A Cloud…Hm? What?

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The term “cloud” has been getting a lot of attention in the past year or so with regards to the Amazon cloud, Microsoft’s Live services, and the other services that have been released, touting this “new” technology. It’s a great way to be “green” – another meme that seems to have hit Washington – allows you to do less work, and sometimes lowers your cost of hosting.

The great thing about public clouds – hosting by a third party (i.e. Slicehost, Amazon S3, etc.) is that they really aren’t much different than what we had 5 years ago. The only real major difference is the fact that there’s a nice little web interface that you can use to magically expand the resources available to you for your application. One of the cold hard truths about it is that it’s a great marketing tool for companies, big and small. Just like the “Web 2.0” name was for sites that started using Ajax and JavaScript for everything, the “cloud” term is handy for sites that have some sort of feature for easy deployment, and there’s no clear/set definition saying what this is.

Although someone with little web knowledge might think “how is this ‘cloud’ deal different than what’s been available for years?”, there are a few design changes in the underlying infrastructure that have evolved to make internet services what they are today. One of the things that Google has won at in this department is hardware. One of the ideas accompanying the modern era of the Internet is that hardware is cheap and you should be able to lose a lot of it and still be running strong. Technologies like RAID and replication in general let you be able to run hardware until it dies, then just recycle it and not bother repairing it - if you’ve had it for 3-6 months, there’s plenty of new products that have come out into the market that would better serve you.

This mindset of getting new hardware instead of repairing old boxes was nowhere near as prevalent in the early days of computing and the Internet, mainly due to cost. Computers, such as the one referenced in my earlier post, were much more expensive, which didn’t allow for access by everyone. Terminals were everywhere, and a personal computer was more or less unheard of. Fast forward a few years to the early 2000’s, and this was still the case, albeit less so. It’s only been in the past few years that costs have come down enough to the point where buying a computer (or Sun Rays!) has become feasible.

Getting back on track. While there haven’t been many changes to the architecture to allow for cloud computing, the ones that have been made are important, and have heralded in a new era of computing. This new age is far from being defined though. Every other company has a different idea for what should be done, which has allowed for a very interesting progress over the past year or so, and should continue to be as it continues to evolve.

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About

Welcome to my blog. My name is Stephen (Trey) Repetski, and I'm working at Sun for the summer. I graduated from TJHSST, and am headed to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in the fall, studying Network Security and Systems Administration (NSSA)

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