IDG Contributor Network: How many clouds are there?

How many clouds are there?

If you’re reading this, there is a good chance, like me, you are the most technical person in your family. No matter how hard I try not to work at family events, it doesn’t usually take long for somebody to come up and drag me into some tech issue. Usually it has to do with recovering a lost file or getting a suborn virus off an old laptop, but every once in a while my family stumps me. 

Recently, I was asked how many clouds there are. I was ready to shout out some answer when my brain really started to churn. I was trying to decide what counted as a cloud. The cloud is generally considered anything that delivers services over the internet. Quickly I gave up on counting major services that are provided over the internet, and my thought process changed to “How many clouds will there be?”; “How many should there be?”; “If one cloud provider runs on another generic cloud provider does that count for one or two clouds?”

At this point it was becoming clear that I wasn’t going to produce an answer any time soon and the inquirer now was more concerned about refilling their drink than waiting around for my answer, so I was off the hook for the moment. I believe that cloud computing allows businesses to consume computer resources as a utility, so thoughts of “how many clouds should there be?” continued to nag at me throughout the day. In the U.S., utilities are rock solid relative to many other goods and services we consume. Almost every place I have lived never concerned themselves about gas, electricity, water, etc. Utilities are assumed to be reliable. Conversely, every business I have worked in has had backup generators, backup internet, backup almost everything.  When money is on the line having a backup is prudent and smart.