Don’t Worry, Past-Dweller, There Is No Cloud.

If buzzwords were currency, the one worth the most at the moment is undoubtably “Cloud”. The problem with buzzwords is that nobody puts any faith in them, they’re bandwagons and may be gone tomorrow. Who wants to invest in something that is vague enough to mean pretty much anything? (There’s a “fuzzy” joke in there somewhere).

 

A brief rant about Carbon Tax

But there is good news, buzzwords tend to be reinventions of things we’re all already familiar with. Remember the “Greenhouse Effect”? That was humans killing the planet by wearing deodorant. When we took all the nasty CFCs out of our bodysprays and the temperature kept on rising, rather than admit they might be wrong about the human effect, scientists rebranded it “Global Warming”. People with Range Rovers and engines that produced enough power to give you a smile on your face were castigated like despot tyrannical dictators. When the planet suddenly started cool down and we suffered some of the worst winters on record, again scientists were loathe to admit they might be wrong, instead it became an even vaguer term, “Climate Change”.

This is just semantics and at the heart of it lies an age-old buzzword that we’re all familiar with; “Seasons”.

 

Get back to talking about Cloud, Richard

“Cloud” is no different, in fact it has a very slow-moving lineage with roots back in the 1960s when the US “Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency” (DARPA) built a distributed computer network that was intended to enable nationwide communication even in the event of Ivan bombarding the United States with Uranium-tipped missiles.

The so-called DARPANet became The Internet, an interconnected landscape of computers which used a common language to talk to eachother (“HTTP”), became attractive to consumers and normal-folk in the 1980s and 1990s with the invention of the “World Wide Web”. Tim Berners-Lee was the smart-alec behind the WWW, he was working for CERN at the time, the big European research centre that is currently smashing subatomic particles together at speeds that create impacts akin to two aircraft destroyers crashing head-on. The invention of HTML – the text language behind web pages – and Tim’s coining of the phrase World Wide Web meant that the simple act of a computer asking another computer for information, and then that second computer giving the first computer the information it had asked for, suddenly grew legs and became things like Google, Amazon and Facebook. And Yahoo!. Remember them?

That is the basis for “The Web”, a buzzword that’s now so commonplace that even our most elders are silver-surfing it. Requests for information and Responses in the form of webpages, or images, or Facebook statuses. Etc. Etc.

 

But What is a “Website”?

A website is content that lives on a computer somewhere on “the internet”. The computers (called “Web Servers”) that websites live on tend to be rented or leased (this equates to a monthly “hosting fee”) and you pay more for more disk space or a more capable connection to the Internet.

 

But isn’t that The Cloud?

Exactly my point. Although the recent surge in “cloud” focus has brought refinements to the Web concept, it is still at its heart, a Request/Response system, using HTTP to talk between computers, spitting out content (usually HTML).

The things that are new are not dramatic changes, in fact the major change is more granular control over the “content” on the Servers so the payment model has changed slightly (if you believe the marketing, this is a change for the better, but there are only a limited number of people raving about their savings). You can now store files as “blobs”, you can push your program code onto a “compute server”, and your data is stored in SQL and NoSQL databases. Each one charging slightly differently to optimise bang-for-buck.

But don’t be afraid of the terminology, there is nothing new to see here. This delineation of files/programs/data has always been there on The Web, even since the early 90’s when the only way to view web pages was on a black screen with luminous green text.

 

So should I invest in the cloud?

The question you need to ask is, would you invest if it was all still just called “The Web”?

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