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Apple fuels cloud computing hype all over again

Apple launches iCloud, a highly anticipated new service that has nothing to do with its namesake, and joins the march of major IT vendors and telcos into whatever they're calling "cloud."

Apple iCloud is not cloud computing. Thanks for nothing, Jobs.

Most people aren't disillusioned, scared or confused about cloud.

You know what iCloud is? Streaming media. In other words, it's a Web service. Not relevant to cloud; not even in the ballpark.

And you, IT person, grumpily reading this over your grumpy coffee and your grumpy keyboard, you have Apple to thank for turning the gas back on under the hype balloon. Now, when you talk about cloud to your CIO, CXO, manager or whomever, and their strange little face slowly lights up while they say, "Cloud? You mean like that Apple thing? My daughter has that…" and you have to explain it all over again, you will hate the words "cloud computing" even more.

Meanwhile, other big IT providers are feeling their way into true cloud infrastructure services. Fujitsu has opened the doors on its U.S. cloud service, and HP is slated to -- shocker -- make a cloud announcement at HP Discover next week that will likely fill in the gaps between HP's converged infrastructure line and the fact that enterprises want cloud computing services, which HP hasn't got, period.

As for IBM, it recently brushed up the SmartCloud service and re-launched it, Kitchen Nightmares-style, with a slightly more coherent look. It's up to 850 concurrent cloud users, too, which many of you will point and laugh at, but SmartCloud turned over $30 million in revenue last year essentially while still in beta, so laugh that off. IBM's customers are big.

Fujitsu's cloud service is also clearly a first dip in the water; the login asked for the preferred spelling of my name in furigana and, instead of billing me and letting me launch servers, asked about an application for credit with Fujitsu. It then let me build an elaborate simulated networking and server architecture for fun. No, really, it was a little strange for those who've used Infrastructure as a Service before.

AT&T recently let it be known they're spending $1 billion dollars on cloud, which is absolute horse apples because they're lumping mobile, network investment, IT services and some healthcare IT thing in with "cloud-based and emerging services." Besides, they've already got a cloud with Synaptic, but I think I might be the only one who's signed up and tried it out.

Thanks for nothing, Jobs.

Clearly, all of these big vendors and telcos are onboard; they're all fumbling into cloud computing, finally. It's been a strange year so far for the cloud market. An overinflated hype balloon burst sometime near the end of last year, showering technologists with rotting marketing juices, and a new wave of cloud startups are beginning to either bow out or get acquired. Warning: Bring up the Gartner Hype Cycle and you will be deservedly beaten with a Gantt chart.

We're still very early for cloud computing and enterprise IT. This is a multifaceted shift that is going to take the equivalent of an IT generation (five-to-10 years) to get sorted out. It's hardly fair to even describe it as a technological shift, as it goes even deeper than that.

Yet most people aren't disillusioned, scared or confused about cloud; they're pretty realistic, all things considered. They are tuning out Apple, trying out real cloud, building a service of their own or chugging ahead as usual, making plans for when cloud is actually the dominant model.

UPDATE: Apple iCloud has officially been launched and we regret to inform of an error in this column. The iCloud service has more capabilities than previously thought: It will stream music but also be the mandatory personal data repository for photos, calendar items, some types of document files, movies, and of course, all the machine data generated from using your personal applications, whether you like it or not.

So it's actually more like Gmail and Google Apps, but less polite, less useful, more of a pain in the rear for IT staff supporting iPads and you're going to have to pony up at least $2,500 for the privilege to Apple and your wireless carrier (two-year contract minimum + device). Truly, Steve Jobs is a business genius.

Carl Brooks is the Senior Technology Writer for Contact him at

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