What is a consumer cloud service?

POSTED BY Global Administrator
Over the past two days, vendors aplenty have been strutting their stuff at the 3rd Annual Cloud Computing World Forum. What struck me as noteworthy was the fact that, at a time when a host of major OTT players – Apple, Google, Amazon – are trumpeting their consumer-facing cloud services, the focus of the event was resolutely in the enterprise space. This is by no means a criticism – the quality of the presentations was excellent, with Michael Vatis’ overview of the positively frightening implications of conflicting national legislations on data storage a personal favourite – but rather to my mind is indicative of the fact that while there is a fairly broad consensus on what cloud in the enterprise constitutes (the US National Institute of Standards and Technology offers a (relatively) concise definition here) when we move into the consumer space, then: boy, is it a different story. While the pronouncements of Apple, Google, Amazon et al have popularised the concept of the cloud, they have at the same time confused the issue; when I hear of every streaming service being described as “cloud-based”, I know we are on the road to a scenario where cloud-based equals web-based, and that isn’t going to help anybody. Thus, while – as Mark Johnstone, the Show Director, observed in his introduction, “the focus is no longer on the concept of cloud”, that is true only in the enterprise space, and thus, having agreed the broad parameters for discussion, it is possible to have a meaningful – and in the case of the Cloud Computing World Forum, informed and informative – debate in this arena. In the consumer space, anything goes, hence we’re some way from the meaningful debate stage. I raised this issue at the event, citing Woody Allen’s pithy observation that “We can say that the universe consists of a substance, and this substance we will call atoms, or else we will call it monads. Democritus called it atoms. Leibniz called it monads. Fortunately, the two men never met, or there would have been a very dull argument.” Now, I am not one for debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but in this case I think if we are going to have some kind of discussion of the future of cloud mobility in the consumer space, then we need some ground rules, starting with a definition of the basic criteria for what is, and what is not, a consumer cloud service. So here goes. A service can be defined as a consumer cloud service if it fulfils the following five criteria:

  • Where content can be accessed on demand by the end user

  • Where access to content is enabled by a remote third-party

  • Where content storage is scalable

  • Where content is accessed via the Internet and via web services APIs

  • Where content is stored remotely from (and uploaded from) the accessing device in a “digital locker”

This is very much a starting point, and by no means the finished article; I would welcome any suggestions, criticisms, amendments or additions that you might put forward. Over to you, dear reader…