I hate to be a scrooge this time of year, but somethin's got stuck in my craw. A lot of companies are doing primetime commercials featuring cloud. To the Cloud!, they declare. YAY CLOUD!, they say. I am the cloud. We are Cloud. Cloud is IT.


It's deeply troubling, mostly because I'm preparing for a christmas of explaining what I do all day for work - and now people actually have a ridiculous slogan to throw at me before they ask the inevitable follow up question... what's a cloud?


While I'm tempted to make a reference to Jersey Shore and chug another cup of eggnog, I usually reluctantly answer. How to explain the cloud to a group of non-nerds? To biologists? To PhDs? To school administrators and journalists and people still in middle school?


Well, here's my general go-to explanation.


There are times when your computer runs slowly. Or when you might find that it isn't sufficiently powerful to handle a certain type of calculation. For example, if you were running scientific calculations - or financial calculations. Or if you were trying to play a video game that was very big indeed. Sometimes, your computer just isn't powerful enough.


What you'd like, then, is to borrow some of someone else's computer. Just for a small period of time. You aren't going to want to buy a big ol' computer to help you, since you don't need it forever. You just need it in small bursts, and that whole big computer is really expensive. So, you just want to.. rent it. Of course, you can't really haul the darned thing around the world, shipping it here and there. Instead, you can connect to it when it is elsewhere. Like the internet. You connect to your email - and that's not on your laptop. That's elsewhere. You just have a window into it.


Cloud allows people who have this need for extra computing power to rent it, using something like a browser window to create an account, ask for some power, use that power, and then give it back. And they pay for what they use.


What do I do, then?  Well, it turns out it takes a lot to run a power rental computing facility. You have to keep track of users. You have to make sure they get what they ordered. You have to make sure it's working properly. You need to make sure no one can steal any of anyone else's stuff. It's tricky. I market the software that makes all that work.


The end.


What do you think of my cloud christmas story? Happy Christmas, Merry New Year, and in the tradition of the curmudgeon.. Bah Humbug!


The Cloud Curmudgeon is being sent to an island in the pacific for his own mental health. Who knows - he might be less grumpy upon his return in the new year.

To weigh in, comment below! I'll begrudgingly read your thoughts. To suggest a rant - email me at