundreds of tty's on VT-100 terminals. We've just come full circle - mainframes->desktops->cloud. The cloud is pointless to every non-work home user since the power of the desktop PC is more than enough to write e-mails and surf the web. –  Skizz Oct 26 '10 at 9:12
I guess the term was, but as you say the concepts the term refers to are not particularly new, although there is a big difference between the cloud approach and an early mainframe. –  glenatron Oct 26 '10 at 9:36
@Skizz... I doubt the truth of your "cloud is pointless to every non-work home user" assertion. Its used more and more by the average user in the form of email archives, photo albums online, gooogle docs etc etc. The benefits of having the ubiquity that comes with personal data being live and accessible from anywhere anytime is not lost on the average user. The cloud is not "pointless to every non-work home user" –  mumtaz Oct 26 '10 at 20:32
@mumtaz - I guess a non-work home user might think the cloud has no relevance to them because they don't really care where their data is stored as long as it is reliably accessible. But as you say the services they use are certainly running in the cloud, so although they take no interest in it directly, they are still using it. –  glenatron Oct 27 '10 at 9:57

It's still out there and being used quite a bit. The conundrum is that it was never defined very succinctly and became an umbrella term for just about anything related to the Internet.

Depending on how you define it, you could say it is very widely used (SalesForce, GMail, StackOverflow, etc.). Given the ambiguity, I think people are using more specific terms now instead of the over-hyped moniker "Cloud computing". For example Platform as a Service (MS Azure), Infrastructure As a Service (Amazon EC3), or Application as a Service (GMail).

More and more, however, I think the term "Cloud computing" where it is still used is mostly applied to PaaS or IaaS. In that aspect it is very much used. A big example is FaceBook apps, many of which run on cloud providers.

share|improve this answer

Think of the simplest of programmers dilemmas:- You want to allocate an array ( whose size is to be decided upfront) to store some program data in working memory.
Now this is fairly analogous to the dilemma that a start up faces; its very hard to accurately predict the IT infrastructure/data requirements upfront. You just don't know the future. So a smaller initial allocation will likely require a costly reallocation and copying of the array's contents at some point in future if the startup picks up growth. On the other hand a larger initial allocation risks being a dangerous waste of meager resources if growth does not happen as expected or very slow to come by.

Large companies providing cloud services is like someone pre allocating a large array for you upfront, without you having to worry about the future cost of the entire array. Now this makes perfect economic sense for both the provider (the cloud company ) and the consumer of the array(that is the startup). The consumer uses as much of the array as it needs at a given point in time; no more no less. So it can enjoy a seamless scaling up (pay as you go) experience. For the provider it makes sense as he is not bound to just one app. using the array. He can lease a certain range of array locations to one app. and other ranges to other apps. The cost of maintenance and management per array location decreases as the size of the array grows. Thus the provider accrues the benefits of economies of scale.

So the basic idea behind the cloud hype is economically sound and feasible. Now, how much of an impact it has on the industry in the real world .... too early to say.

share|improve this answer

Cloud computing is alive and kicking. In enterprise, many companies are seeing cloud solutions as a way to cut costs (less hardware to buy and less network engineers to hire). For example, Microsoft Exchange hosting has become very popular. Apple is starting to get into the media cloud even more. Mobile devices are becoming heavily cloud-oriented utilizing apps like dropbox to move files between a desktop and the device. Everyone knows about Gmail and Google Docs. Netflix has knocked blockbuster out of existence, largely due to their streaming capabilities. Cloud saving is being rolled out on PS3 and Xbox360. Most small websites (and some large websites) run on remote hosted servers. With the working defintion of the cloud being "a technology that enables users to store files they would typically store on their own machines on remote servers they can access indirectly" (broad, but not all-inclusive) I do not see how anyone could come to the conclusion that there is not rising demand for this type of experience. Yes, marketing has made it sound like a silver bullet, and yes, it has been around for along time already, but it is also clearly getting better and better. In a lot of ways it is more of an architecture design decision than an actual technology.

share|improve this answer

You think you never saw it. In fact if you're using some of popular mobile/web services you're most probably using the cloud.

I don't know what's your definition of mainstream, but for me services like Netflix, FourSquare or Reddit are well into it.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.