What exactly is "the cloud?”

We see the term everywhere, but does it have a specific meaning?

05/31/2012


Dear Control Engineering: I see references to “the cloud” in many articles, most recently the discussion about water utilities. Does that term have a specific meaning or is it (pun intended) pretty nebulous?

The term cloud computing is used in many ways, but at its most basic, it is the idea of having files and even applications available via the Internet and not necessarily stored on any specific computer. For example, let’s think about this article. At the moment I am writing it using Microsoft Word on my office laptop. If I save the Word file, it will reside on this computer, and only this computer. The Word application also resides there. That doesn’t help you because you can’t see what’s on my computer. (At least I hope not. Although what I’ve been reading about Flame, maybe I shouldn’t be so sure.)

Anyhow, you will read this via the Internet, so I have to move this document to the Internet-based application that supports our Website. The articles on our site do not reside on my computer, nor does the application that manages our content. These exist in the cloud, and I can access them from any computer that has Internet access. Individuals and businesses are now storing every imaginable type of content on the Internet: Music, videos, photos, text files, financial data, you name it, there is an application. Once moved to the cloud, I can access and edit this article from any computer that has Internet access. That computer doesn’t have to have any specialized software or documents because those thing exist on the Internet.

Theoretically, all you need to work in the cloud is a computer with a Web browser. That’s because all the documents and applications are there waiting for you to access them. You don’t need to install a video player program to watch videos on YouTube or Hulu. I don’t need to buy a music player application to listen to Pandora. The videos, songs, and players reside in the cloud, and you won’t have the slightest idea where those servers are located.

Use of the term has expanded to include information accessible through the Internet. In the article to which you refer, the users of the system can access production information and even exercise control functions through the Internet. I suspect they need to have some software resident on individual computers, but this does not necessarily need to be the case. Welcome to the future.

Peter Welander, pwelander@cfemedia.com



The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Doubling down on digital manufacturing; Data driving predictive maintenance; Electric motors and generators; Rewarding operational improvement
2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
Prescriptive maintenance; Hannover Messe 2017 recap; Reduce welding errors
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Research team developing Tesla coil designs; Implementing wireless process sensing
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; Paralleling switchgear generator systems
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me