The cloud keeps the content coming3/23/2016
How many times have you found yourself complaining about the limited amount of space on your phone? Across the planet, billions of smartphone users have encountered this frustrating experience. If you can get past your personal frustrations for a second, consider the firestorm of rage the companies that power the applications encounter trying to store and process the entire world’s data every day, all day. While your phone is a convenient delivery system for web-provided content, it’s actually a deeply layered onion of computer processing power that can only be understood by examining cloud computing.
With one tap of your finger, smartphone applications offer you direct access to boundless sources of entertainment, financial and educational content. Unlike your phone’s web browser, which demands you to navigate the Internet to get to your desired content, applications host exactly what you’re looking for in a piece of software tailored specifically to your expectations. Some applications are as simple as a calculator, which requires no upkeep or mobile data to work. Others are like Facebook, which constantly gathers new information from the Internet, requiring mobile data to process photos, advertisements, videos, games and messages. It is in applications like that cannot exist without mobile data — such as Facebook — that we start to understand the vast network of resources necessary to sustain the application ecosystem.
As big as the sea of applications has become with — Apple’s App Store and Google Play account for more than 2 billion available apps — it is puny in comparison to the tools that prop it up. One layer below the application surface is the mobile carrier service. While you can use a smartphone without a mobile carrier without great tech know-how, it is extremely difficult to pull off. Mobile data allows applications to rush data from across the information super highway and into your brain. And just like the soil beneath the grass, it is the most visible because you encounter it often, most obviously when you get your data bill and realize you spend far too much time streaming cat videos and Snapchatting.
But a layer below mobile data is where you discover the real fuel to application fire — cloud computing. Whether you’re using Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, YouTube, Clash of Clans or DropBox, virtually every data-demanding application requires the use of the invisible services of cloud computing. “The cloud” as you’ve probably heard it referred to, is a repository of content storage and processing. When you upload a video to YouTube, programs in Google’s cloud receive your file, process it to conform with its data standards and place it on a puffy part of its cloud that is accessible through the YouTube player and search tools. Similar processes are done by every application that acquires content from the Internet, and as you can imagine, it is extremely complicated.
The most popular cloud computing solution is easily Amazon Web Services (AWS). One-third of all web traffic on the planet is carrying Netflix streaming content, and instead of maintaining massive service farms and employing an army of cloud computing programmers, Netflix uses AWS. In fact, Netflix, Adobe, Yelp, Slack, Comcast and up until very recently, Dropbox, all are AWS customers. Almost entirely hidden from the end user, AWS is so popular that if Amazon dropped its consumer goods sales department, it would actually be more profitable from just its cloud services.
The scale of Amazon Web Services data storage tools is so large, it is hard to quantify in a way to appreciate. So my advice is don’t. But next time you get angry you’ve run out of local storage to hold your silly selfies and baby videos, know that the cloud is ready and waiting to hold your content for you. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.