I have to admit, for awhile, I was one of the nearly 80 percent of American’s who didn’t know what people were talking about when they talked about the cloud. I knew it wasn’t a meteorological reference but that was about as far as I got and then one day I visited the cloud-no plane or rocket ship necessary.
The particular cloud I visited is just outside Sacramento, a place ironically, in the meteorological sense, is rarely cloudy. The cloud is actually an incredible physical place that pretty much all of us visit, virtually, on a daily basis. Salesforce.com: pretty much invented the cloud. Amazon: it’s in thecloud. Netflix: it’s in the cloud. Facebook, yup, in the cloud. But the cloud isn’t in actuality, in a cloud; it’s real bricks and mortar, and lots of it. Acres of huge, high tech, high security servers are in fact thecloud-many of them with their own power generation and military-styled security and defense. It turns out, the cloud, unlike its metrological namesake, takes up a hell of a lot of room.
Though our computers have gotten so small that I can do virtually anything I have to on my phone, the amount of infrastructure needed to support technology has grown. Like the cloud, the build-out of all technology infrastructure takes space. Don’t like our carbon footprint? Well, neither do I, but recognize that solar power takes space-we’re talking hundreds, if not thousands of acres of land to produce solar power at utility scale. Like your cell phone to work wherever you are? I do, especially at times of emergency but that takes cell sites, and lots of them statewide to provide what can literally be a life saving service. And yes, AT&T’s new IP network, if approved, is going to take some space on city sidewalks to provide this platform that will at the onset provide a fancy, smancy new home entertainment option and a lightening fast platform for developers who are already working on how to best utilize this new technology.
As technology advances, so do the platforms we need to support it. I am willing to give up a bunch of land in the desert to reduce our dependence on coal and foreign oil. I am willing to give up my unblemished sightlines so that cell service can be far reaching when I need it most. And, next Tuesday, as additional fiber optics are considered by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, we’ll find out whether San Francisco is willing to give up a little space in order to take advantage of this new technology.
All it takes is a little space.