Is the cloud buzz real or just a lot of hype? Media experts say both

Journalists from VentureBeat, Fortune, Bloomberg, and the Financial Times discuss what they think cloud computing really means.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Cloud computing has been one of the premier buzz topics in both consumer and enterprise technology, especially over the last two years. But how much of it is real and how much is just a bunch of hype?

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Some technology journalists would argue it's a little bit of both.

"Like with any other buzz word, there is some hype around it, but I do think it's very real," said Michal Lev-Ram, a writer at Fortune during a panel discussion at Egnyte Firestorm on Wednesday afternoon.

She acknowledged that some companies are slower to embrace while others do with caution, but Lev-Ram pointed towards recent acquisitions made by larger enterprise players as well as some big IPOs as evidence for the growth in this space.

Paul Taylor, a personal technology columnist at the Financial Times, predicted that within five years, we won't talking about doubts anymore -- the cloud will just be the way things are done.

But Taylor did note that Europe has a slightly different perspective, being a "step behind" when it comes to embracing of open technology over concerns about privacy and where the data is stored.

But the phrase "cloud computing" is arguably being thrown too casually as a blanket term.

VentureBeat's executive editor, Dylan Tweney, said he has a "love-hate relationship" with the cloud, admitting it was "mostly hate until about a year ago."

Describing the word "cloud" as an anti-marketing term, Tweney continued that it lost a lot of meaning when it became applied to everything from Dropbox and Evernote to Yahoo Mail to "actual enterprise services."

However, Tweney acknowledged that he realized there was something more behind this, citing as mobile as an example of another technology that is "intimately tied to the cloud."

Jon Erlichman, Bloomberg TV's senior West Coast correspondent, added that the cloud is a "a very real story for us the way we cover it," but it can really vary depending on the use case, customers, and industries involved.

He added later that there will certainly be some more "cringeworthy" uses of the term cloud, but Erlichman still predicted there will certainly more dollar signs surrounding this field going into 2013.

Taylor touched on this a bit more, projecting we're on the cusp of seeing the "cloudification of enterprise software." Citing mainstay software and hardware giants such as SAP and Oracle, Taylor estimated that these companies have spent approximately $20 billion in acquisitions just to catch up in the cloud space.

Erlichman also pointed out that "you've got a whole category of companies like HP and Dell that still have a lot of life decisions to make in the next couple of years as part of that process."

Nevertheless, even with all of this hype about cloud infrastructures and whatnot, Tweney reiterated that at the end of the day, you can't accomplish real innovation without engaging end users.

Taylor further argued that most businesses -- and the C-level suite in particular -- don't care about technology. Instead, he suggested they're more interested in what technology can do for them.

Erlichman added that the CEO mentality is different from that of the CIO, citing the iPad as an example of something many CEOs wanted in the workplace and didn't care how it was implemented.

Taylor remarked, "From a journalist's perspective, that's quite interesting because you start to talk about businesses processes and not the technology itself."