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Is Cloud Computing Going Up in Smoke (and Mirrors)?

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 3/31/2009

Cloud computing may sound like magic, but its tangible results are already in front of us - and as such, are we ready for the revolution it'll bring about? Read on inside.

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    All the Cool things in Life Are Cloudy

    Cloud computing – I’m sure the mere mention of those two words already makes you put on your “I don’t believe it exists” hat. Of course, your skepticism is well deserved. The concept of cloud computation has been around for quite a while now, and like most things that don’t deliver or are delivering in the shadows, the true coming of cloud computing has been labeled as a “vaporware” situation. Well, let me be the first to tell you that such a thing is the furthest thing from the truth of cloud computing as it currently stands. Don’t believe me? Here are two reasons why cloud computing is alive and well:

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    Onlive Gaming Service

    If you frequent gamer blogs, you may have seen what many are calling the “future of games” – the OnLive service that will revolutionize the way we view consoles and how developers will be getting their products to our living rooms and computers.

    Just as a refresher, remember that cloud computing works off of pushing information out of the cloud and to your machine without actually having the resources there. In essence, a flawed analogy would be that cloud computing is giving us the equivalent of a Streaming 2.0 experience. We no longer need powerful computer servers when the cloud stores all the information that is necessary to be pushed and used and then discarded.

    That being said, OnLive is a really exciting prospect. Let’s say that you have a laptop that’s not the Alienware M17, and can barely play a game of Left 4 Dead without nearly burning out the processor. Now, what would you say if I told you this laptop with the OnLive service could play Bioshock at the highest settings? It’s only crazy if you haven’t seen it in action.

    OnLive proposes a future where games are streamed to your computer, relying almost exclusively on your Internet connection to give you the same experience that a thousand-dollar gaming rig is going to give you. Of course, there are still practical issues to be sorted, especially the issue of latency and the idea that the inputs on your controller will be transferred to the server running the game in a matter of nanoseconds so that you can’t tell the difference. However, if everything works out well, this could be the boost that cloud computing is looking for.

    The servers host the game in the cloud and the game is then pushed into either your laptop or a small Internet-enabled “micro-console” that could be a replacement for “The Big Three”. Will this pan out? Or will it fizzle like so many inspired ideas before it? We’ll have to wait and see to find out.

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    Facebook, PSN, MySpace, Twitter…

    The second reason the cloud isn’t going away is because if you’ve built a Web 2.0 interface, you’ve probably also built an interface ready to be integrated into the cloud phenomenon. Everyone from social networking giants Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, to gaming networks like the Playstation Network, are getting into the cloud computing game.

    The reason for all this change is because of the idea of paying for server space as if it were a commodity, like power and water is enticing. It allows smaller companies to get into the game and to increase competition in the market – two things that are essential to a healthy economy.

    Ultimately, as companies tend to grow, cloud computer servers will have to be erected – after all, the ones that Google has can only be used for so long by so many people before they become impractical to keep going. I however, see a future where cloud computing companies spring into existence (like utilities companies) and offer customers the great server capacities that they’ve been looking for. And that’s a future that’s going to benefit everyone – from the avid consumer to the blogger who’s just far too into social networking.