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What the Cloud Means to Real People

I hate Microsoft’s “To The Cloud” ad campaign. Mainly because it is stupid but also because my kids now run around yelling it just to annoy me. I equally dislike just about every other attempt to explain to real people what cloud computing means.

A Cloud I Can Sink My Teeth Into

The other day I was reading one of the Game of Thrones series on my now stone-age Kindle. You know – the one that when you touch the screen you leave a smudge but nothing else happens. Inspired by some royal feast where yet another favorite character was brutally assassinated, I decided to go out for a bite.

As I sat in the long line at the drive through, I pulled out my Droid X, opened the Kindle app and picked up reading where I left off until I got my Spicy Chic-fil-a sandwich and  waffle fries.

Back at the ranch I settled down to enjoy the bag of fried goodness and realized I left my Kindle upstairs. Luckily the iPad was there on the table so I opened up the Kindle app, sync’d the book in about 10 seconds and finished another chapter.

This is what the cloud REALLY means.

Device independent dynamic user experiences with mobile contextual awareness. No matter the device, my data is with me maintaining context. I never once had to declare the cloud as my data’s destination. Truth be known there is a copy of it locally cached, but I did not have to explicitly make that copy sync it’s state to the cloud. The geniuses at Amazon had the foresight to assume that I would want to pickup where I left off (duh, right?) and baked that contextual awareness into the experience. Awareness here in the form of remembering where I was in the book and not forcing me to find the location – or worse – go back to the device I last used to retrieve it.

The cloud is truly successful when I never even know it is there.

Geeks tend to want to condense the cloud into droplets of use cases that look familiar to other IT types and focus on things like data center cost reduction. When thinking about the cloud we focus too much on the physical cost benefits without acknowledging the fundamental way that true data mobility changes the way we work. I get the idea that we need to take incremental steps, both in terms of technology and mindset, but we need to be addressing the impact of applications that maintain contextual awareness independent of device or location.

“To The Cloud” is not the mantra we should be using. “Free Your Data” is more appropriate. If you are not thinking about how to do that then migration to the cloud remains a boring IT budget exercise that benefits only the accountants and not the real people paying the bills.

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