The cloud is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere even though we rarely notice it. You interact with the cloud starting first thing in the morning as you check your phone for new emails before you even get out of bed. The cloud is there again when you use your phone’s maps app to check traffic conditions on the way to work. Once at work, you use the cloud whether you write code using Github as a code repository, share a document with a colleague using Box, enter customer information into Salesforce, or onboard a new employee using Workday. When we go home, we may open up vacation photos a friend sent to us on Dropbox without giving it a second thought that we are consuming a cloud service built on top of another cloud service (Dropbox is built on Amazon AWS). All of these are cloud services, yet we experience them in completely different ways, which raises several questions: What is a cloud service? Where is the cloud? What is the difference between the cloud and the Internet? And how many flavors does the cloud come in?
The term “cloud” is closely related to the Internet. For a long time, in network diagrams the complexity of the Internet was reduced down to a simple cloud icon. That’s because the focus was on the servers, devices, and switches IT professionals were responsible for and the Internet was beyond the horizon of what they needed to worry about from an architecture standpoint. Since software delivered over the Internet similarly doesn’t require the customer to worry about how it’s architected, people began to refer to this software as being “in the cloud.”