Any clouds in your sky?

Hype aside, is there anything in this cloud computing lark?

When the BBC features a cloud computing piece on its news bulletin (28 October), you know the hype is beginning to bite. But does the idea have substance or was Microsoft's Azure announcement just a handy lead-in to the weather on a slow news day?

The broadcasters made it sound so easy. Containers full of servers and all the other bits and bobs bolted together quickly in cool locations with a ready supply of electricity and whacking great internet connections. Then, instead of having to run applications on your own machines, kind-hearted suppliers can say "let us run them for you." In exchange of course, for a continuous revenue stream instead of periodic revenue bursts in exchange for ever larger bloatware.

Sounds easy doesn't it? But somehow, you have to get from where you are to where you want to be. You can't just say to a provider, "oi, move this lot to the cloud for me." You probably need to get your own house in order first. Some applications and data shouldn't even leave your premises. Well, not without a monumental degree of trust and a very close working relationship with your cloud service provider.

It's probably better to move out the less sensitive stuff first, especially if it has erratic peaks and troughs of demand. In fact, you probably do this already, to a certain extent. Email security perhaps. Or SalesForce.com. What about those new-fangled social computing services. Or perhaps you've got servers being hosted on your behalf.

Cloud computing services come in several guises but broadly they provide you with an infrastructure, an application or a platform. Azure, the thing that started this piece off, is really an application platform. At the moment it is of most interest to developers. But it did give the news people an excuse to puff cloud computing in general.

But, what about your life? Do you have anything to do with cloud computing? Inside or outside work. As ever, we're trying to distinguish between hype and reality. A word or two from you would be very welcome. Just click on 'Post a comment'. Thank you.

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