Where Does ‘Network’ End and ‘Cloud’ Begin?

4/04/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

in the intersecting languages
of business
and tech. As a person
of words and tech, it’s
noticeable that lately
even “cloud” has lost
its participle — like
how the British talk
about taking someone
to “hospital,” not
“the hospital.”

Example, from a
recent batch of notes: “Cloud is a big
space, with lots of different players. Cloud
isn’t just one particular thing — it’s what
Amazon does, yes, but it’s a lot more than
IaaS (infrastructure as a service).”

In general, “cloud” is a catch-all term
that means services or functions you
used to get locally on a fixed machine at
your house or workplace, but that you now
get from anywhere, in real time, delivered
to you over the Internet.

Maybe you’ve experienced what
happens when the “in real time” part
of “cloud” isn’t there: No connection
means no Facebook, no access to
the files you stored on SugarSync or
Dropbox. (This usually happens when
you’re out of town and either bored out
of your mind, or in desperate need of
your stuff.)

In cable, navigating subscription TV
via something other than the remote is
a good cloud example. Letting consumers
use their gadgets (iPads come to
mind) to change channels, set the digital
video recorder or stream TV means
acknowledging that different screens
have different decompression engines,
resolutions and communication passageways
than set-tops.

So instead of trying to do everything
from the set-top, why not use the cloud
— the connection — to bridge the

Here’s where I get flummoxed when
it comes to cable and cloud: Where
does “the network” end, and “the
cloud” begin? Lots of people use the
two terms synonymously: Cloud is network;
network is cloud.

For those of us who grew up in cable
knowing “network” as the word that grew
up out of “plant” — where “plant” is the
connectors, coaxial cable, pole-line hardware,
pedestals, fiber, lasers and related
headend whatnot needed to move video,
data and voice signals from one place to
another — the distinction is nebulous.

It’s good, says a cloud-engineering
pal, to tease the two terms apart. Part
of it involves getting to know the “data
center,” a place filled with servers and
software that “abstract” the stuff running
over a network from the network itself.
Part of it, too, involves knowing the difference
between “service” and “server.”

More on that next time.

Stumped by gibberish? Vist Leslie Ellis
at or

Next TV

Affinia Manhattan, New York, NY