What is the Cloud?

By Greg BryanFeb 29, 2024


Welcome back to our five-part podcast special that seeks to demystify the internet. 

Our last episode focused on data centers, but we didn’t get into what happens on the rows and rows of servers you would find in those facilities.

So today we're explaining the cloud.

What is the Cloud?

You may have heard a popular saying: There is no cloud, only other people’s computers. I'd also add: other people’s wires connecting those computers.

This maxim is perfectly true. Although, as you can imagine, it's an oversimplification.

What it's getting at that's accurate is that many of us have a vision of the cloud that it is just there—something we don’t need to think about in terms of its physical presence and location. Every time I see a diagram of a network setup that includes a cloud, I note that the cloud part is just what we're assuming or taking for granted in this particular view.

The way we could frame the question “What is the cloud” is to ask something deeper. Like, "Where is my data stored? And why? Where do my applications come from?"

Of course, the answer to these questions is indeed, “on someone else's computers.”

Let’s start with another fundamental question. Why does it make sense to store my data, run my applications, or do anything else "as a service" somewhere else?

There are many potential answers. But most importantly, there are clear economies of scale to housing many computers in the same facilities where they can share security, power, cooling, etc. While this sounds mighty efficient, you must be able to get to these computers from wherever you and your device are.

To explain how it works, Senior Research Manager Patrick Christian joins me to talk cloud. We explain what it means to get something "as-a-service," hyperscalers, CDNs, and how companies get to the cloud.

Take it all in before our grand finale next week, when we deliver our final explainer on wide area networks.   

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From This Episode:

Greg Bryan

Greg Bryan

Greg is Senior Manager, Enterprise Research at TeleGeography. He's spent the last decade and a half at TeleGeography developing many of our pricing products and reports about enterprise networks. He is a frequent speaker at conferences about corporate wide area networks and enterprise telecom services. He also hosts our podcast, TeleGeography Explains the Internet.

Connect with Greg  

Patrick Christian

Patrick Christian

Patrick Christian is a Senior Research Manager with TeleGeography. He heads the Cloud and WAN Research Service. He also focuses on African and European markets specializing in international bandwidth markets and internet infrastructure, WAN services, terrestrial and submarine cable systems, and international voice traffic analysis.

Connect with Patrick