You can’t avoid “The Cloud” these days. The phrase is everywhere, from billboards advertising online banking to Amazon’s recently announced and highly publicized music locker. It’s become one of those terms that is in danger of being genericized, like organic, and enters the vernacular with a meaning that strays from the reality. As Wikipedia makes clear, if you are using your local Outlook email, you’re not in the cloud; you’re sending email over the Internet. If you are accessing your Gmail or Yahoo account, you’re in the cloud. Or to paraphrase Larry Ellison of Oracle from a few years ago, the cloud is what they do, but they used to call it the Internet. Maybe they should just change some words in their ads.
The term “Cloud Computing” actually owes its lineage to the telephony industry and the conversion from point-to-point data circuits to VPN services. The concept has been around since the 1960s, and it’s been talked about in academic circles since the mid-’90s. But it’s steamrolling through the consumer entertainment space, and its tentacles have reached into professional audio.
When we started researching The Cloud for our annual May special issue, we found that most of what’s going on is more accurately labeled cloud-based file exchange and storage. There are musician-based sites that include rudimentary mixers and effects in their browser-based apps, allowing artists to collaborate in something approaching real time, but on the professional recording end, we’re still some bandwidth-increases away from true cloud-based recording.
But it is definitely coming. It’s not hard to imagine in the not-too-distant future that a software company, large or small, makes its application available with the download of a track-in-progress, without requiring the app be resident on each host machine. When I walked the NAB floor a few weeks ago and talked up this notion with a few manufacturers, I got the sense from more than one that they, too, have been thinking about it. But their lips were sealed. It will require more bandwidth, and it will require new business models. But it will soon be a viable option.You can count on it.
In the meantime, we found a number of producers and engineers who are using cloud-based services like Dropbox, YouSendIt and Mozy to streamline their workflow and change the way they interact around the world. It’s gone beyond simply leaving a hard drive at home or loading a mix for client approval, and you can read about some of the more compelling services out there in Mike Levine’s feature. And be sure to check out Nashville producer Robert Venable’s approach to songwriting in Google Docs and updating files in Dropbox. It’s inventive, and it’s in the here and now.
And as we consider this an ongoing and ever-improving new means of production, we’re always interested in hearing how you incorporate cloud-based services into your own productions. We will definitely be listening and looking for the next big steps. Email us your cloud-computing techniques at firstname.lastname@example.org.