By SuperUser Account on 12/7/2010 11:45 AM
By - Charles Arthur
Putting data in to the 'cloud' suits companies but does not evade political pressures
WikiLeaks showed last week that the premise behind cloud computing began looking a bit creaky. Photograph: Jens B Ttner/ Jens B ttner/dpa/Corbis
Until last week, any computing futurologist would tell you that cloud computing is where it's at. You don't need to know where your data is being stored; it's just on a computer, or more likely computers, Out There On The Internet. Thus Amazon, with its EC2 ("Elastic Cloud Compute") service, or Microsoft with its Azure service, or the most familiar example, Google, with its GoogleMail and Google Docs services, which are used by thousand of companies around the world. (Disclosure: the Guardian uses Google Docs and Mail, and Amazon's EC2 system for its API.)
Indeed, the prestigious Pew Research Center said in June that "solid majority of technology experts and stakeholders participating in the fourth future of the internet survey expect that by 2020 most people will access software applications online and share and access information through the use of remote server networks, rather than depending primarily on tools and information housed on their individual, personal computers" and that "most users will perform most computing and communicating activities through connections to servers operated by outside firms".
We already do, to a large extent: Google's search index lives in the cloud; lastminute.com, TripAdvisor, toptable.com, they're all a "cloud" service. What has been changing in the past few years is that individuals and companies have been able to upload their own content onto those computers – hence the explosion in size of Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and Twitter, none of which generate their own content. It all lives in the cloud, where one organisation offers the servers and another offers the software that interfaces to the content.