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Understanding (Data) Clouds and (Glass) Pipes

I hate to disappoint meteorology fans, but if you are looking for a discussion about weather, you may want to head elsewhere. I’m talking about the kind of clouds and pipes that are a bit harder to see and, for many, harder to understand.

This kind of cloud enables remote data storage or processing. It’s made up of servers housed within data centers around the world and, if you have ever used social networks, media streaming, or online file storage, you’re already using it. In fact, these clouds are already enabling substantial change in how we store, access, and process data in nearly every aspect of our lives. Clouds are everywhere.

To illustrate the change that clouds have brought to our world, let’s first focus on life B.C. or Before Cloud. In a world shortly before cloud, information was stored on computers or local devices. If you needed that information, you had to be using or at least connected by wire to that storage device or computer. This required both an expensive computer with enough power to process the information, as well as enough storage to contain all the information. As information became more complex, better computers with more processing power and storage were required – obsolescence was planned.

Not only was this B.C. world expensive, it was also static, risky, and inefficient. It was static because it did not enable any form of mobility.

Data was stored in the same way traditional books are stored in libraries. If you wanted to read another book, you had to be in a specific location. In the same way, you needed to be in the presence of the device with the information. The best you could hope for was to store information on a disk, thumb drive, or CD.

This world was also very risky, as the loss of the computer or storage device meant the information was also gone. Like the library, if the building burnt down, the books would be destroyed. In addition, misplacing a disk, thumb drive, or CD with information on it was risky, as that data was now available to whomever finds it – security was challenging.

The inefficiency stems from the need to have many separate devices able to store and process the information. These devices were costly and power hungry. We have all seen pictures of the old mainframe computer systems from the 1960’s which took up an entire room. Gaining any improvement in efficiency of that required fork lifting the entire system and replacing it with a newer one.

Thankfully, life with clouds provides solutions to all of those problems. Gathering up all this distributed information and moving it to the cloud means that the data is available anywhere. The risk of data loss is mitigated because this information is distributed among many data centers rather than at one location. On top of that, there are security policies possible for who can access the information, eliminating the risk of data being lost or misplaced.

There is no doubt that tech companies love to sell the latest and greatest devices to keep up with the demands of applications. Because of the migration to cloud environments, this will also change. Instead of having many high-powered, expensive devices to store and process information, there will instead be longer-lasting, lower-powered devices that need only display the information. Upgrades in the cloud will bring new capabilities without changing out the user’s device.

The cloud will allow our smart phones to evolve into dumb devices. This is a major reason that companies like Apple are working hard to shift more of their business to subscription-based services and away from selling devices.

What do pipes have to do with this?

While the world of the cloud is already being enabled in data centers and many of us are routinely using it in our lives, there is still an obstacle in the way – the pipe, or connection. To allow for true remote computing that turns our devices into simple displays, the connection from those devices to the cloud needs to be extremely robust. If you had to upgrade your home internet connection to support the shift from DVDs to Netflix, you can imagine the change real-time remote computing requires.

Networks that enable the cloud must support robust, low-latency, ultra-high capacity connections. Because many of us have been using video conferencing to work from home over the past several months, we have all seen issues of choppy video or distorted audio in a meeting and it is more than frustrating: it demonstrates the quality of our home connections. The same challenges exist for businesses.

While the wireless industry has been rapidly growing from 3G into the 4G of today and the 5G of tomorrow, most of the wireline industry has struggled to keep pace. A cable modem connection may be sufficient for some small activities today, but the shift to the cloud will drive capacity needs to 1Gbps and beyond with latency needs down in the single-digit milliseconds. On top of that, the ability to support both a high download and upload capacity will continue to be critical to allow information to flow to and from the cloud seamlessly. Thankfully, we have technology available which addresses all these needs to have a superior cloud experience: fiber optics.

Fiber optics (glass pipes) offer the most capable and robust connection medium possible, far beyond the capability of any cable modem or wireless connection.

Fast moving companies who will play a role in the cloud world of the near future will need to shift their planning and IT investments to support these kinds of services. Investment will need to be focused towards things like Ethernet services over fiber optics and away from simply keeping pace with current IT architectures. Executive leaders with the foresight and courage to drive that change will be instrumental in not only enabling this new cloud world, but will position their companies to reap the rewards of it.


For businesses that use Cloud Service Providers, AWS, Salesforce, Azure, Google Cloud and other, Horizon offers a direct connection to these providers called Cloud Express. It is a direct connect “pipe” to your cloud products that is secure versus a public Internet connection. Learn More!

Horizon offers enterprise fiber-optic broadband in the Columbus metro location, rural south and southeast Ohio and select areas in the Midwest. Businesses wanting more information on our network and services, please Contact Us.

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