CNN Explains the Cloud…Badly


[qi:gigaom_icon_cloud-computing] Thanks to the amazing viral powers of Twitter, I found a series that CNN is running on cloud computing, complete with stories (I liked the one on server huggers) and fun video about an oddly named dog. The goal clearly is to explain cloud computing to the masses, but when you show someone hosting a photo at Picasa or Flickr and say, “You’ve just started cloud computing,” you’ve just messed up.

Storing data in the cloud is the same as storing it online. In fact, if they remade the video (embedded below) and replaced the word “cloud” with “web” or “online,” it all would still make sense — but that’s not cloud computing. Cloud computing is providing processing power on demand and charging for it on a per instance basis. Yeah, that’s far geekier, but it helps someone sift through all the hype around the cloud and cloud computing, something the CNN video and story doesn’t really do.

Not that many of the vendors who provide either web-based services like Google’s Gmail or actual cloud computing like Amazon really helped the poor writer out. Google refused to let him tour their data centers (no surprise) and Amazon’s Adam Selipsky, VP of Amazon Web Services, told him, “From a customer’s perspective, it is a cloud, and it can be magic.”

Wow, can we all try a little less hard to make this stuff easy to understand?



Actually CNN was right, unlike what so called pundits say on this blog. SaaS is the best form of Cloud computing that will touch lives of common people. It really doesn’t matter to the end user where that service is hosted, which itself could also be in the cloud (Infrastructure as a Service).

I love the way Oracle’s chief puts it. That is really the essence of cloud computing. Everything else is just a matter of sales talk.

Harriet Meth

What I find interesting is the fact that CNN saw the need to address the topic in the first place. Admittedly, it’s dumbed down and interpreted for the masses so it doesn’t pass the tech-cred test. Nonetheless, the fact that mainstream media sees the need to explain “the cloud” at all says a lot about both the increased general awareness (or confusion) about the cloud and CNN’s need to remain oh-so-relevant.

BTW, the boy and his dog video is a very untypical video treatment for broadcast. Looks like they’ve been watching a lot of online vids and tried to incorporate that approach for their story.

Stacey Higginbotham

Harriet that’s true. Both the mass interest in “the cloud” and the online video format, which Michael also alluded to in his comment.

Jeremy Campbell

I would never think to relate a boy and his dog to explaining cloud computing. For someone who didn’t understand this concept before, they will be more confused than ever now. I like the format they used for the video, but that’s about it.

Greg Schulz

Clouds are like Electricity: Dont be Scared

IT clouds (compute, applications, storage, and services) are like electricity in that they can be scary or confusing to some while being enabling or a necessity s to others not to mention being a polarizing force depending on where you sit or view them.

As a polarizing force, if you are a cloud crowd cheerleader or evangelist, you might view someone who does not subscribe or share your excitement, views or interpretations as a cynic.

On the other hand, if you are a skeptic, or perhaps scared or even a cynic, you might view anyone who talks about cloud in general or not specific terms as a cheerleader.

Read more here:

And here:
Clouds and Data Loss: Time for CDP (Commonsense Data Protection)?

Visit and caste your vote on poll about clouds here:

Cheers gs
Greg Schulz – Author “The Green and Virtual Data Center” (CRC) and founder Server and StorageIO

Dynamo Hom

Many pieces of language are bastardized (or should I say, mutated) by transferring from a small sect to the masses.


Meh, I would say that Flickr or Picasa are a really basic version of “Cloud Computing” even if, as others have said, it’s a crummy meaningless buzzword.

Cloud computing isn’t just Google app Engine and Amazon’s Servers.

You’re still “using the computi9ng power of the cloud” to store your photos and organize them and if you extend Flickr using something like Picnik you’re using Cloud computing.

Stacey Higginbotham

It’s “a crummy meaningless buzzword” because we have let it mean too many things. Which is why I’m trying to stand up for accurate definitions :)


Maybe we could differentiate ‘Cloud Computing” and “Cloud Storage” and join tem under something like “Cloud Solutions”.

RD Williams

I’m still waiting for a “broadband” Internet connection in my house.

Michael Harries

I’m pleased you have such a strong grasp of what cloud is and isn’t — however most of the industry sees it as an important shift – well beyond just computing cycles. And – IMHO – hosting pictures online sure as heck qualifies. Consider Amazons S3 … for most of us that’s definitely part of the cloud story.

Stacey Higginbotham

There are two concepts here. We need to distinguish between the two, so normal people realize there are actually two concepts. One is storing and accessing stuff online (a trend consumers are taking large part in) and the other is buying compute and storage infrastructure on demand, which is a business and IT trend. Unclear language leads to “cloudy” thinking.

JD Lasica

While you’re technically correct, Stacey, I think CNN’s wider definition of the cloud (to mean storing things offsite instead of on your desktop) will definitely become the de facto definition within a couple of years.

Anyone who attends tech conferences, like Web 2.0, knows that the folks on stage always use the cloud in this larger sense, and not in the pay-by-the-drip sense.

What’s important is the concept, not the term, and unfortunately the two concepts aren’t the same.

Two Worlds

Maybe it’s just because “the cloud” is a retarded concept, and retarded buzzword jargon? idk…

Gregory Schultz

And this is why blogs like GigaOM and the rest are excellent at reporting stories with a tech angle. CNN, MSNBC and FOX News should stick to general news.


Industry pundits love to pontificate on that which they believe is cutting edge. Cloud computing is, in large part, an example.

The use of thin client over a wide area link to a central resource is not new. It used to be called dumb terminals and mainframes. Add in the bill-per-use nuance and you have something that used to be called timesharing. Sure, the delivery means (IP) is very different, and the “mainframe” has now become server farm(s) implementing various levels of virtual resources. But at the end of the day, not a great deal of difference, is there?

So, let’s not get too hung up on how smart we are in defining distinction without a difference.

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