In the otherwise-forgettable movie, Sex Tape, starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, the couple is in a car, talking about a risqué tape they had recorded, “It went up, it went up into the cloud … You can’t get it down from the cloud? … Nobody understands the cloud … it’s a mystery!” I noted that as they talk about the cloud, they look up, into the sky.

This notion is not only found in a romantic comedy. Talk to your average software professional about the “Cloud” and look at his or her eyes … odds are, they will look up. For most people, the Cloud is an ethereal, amorphous, non-entity. And that’s how it’s sold. You don’t need to worry about the physical world (someone else does) … but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in the real world.

In the real world, the Cloud looks very much like a collection of data centers, somewhat like corporate data centers, somewhat like colocation centers, and facing many of the same issues such as:

  • Power costs and capacity
  • Operational efficiency
  • Cooling
  • Reliability
  • Resilience
  • Cabling
  • Connectivity

Except in most cases, these data centers are even bigger, packed with even more equipment, running at higher utilization rates, deployed faster (sometimes filled up 100% as soon as they’re commissioned), and the power chain is often less redundant (trading hardware resiliency for load-balancing software).

Many of these are “hyperscale” data centers and require sophisticated data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools to manage. This in addition to virtualization tools to deliver Cloud services, sophisticated load distribution tools as well as billing and tracking software to keep the business running. The best data centers at this scale operate at lower PUEs, with higher levels of service availability, than many of their counterparts.

The other end of the Cloud is very much a physical world, representing an ever-growing percentage of the data center footprint. When you place your application in the Cloud, you still need to be aware that it is running in a bricks and mortar location, and that it does have an energy footprint. The Cloud is all around us, with data centers in every direction, and these data centers are very much connected to terra firma. Perhaps it should be called the “Fog” … which what happens when you bring a cloud down to Earth. So it’s always interesting to see how the industry’s beloved tech terms make their way into pop culture … remember Y2K? But those of us who have established our careers on building, maintaining, and optimizing the Cloud, know that looking up to find this nebulous, information processing juggernaut is futile. The facilities are grounded on terra firma, it’s the data that often transcends the ether.