Cloud Basics – Part 1: How the Cloud became the Cloud

by Greg Dixon on August 1, 2011 · 2 comments

in Cloud Computing,Technology

Post image for Cloud Basics – Part 1: How the Cloud became the Cloud

I’ve been studying “the Cloud” for some months now.  That’s what I do. I study things. And then I explain them to people who actually figure out how to sell them to someone else.  What I have discovered in my study of the Cloud, is that the subject is still a bit cloudy (sorry) for a lot of business people.  So, just in case you are one of those folks, or you just want to hear what somebody else has to say on this subject, this will be the first in a series of blog posts that will endeavor to explain it in as simple a fashion as possible.  I’ll try not to get too geeky, which is a challenge for such a geek as me.

So, let’s get started at the very beginning.  How did “the CLOUD” get that name? Just for grins, try this:  Search Google Images for “wide area network diagram” and see what comes back.  Go ahead and I’ll wait right here…

OK, here’s what I got when I did it:


Do you see them?  There are little fluffy cloud icons in nearly every one of them.  In the context of drawing a representative diagram of a company’s Wide Area Data Network, you will see icons that represent I.T. resources like desktop computers, servers, routers, firewalls, mobile devices and even the people who use all of this.

In most every diagram, a cloud icon represents I.T. resources that are not inside the four walls of the company’s enterprise. They generally represent data centers, and the connectivity that gets you there. The cloud icon is meant to simply say, “Look, there are parts of our Information Technology system that we don’t really control. Someone else does and we don’t really know where they are, but they are not here. They are out there, in that cloud somewhere.”

If you have ever flown in a cloudy sky, you will get this right away.  Out your window, you see the cloud, but you don’t see what’s in the cloud or on the other side of the cloud. You may know that there are airports and other planes out there, somewhere in those clouds. You know that someone pretty important and smart is responsible for airport landing patterns and flight plans and even occasional weather problems. You have to trust that the sky is big, and that there is room out there for everyone, and that people you can trust are in control, and that those people can see perfectly in and through and around all the clouds. As for the weather problems, the best you can do is to plan ahead and deal with the problems when they arise. And pray white-knuckled prayers.   Fortunately, you get where you want to go, far more often than not.

Those clouds on your Network Diagram are much the same as the ones outside your airplane window.  You don’t see the servers or software or fiber optics or data centers or support engineers that are actually inside the cloud.  But you have to trust that the network is big, and that there is sufficient bandwidth for everybody and that there are people you can trust who will manage the parts of your network that you cannot see. You can also know that nothing is ever fool-proof.  There will be occasional problems out there in that cloud, and that the best you can do is to plan for them and deal with them when they arise.  And also, pray a few of those white-knuckled prayers. In general, it all works and your business does just fine, even with a few clouds on your network diagram.

Stay tuned for Cloud Basics – Part 2.  We will try to get serious about understanding how all this works and how to have an intelligent conversation with someone about the Cloud.

Greg Dixon

Head Geek – ScanSource, Inc.

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Greg Dixon joined ScanSource in 1992, where he serves as Chief Technology Officer. In this role, Greg oversees the technical support services provided by the company, as well as develops and manages strategic technological initiatives for ScanSource customers. Greg has more than 34 years of experience in the technology arena. He is seen as an industry expert and has been a featured speaker at many industry events over the years.

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