The Cloud – What the heck is it, actually?

The Cloud – What the heck is it, actually?

Thank goodness for the cloud! Whatever it is. (So to really understand it, I asked its creator.)

Some may tout it as the be-all cure-all, but what the cloud really is – is a marketing term.

“At the time, the need was more of an internal marketing need than an external one,” George Favaloro told me. “Cloud computing” was invented during his work as a marketing executive at Compaq, with Sean O’Sullivan in 1996.

The term is used more and more loosely, making healthcare pretty cloud-y these days. Can the cloud protect you against ransomware? Won’t the cloud improve efficiency and compliance? What impact will the cloud have on the patient?

Most importantly, “are healthcare organizations ready to embrace the cloud?”

HITInfrastructure asks that question and then answers it with a white paper from HIMSS Analytics and Level 3 Communications. To summarize its summary – yes. Healthcare organizations are ready.

The actual, wordier conclusion is “according to respondents of the 2016 HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey, the cloud is quickly morphing into a strategic tool that organizations can leverage to access the applications and data that will empower them to experience the improved care and reduced costs so critical to success in today’s healthcare environment.”

(This of course raises an additional question: Who talks this way?)

Even though hospitals are tripling their use of cloud services, there’s likely more than one CEO or Chief Medical Officer whose eyes start to glaze over whenever meetings turn to “the cloud.” If that’s you, you’re not alone.

“Like ‘Web 2.0,’ cloud computing has become a ubiquitous piece of jargon that many tech executives find annoying, but also hard to avoid,” reports the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review. The journal cites a CEO who grudgingly gave in to using it, although “I didn’t think the term helped explain anything to people who didn’t already know what it is.”

He’s officially correct. The National Institutes of Standards and Technology’s definition begins, “cloud computing can and does mean different things to different people.”

To those who aren’t tech-minded, “the cloud” suggests a fleecy digital Neverland. It’s a fantasy computing Oz, misty and indistinct, nowhere and everywhere. Actually, that last part is true.

For example, cloud support is provided to clients in more than 190 countries by Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is named as an industry leader by Gartner Research. Gartner defines the cloud as “a simple way to access servers, storage, databases and a broad set of application services over the Internet.”

And so it is. “Cloud computing” is everything that the thinking machine in your hand or on your desk will not do when it’s not connected. The cloud is what you tap when you have Wi-Fi. The cloud is what you lose when your signal drops out. The cloud is the Internet, that’s all.

But the term has developed such a buzz that companies try to cash in and trademark “the cloud” and “cloud computing.” All such efforts have failed, because the term’s first use predates their claims.

Where Lies the Credit?

Having researched the matter extensively, MIT credits “the cloud” and its current meaning to George Favaloro and/or Sean O’Sullivan. Neither today recalls if they came up with term individually or together, during brainstorming.

Their 1996 vision was prescient. “Not only would all business software move to the Web, but what they termed ‘cloud computing-enabled applications’ like consumer file storage would become common,” according to Technology Review.

At the time, Favaloro was a marketing executive with Compaq. O’Sullivan headed NetCentric, a now-defunct start-up outside Houston. Compaq was looking to invest in O’Sullivan’s venture.

A 50-page internal Compaq analysis was written. “Internet Solutions Division Strategy for Cloud Computing,” dated Nov. 14, 1996, predicted a future in which “application software is no longer a feature of the hardware – but of the Internet.”

“I wanted a way to describe ‘off premise’ computing and make the point that it was relevant for us as a new and important market,” Favaloro tells Moxe. Thus was born “the cloud,” as we mean it today.

“I do remember it was being batted around verbally in the business computing circles I was moving in at the time,” he says. However, “I do feel some pride at understanding the power of the concept and how to capitalize on it long before most folks did.”

O’Sullivan went on to form a nonprofit, assisting reconstruction in Iraq. Favaloro today is a Boston-based consultant. And the computing vision has long since become a reality.

At Moxe, our applications are hosted on the cloud using Amazon Web Services (AWS) and we work with AWS and other industry-leading partners – adhering to healthcare industry regulations and achieving requisite certifications to maintain the highest security and compliance standards during the exchange of clinical data throughout your network.

The future of healthcare is in making it a conversation.