Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What is Cloud Computing?

What is Cloud Computing?

Imagine your PC and all of your mobile devices being in sync - all the time. Imagine being able to access all of your personal data at any given moment. Imagine having the ability to organize and mine data from any online source. Imagine being able to share that data-photos, movies, contacts, e-mail, documents, etc. - with your friends, family, and coworkers in an instant. This is what personal cloud computing promises to deliver.

Whether you realize it or not, you're probably already using cloud-based services. Pretty much everyone with a computer has been. Gmail and Google Docs are two prime examples; we just don't think of those services in those terms.

In essence, personal cloud computing means having every piece of data you need for every aspect of your life at your fingertips and ready for use. Data must be mobile, transferable, and instantly accessible. The key to enabling the portable and interactive you is the ability to synch up your data among your devices, as well as access to shared data. Shared data is the data we access online in any number of places, such as social networks, banks, blogs, newsrooms, paid communities, etc.

Ultimately, your personal cloud, which includes everything from your address book and music collection to your reports and documents for work, will connect to the public cloud and other personal clouds. Everything connects. That means every place on the Internet you interact with, as well as every person you interact with can be connected. This includes your social networks, bank, university, workplace, family, friends - you name it.

Of course, you will determine what you show the public and what you keep private. Clusters of personal clouds will form new social networks that will likely have a lot more privacy settings than Facebook, especially if these clusters are family or business oriented. (Privacy will be a huge issue as personal clouds hit critical mass.)

Eventually, like the smart house in the TV series Eureka, your devices will learn about you and eventually intuit what you are doing, where you are going, and what you intend to do when you get there. Think of all this as helpful… not creepy.

This might all sound a bit like science fiction, but this is exactly where we're headed with cloud computing. We're not quite there yet, though. We're all still creating our personal clouds.

So, what is involved in creating a personal cloud and what can you do with it right now? We'll explain the basics here and, in our subsequent pieces, we'll delve in to the specifics. We'll take a look at the features within Windows 7 and Windows Live that will take you to the cloud—often without you even knowing it. So, check back for stories about Photo Fuse, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Mesh, SkyDrive, and more.

Microsoft Windows 7 and Your Personal Cloud

Technology insiders like to talk about the "consumerization of IT" and how such things as social networking are changing the business landscape. With its latest cloud-enabled product lineup, Microsoft seeks to flip this equation, banking heavily on the fact that a technology previously confined to corporations can be packaged to appeal to consumers.

Featured prominently alongside all of Microsoft's lineup of products (Windows 7, Office 365, Windows Live, etc.) is its personal cloud.

"The personal cloud is a way to link several experiences together for end users," said Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of Microsoft's OEM Division. "Technology is converging, with devices using similar operating systems, networks and radio stacks, but as technology converges, devices tend to diverge. The next challenge, then, is to figure out how to get content to behave consistently across a range of very different devices."

Today's cloud is very good at synching content across a single vendor's devices. A recent Microsoft demo by corporate vice president Brad Brooks shows how Windows 7, Bing, Windows Phone 7, Windows Live, and other services interact to create a connected personal cloud.

In the demo, Brooks uses Bing as his search engine and pulls up one of his favorite bands, ZZ Top. When an entertainment button on the top of the Bing UI is clicked, the search returns relevant media items, including song snippets, upcoming concert dates, and one-click buying links to various music services, including Zune Marketplace, Apple iTunes, and Amazon MP3.

When Brooks downloads Sharp Dressed Man, the song is not just queued up in his PC-based Zune player, it's automatically synched across his personal cloud, meaning that it's synched up and ready to play, with no intervention from him, on his Windows Phone 7 device. He then shows photographs that he took with his phone and explains how they were immediately loaded in a Web-optimized format on SkyDrive, a Microsoft cloud storage service. (We'll be detailing SkyDrive later in this Personal Cloud series.) Later on, once the phone is cradled in his home network, the photographs will be available throughout his home network, accessible on devices that range (eventually) from his PC to the TV to digital picture frames.

With the personal cloud in the background, consumers can have music hubs, photo hubs, productivity hubs, and more, from which they can access content consistently on whatever device they have, wherever they happen to be.

By Rivka Tadjer - November 18, 2010 - http://www.pcmag.com

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