Cloudy with a Chance of Democracy

While Oracle’s Larry Ellison has received quite a bit of buzz himself for maintaining that cloud computing is little more than a buzzword, sometimes there’s something to be said for hype.

True, the use of “cloud” to denote the internet or network as the source of a service is not as new as much of the energy, confusion and discussion surrounding it.  However, while cloud computing may be neither new nor clearly defined (Gartner calls it “a style of computing where scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are provided 'as a service' to external customers using Internet technologies”), the buzz is not without action.

Recently the U.S. government took a major step toward reversing its reputation as technologically behind the times and slow to adapt when federal CIO Vivek Kundra unveiled Apps.gov.  Companies, too, have their heads in the clouds these days, as a recent Wall Street Journal article notes. 

Over at CNET, James Urquhart wrote a great post, Five ways that Apps.gov is a trendsetter.

One of the most interesting points, I think, is how Apps.gov democratizes technology, allowing individual agencies to choose the applications they need as they need them and cataloging services in a way that matches users’ needs.  As Kundra wrote in a post on the White House blog,

"Like a utility such as electricity or water, cloud computing allows users to only consume what they need, to grow or shrink their use as their needs change, and to only pay for what they actually use. With more rapid access to innovative IT solutions, agencies can spend less time and taxpayer dollars on procedural items and focus more on using technology to achieve their missions."

In a world where we can scan our own groceries at the supermarket and never speak with a human teller at a bank, it sometimes seems like technology can help us with everything except technology itself.

Cloud computing, it seems, has the potential to change that by giving individuals and smaller groups of people more control over how their computing needs are met. Of course, security remains a top concern when it comes to cloud computing, and the answers to that question are still “up in the air,” if you will.  However, it seems that the buzz around cloud computing is shifting away from questions of adoptions towards questions of how and when.  Looks like the cloud has a bit more weight to it than just buzz.

- Contributed by Catharine Morgan.  Follow her @c_morgan