No, you can't buy a cloud at Best Buy

Cloud computing is confusing enough, without personal NAS providers muddying the waters

By now we've all seen that Western Digital commercial for the "personal cloud," in the form of My Cloud. Western Digital is the latest company to push the concept, with compelling TV commercials, such as the one below.

The premise is not new. Other storage companies have brought similar products to market that let you set up your own storage cloud at home with access to files using your home network or over the Internet, even when you're away. The feature is often part of higher-priced routers, too.

That's the cloud, right? Wrong.

These products are network-attached storage (NAS) devices, not cloud storage. Although they're very handy (I own several), calling them "clouds" is a stretch. But I guess that's what marketing is all about: stretching reality to create demand.

I get to hear my friends tell me that they "purchased a cloud," and it's in the back of their SUV. It's on many Christmas lists this season, for sure.

Of course, the word "cloud" has been so misused in the last five years that it's beginning to lose its true meaning. Indeed, the application of the term "cloud" to pretty much everything is adding to the confusion, mostly for those who don't yet understand what a cloud is.

Cloud computing is about the ability to share compute, storage, applications, databases, middleware, and so on, using platforms that can split physical resources with many users (aka tenants). What's more, true clouds typically use auto- and self-provisioning, autoscaling, and on-demand provisioning and deprovisioning of any number of resources. Of course, use-based accounting, security, governance, and the like need to be part of a true cloud as well. These features won't typically be found in your closet at home.

You might ask if private clouds are clouds, why can't network-accessible storage be considered a cloud as well? That's  a good point, but again private clouds should have similar characteristics as public clouds. Some do, most don't.

My issue is that many people will think they can by a cloud at Best Buy, when a cloud in fact is far more valuable as both a concept and technology. Unfortunately, this kind of degradation of meaning will continue as cloud computing gets more buzzword-worthy, and those who sell technology exploit the buzz regardless of technical accuracy.

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