it’s not really in the sky

On 2011/06/10, in rant, by a b

I just need to say this, so I can enjoy the news, and not get all itchy when the technology bits come on.

“The Cloud” isn’t really in the sky.

cartoon cloud

Sorry, everyone. I know that it’s tempting to imagine that. In reality, the cloud typically isn’t a single thing, and doesn’t exist in any one place. It’s a bunch of rack mounted servers, locked in basements, usually spread across many locations.

As the number of hosted services increase, and become targeted at consumers, the term “cloud” is getting mainstreamed. Apple’s big contribution to the scene has made this blathering really take off. After hearing Michelle Norris mention cloud technology is “like a massive amount of servers in the sky”, I was motivated to provide some insight into the origin of the term “cloud”. I’ll admit this is a bit of speculation on my part, but I’m pretty sure the origin of “the cloud” as a technical term doesn’t have anything to do with the sky. Rather, in traditional network and system diagrams, a cloud symbol is used to indicate an abstraction, or something outside of the system under design. It’s what you draw on the white board when the arrows point off to somewhere else, the details of which are critical in that particular conversation.

While the universal availability and seemingly magical aspects of the sky make analogies between the technical cloud and the sky tempting, I don’t think that’s where this particular symbol came from. I know the stupidity around the term won’t stop, but at least I tried.

(BTW – cloud image above is a modified version of the one by egyninja on Wikimedia Commons)

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