Cloud computing has become immensely popular in a short period of time – but this is nothing unusual; since the appearance of the Internet, the development cycle (and sometimes the life-cycle) of concepts and products has been greatly accelerated.
The term “cloud computing” suggests that this is something that happens somewhere in the ether and, of course, that is not actually so. All computing ultimately takes place on a piece of physical equipment which will be terrestrial in its location. (We are ignoring here IT equipment carried in submarines and on aircraft, though those are not negligible and may become much more important under conditions of human conflict that can be imagined). It is the ability of computers to be networked that makes the cloud possible. A company’s data – and, for that matter, its programs – can be stored on a number of computers which may, taken altogether, be in different places, different countries and even different continents.
By enabling networks to become vast and interconnected, and sometimes with a variety of owners, the cloud permits on-demand access to a shared pool of resources. That sharing of resources reduces costs and encourages wider sharing. At the root of all this is the bringing together and sharing of infrastructure, computing power and storage. And once the user, whether single operator or vast international enterprise, accepts that data may be shared without risk to its integrity or claims as to its ownership, the marriage of the virtual private server with the cloud becomes an obvious match.
The process is still young enough that pricing models continue to be worked out. The most effective offers will come from those services that maximise efficiency and that will be done when the opportunity to move across time zones is fully appreciated and taken. When Beijing is going to bed, Western Europe is finishing lunch and America is getting ready for breakfast. Maximum use of computing facilities in those regions is accordingly staggered across a 24-hour clock. We are as yet some way from working out the final business model, but it will come.