Clearing Up the Cloud of Confusion

The Cloud.  You have probably been hearing this phrase thrown around quite a bit lately. It reminds me of something straight out of Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984, but in this case Big Brother might be your friend.  If you are like I was about six months ago, you might be saying “What exactly IS The Cloud anyway??”  Here’s a very brief introduction to The Cloud and how it relates to DCXL.

The Cloud is a a metaphor for the internet in cloud computing.  (Don’t you hate it when definitions refer back to the thing they are defining??).  Now let’s try to define cloud computing. According to the ever-helpful Wikipedia, cloud computing is

…the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devises as a utility over the internet.

Let’s make a bullet list of descriptors of cloud computing that specific to science:

  • internet-based
  • shared software and data (these are kept on “The Cloud”, i.e. the internet)
  • end-users are not involved in configuring the computing

Jonathan Strickland from HowStuffWorks.com said it best:

In a cloud computing system, there’s a significant workload shift. Local computers no longer have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to running applications. The network of computers that make up the cloud handles them instead.

Hardware and software demands on the user’s side decrease. The only thing the user’s computer needs to be able to run is the cloud computing system’s interface software, which can be as simple as a Web browser, and the cloud’s network takes care of the rest.

If you are familiar with using servers for storing your work or running applications remotely, cloud computing is quite familiar to you.  If you use Gmail, Dropbox, Flickr, or Evernote, you are already taking advantage of cloud computing.  The options for cloud computing are growing quickly; Google’s Apps for Business and Microsoft’s Azure are examples.  Apple recently introduced iCloud, which is geared towards individuals using the cloud for their pictures, movies, documents etc.

sunset clouds

Gratuitous pretty cloud shot. This was taken on the RV Atlantis during a research cruise to the equatorial Pacific, hence the oceanographic equipment.

So how does this relate to DCXL? One of the potential features of DCXL that might be included is a relationship with cloud computing.  This may be in the form of storing your data on the cloud and accessing it via DCXL, or it may be that the DCXL add-in for Excel ends up being accessible as a suite of cloud-based analytics.

Read more about The Cloud from people with more expertise than me here:

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