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Cloud computing, 2009 in brief

It’s fun being at the top of a technology wave. The past year in cloud computing has moved with the giddy, inexorable pace that marks a major technological shift in how we use computing power, and more importantly, how we think about it.

Cloud computing, barely a whisper in three or four years ago, is now firmly embedded, if still nascent, in the ontology of mainstream information technology. It’s a part of any conversation about IT anywhere. Even the dyed-in-the-wool Grumpy Sysadmin(TM) will, grumpily, talk about cloud computing.

It started with Amazon, online retailer par excellence, who found a way to get IT pros what they wanted, without the hassle of shipping a hundred pounds of metal and very clever sand per buy. The world had moved on to the Internet, they reasoned, so why not get what they want – CPU cycles and plenty of bit storage – without the part they hated.

And it worked. By 2008, the tipping point was reached, and analysts officially began cramming ‘cloud’ into their IT buying predictions, which, naturally, immediately drove IT management insane trying to figure out a) what the cloud was b) what it cost and c) whether or not they needed it. That made 2009 a lot of fun.

So what happened to turn cloud computing from ridiculed buzzword to reality?
Most of us started the year wondering what the devil it was: Fortunately, the government came up with a pretty definitive answer, which should tell anyone with an ounce of sense how robust and uncomplicated the concept is. Many others jumped on the bandwagon with glee, ‘cloud washing’ any old thing with an Internet connection.

Cloud terminology-hit mainstream newspapers, and the boob tube, where we got the standard expression of polite interest. It’s n ow on a par with ‘hacker’, ‘firewall’ and ‘servers’ for IT terms the regular press doesn’t understand but is happy to sprinkle over any tech reporting.

Then there was cloud outage after outage after outage, but nobody cared.

And that’s the long and short of it, kids. No matter what happened, cloud made sense to users, practically and economically. They bought in and they’re still buying in. Analysts and pundits weighed, promising riches and/or wrack and ruin, security folks went through the roof at every turn, and yet, somehow, the idea makes enough sense that people don’t care. They’ll put up with the potholes for the sake of the ride; its still a lot better than walking.

Just so with cloud computing.

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