The tech press is full of people who want to tell you how completely awesome life is going to be when everything moves to “the cloud” – that is, when all your important storage, processing and other needs are handled by vast, professionally managed data-centres.
Here’s something you won’t see mentioned, though: the main attraction of the cloud to investors and entrepreneurs is the idea of making money from you, on a recurring, perpetual basis, for something you currently get for a flat rate or for free without having to give up the money or privacy that cloud companies hope to leverage into fortunes.
Computing. Pay now, pay later … either way you’re paying for it whether you want it to be local or remote, under your control or not. Cloud makes sense when you don’t have the initial capital investment available to bootstrap your environment (eg, millions of dollars to build a datacenter or hundreds of thousands to colo at one, purchase of computing equipment and resources, and so on). If you’ve already got that invested in your environment, it’s basically a sunk cost. Where cloud comes into play at that point is handling the resource peaks that everyone encounters (and if you’re not encountering, why did you over-engineer your environment that much?).
Nonetheless, that’s about the best description of cloud that I’ve seen in the last five years of dealing with the idea of outsourcing computing resources on a grand scale.