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My head is in the clouds, but will my feet stay on the ground?

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:embedded cloud? cloud computing?

The "cloud" is hot, but is it the answer to our problems?

Unless you are living in a cave or under a rock, you know that the "cloud" and cloud computing are hot items this year. Apple's announcement of its iCloud service reinforced how the cloud has captured imagination and media buzz. Closer to the engineering side, the June 2011 issue of the publication Desktop Engineering,which focuses on CAD, CAM, FEA, mechanical modeling, fluid and thermal dynamics, simulation, and rapid prototypingwas devoted to the subject, with articles on how cloud computing will (mostly positively) and affect these disciplines.

What do I think about the cloud's true potential? To be honest, I don't know yet, one way or the other.

Here's why I am ambivalent: every year, there is a topic or trend (or two or three) which the pundits and media say is the "next big thing." The hype machine goes into overdrive and we hear and see it everywhere. Sometimes it is so; more often it is not.

But what bothers me is that this next "big thing"whatever it isis somehow postulated as the solution to all problems, whatever the problem actually is. One year it's Twitter, before that we had wikis, we've also had multicore processors, tablet computers and social media. The list of hot items that will solve all your problems goes on and on.

Somehow, all problems map to this hot solution, and you can project onto it whatever you are looking for, as it leads you along (or you are led by it). Just be patient, they say: once this next big thing is properly implemented, then it will really, truly be the ideal solution for whatever ails you. People who a few months ago couldn't spell the word "cloud" are now touting its inestimable virtues and benefits.

I suspect the cloud and cloud computing will become another useful option and tool, one which engineers and businesses will choose when appropriate and suitable. It will not erase all previous storage/computing schemes. It will have its own set of virtues, vices, and tradeoffs which users will weigh as they decide if it matches their needs and priorities.

The cloud euphoria is closely related to another five-letter word I see in press releases: "ideal." When the announcement says the product is ideal, it should mean that all similar products will soon be wiped off the market, like the dinosaurs they will have become. Yet, despite press releases to the contrary, I'm still waiting for the ideal op amp that obsoletes thousands of others, but I am not holding my breath

Similarly, despite the accolades and promises (plus wishful thinking and marketing hype), the cloud and cloud computing are not ideal. They may, however, be well suited and a good choice for certain situations, and that's reasonable to expect. Excessive hype does no one any good, except journalists who need something to write about, and those hoping to cash in for a quick buck.

Readers: What "next big thing" that will solve all your problems do you recall? And what happened to it?

- Bill Schweber
??EE Times

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