Colleagues and family members ask me all the time what the cloud is. In some cases, they offer up their own amusing idea of what the cloud means to them. I have heard that the cloud is nothing more than the modern-day mainframe. In other circles, I hear that the cloud is a fancy name for virtualization. While there may be some correlation to these concepts and what the cloud is, I thought it would be a good idea to point out what I believe is a real-world example of a cloud-enabled application.
A cloud computing use case
Back in 2007, an MIT graduate by the name of Drew Houston co-founded a company called Dropbox. You might have heard of it, or may even be using it. Drew founded the company when he got tired of keeping track of his USB thumb drive.
Storing files in the cloud
Dropbox is a simple application that allows you to store digital files in an electronic filing cabinet. That filing cabinet is hosted out on the Internet and can now be accessed by any Internet connected device. In fact, on most of the popular devices, there is an application that makes the process even easier. This digital locker if you will is hosted in the Cloud and accessible over the Internet.
The driving force behind Dropbox has been its simplicity. In fact it has become so popular since its launch, that it is rumored the company may break $100 Million in sales this year. They have taken in very little venture capital and maintain a small staff of about 45 employees.
Dropbox has become so popular, that many popular applications for the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices have hooks into Dropbox. For example, GoodReader is an application that allows you to read Microsoft Office documents as well as PDF filed on your mobile device. One of the services that Goodreader can connect to and download files from is Dropbox.
Why it’s my favorite
This is not a unique service and indeed not the first or only cloud-enabled service, but it is a simple way of showing what a cloud-enabled application looks like. Google Apps and Amazon’s Web Services are also a great example of cloud-enabled applications. Dropbox just makes it up towards the top of my list due to its simplicity; integration with net-connected devices and applications and the fact that you can store up to 2GB of data for free.