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Pundits blur lines between effect of cloud services and the Internet

Cloud computing has been around so long, even the CTO Power Panel at the recent Cloud Expo couldn’t identify its origins. “What was the year that BusinessWeek published the cover story on Amazon’s risky bet?” quizzed Jeremy Geelan, moderator and president of the Sys-Con show.

The panel’s collective amnesia could be due to the blurring storm of cloud computing services since that cover story was published in November 2006. “Who would have thought mail is being commoditized?” asked Brian Boruff, vice president of emerging technologies at global consulting firm CSC. And the rapid rate of change will continue: “In the next 12 months,” predicted Jason Lochhead, CTO of hosting services at Terremark, “we’ll see whether platform or service is the direction enterprises are going to go — whether people are willing to forgo a client/server environment.”

Segueing from the past and future into the present, Geelan asked the panel whether the cloud has spawned anything that took them by surprise. The answers were amusing, and telling. As the speakers shared their thoughts, the line fogged up between the effect of the Internet on people’s lives, and what the speakers perceived as the impact of the cloud.

“The memory of the cloud,” shot back Boruff, who, it turned out, had just finished speaking to high school students so they’d understand the implications of posting a picture in a “Michael Phelps scenario.” “We’re coaching kids that they need to be educated about the digital footprint,” he said. “There’s a loss of privacy in the cloud. You can’t remove anything that has been uploaded; it stays there forever.”

An audience member stood up and proclaimed the death of the CD, as music, movies and online games — right down to Club Penguin for 3-year-olds — are delivered from the cloud. “My 3-year-old asks a question, and if I don’t know the answer, she says to look it up!” he said.

“My kids have a hard time understanding that on-demand TV is new,” another attendee related. “They couldn’t imagine having to be in a certain place at a certain time to watch something.”

The panel noted a blending of home and work online, as people merge their work identities with family and community identities: It’s even possible to connect with people from decades past — high school classmates, for example — and your kids’ friends at the same time. Mobile devices have brought people in closer touch, as has the Skype video service.

“But is all this progress? That’s debatable. “When I was growing up in Holland, privacy was treasured,” one person lamented. “The less people knew about you, the better.”

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