iCloud: It's not the cloud, but it's good for the cloud

Apple's iCloud could help give cloud computing a good rep that encourages true cloud adoption

Apple's iCloud is coming this fall, and I agree with with my InfoWorld colleague Galen Gruman that we should not be afraid of iCloud. However, this synchronization service could be delivered to an audience that has yet to understand what cloud computing is, let alone know if they should accept it into their homes and offices.

A recent survey from the NDP Group found that just 22 percent of consumers are familiar with the term "cloud computing." The survey discovered some differences between cloud-savvy versus nonsavvy (NDP's categories) consumers. For example, 84 percent of respondents familiar with the concept use cloud-based email, whereas 68 percent who are not familiar with the term nonetheless have their email in the cloud -- they just didn't think of it as the cloud.

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Moreover, Apple's iCloud is a different type of cloud computing that focuses more on keeping information synced across endpoint devices such as iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, and Macs. The data stored at Apple's iCloud data center is essentially temporary, for managing syncing and backups. By contrast, most clouds are about moving the processing and data from local devices into Internet-based servers and resources, thus raising an additional question: Is iCloud a good representation of cloud computing?

I believe that most people who use iCloud won't understand cloud computing, even after they use it -- and that's OK. Instead, iCloud will be the typical offering from Apple: one that's so turnkey and user-friendly that consumers never see most of its underlying complexities. All they know is that their data magically syncs among devices, and they don't care whether it's via cloud computing or carrier pigeons.

For those who equate iCloud with cloud computing, that could cause confusion. But generally speaking, iCloud will provide good PR for cloud computing and drive more acceptance into enterprises through the users, as is the increasing case in today's world of consumerized IT. Apple's iCloud won't be as scary as Amazon Web Services or even Microsoft's Office 365, which are very different beasts.

Those who work the world of cloud computing have a tendency to look down their nose at iCloud and other consumer-oriented services that are beginning to emerge. Many call them "cloud with training wheels." Fine, but dismissing them is shortsighted. After all, they will become an important part of the journey toward the use of cloud computing technology.

This article, "iCloud: It's not the cloud, but it's good for the cloud," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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