Generation Y: 'The cloud just works'; but should you care why?

For most students and the Generation Y, the cloud is just 'a server for storage' accessible from anywhere. But it is so much more than that, and is more prevalent than you think.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor on

Zack Whittaker is in Portland, Oregon.

This week I attended the Intel's 'Day in the Cloud' event in Portland, Oregon, which focused on the latest happenings in cloud computing and the next generation of datacenters. In this series of posts, I explore cloud computing and the effect and impact it has on the next generation IT worker, its perception by Generatiion Y's in an educational setting and as consumers.

During my time here, I've spent the vast majority of my time with cloud experts, vendors, service providers, journalists but mostly high-definition geek zombies who vomited tech talk in my face.

Then again, I realised this week that I've spent more time in air flying across the world than actually on the Earth itself.

And then it came to me in a fizz of conjecture. Why am I apathetic to the workings of the cloud? Do I really need to know how it actually functions, or can I not simply be satisfied with it being an abstract concept, or a series of connected servers in some datacenter somewhere in Arizona?

Once the jetlag had worn off, I remembered who I was. A member of the Generation Y and iGeneration. If I find the inner workings of the cloud dull as hell, no doubt others of my peer demographic will do also.

Oh, and rather handsome it seems. Apparently my British accent is 'sexy', according to one fellow passenger in flight. She was clearly drunk.

I digress.


The fact of the matter is the vast majority of younger consumers are just that: consumers. And equally, this demographic of consumers are on the most part 'technologically passive'.

To be 'technologically passive' is to engage with technology at a social level, from personal devices and smartphones, to the technology on those devices, like Facebook and application downloads; while unsubscribing from having an interest in the field of technology nor how the products work.

And to be completely frank, the Generation Y are on the most part passive to the modern technology culture. The cloud is no different, though it dominates as one of the most prominent technologies used by younger people today.

The cloud to most is simply a server or 'the Internet' where files can be stored for access from anywhere in the world, regardless of the device one uses. Mostly true, but it is a tiny segment of what the cloud is can offer.

Take Facebook. Though for many it appears as 'just a website', and to the more tuned in users, 'a social network'. But behind the scenes it is a vast, complex set of interacting, co-operating cloud-run web applications.

But then why should you care?

If you are an application developer - someone who could make a Windows email application, for example, the technology exists to take it from a final executable setup file, into an application which runs directly from the browser. The greatest advantage? The application is available from anywhere, just as Facebook is.

Nothing much has changed for the end user, except instead of going to the Start menu or the Mac dock to load an application, they type in a web address instead.

The cloud alleviates the pressure on most, because it outsources the critical need for an application to work on your computer when you want it to, to a computer or series of servers in a datacenter somewhere. When a program breaks on your computer, it can stay broken for as long as you don't fix it.

However, even free services provided by the cloud subscribe to a power battle of maintaining uptime and availability. If their products aren't constantly available throughout the working day all year round, they lose money. It is entirely in their best interest to keep the service you use alive and running.

Facebook found this the hard way when it accidentally leaked its own internal prototypes to users, forcing it to pre-emptively pull the entire site down for half an hour.

Just imagine if Google dropped off the face of the planet for an entire hour. There would be riots.

The deep concentrated technologies from Azure to .NET and the vast array of developing languages could bore the pants off most of the Generation Y, but that relates to the vast majority of the 'technologically passive' younger consumer.

For the more seasoned reader, this sounds like the simplest thing in the world, and are wondering why I'm even explaining this. But younger readers, on the whole, don't give a hoot.

Disclosure: Intel provided flights and a hotel for my time in Portland, and was under no obligation to write anything - let alone anything nice, for that matter.

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