The Cloudfather? A Visionary Delights in His Dream Coming to Fruition

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Paul Tukey, professional gardener and environmentalist who founded SafeLawns, gets curious about Cloud computing and discovers the inventor is Jostein Eikeland, now a U.S.-based investor in clean alternative energy.

Inc. Magazine, which profiled Eikeland’s ASP evolution in 2000, estimated the market for these Cloud-like services at about $933 million in 1999. Today estimates range into the hundreds of billions, if not more than a trillion dollars.

For Paul Tukey, the seemingly out of nowhere term “Cloud” has become a household word faster than you can say Steve Jobs.

With Apple’s announcement on Monday, June 6th now the “Cloud” is virtually everywhere, with the concept having reached a business-tech fever pitch in mid 2011 matched only by iTune’s release of the Beatles catalogue in November of last year. And Steve Jobs, to be sure, is getting all sorts of credit for being, yet again, the consummate cybervisionary since he launched the iCloud at the recent Worldwide Developers Conference.

The Cloud concept has reached so far and remotely into business that the CEO of a local gardening supply company in Winslow, Maine, absolutely shocked the board of directors with the news that he was mothballing all the hard drives he had recently purchased for data storage. The prized, proprietary information, he said, was now “in the Cloud.” You could have heard a seed drop.

The reality, though, is that we’ve all been Cloud-ing for eons, at least within context of the lifespan of the home computer revolution. Anytime you use a shared Internet service, from open email providers such as Hotmail and Gmail, to photo-sharing portals such as Picassa and Flickr, you’re in the Cloud. These days, absolutely massive amounts of information are available from your phone, your car’s computer and, yes, your iPad, all because of the Cloud.

Though the concept may not be easy to understand, these two facts are true: 1) Cloud Computing is sexy; 2) Cloud is easy to remember. The initial term, in computerspeak, was anything but. Known as ASP, or “Application Service Provider,” it was based on the notion that it was unreasonable for every computer owner, either personal or business, to have to own all the hardware and software necessary to perform a specific task. By sharing the services, users would have improved access to data, storage and, in general, cutting-edge applications.

The concept, to be sure, was anything but easy to sell, according to the man broadly credited with coining the phrase ASP.

“In the beginning, Microsoft was quite resistant to the idea,” said Jostein Eikeland, the wunderkind Norwegian co-founder of the Scandinavian company Telecomputing that was acknowledged in the trade journal Network World (July 12, 1999) as the first company to bring ASP offerings to America. “Microsoft, of course, thought it would make more money if it required everyone to buy individual or corporate software licenses for their own computer systems. I didn’t think that was either necessary or reasonable because the reality is that, even though you have Microsoft Office on your computer, you only utilize a very small percentage of its capacity at any given time. Why should everyone have to own their own license for Microsoft Office when it can be shared?”

Soon after that initial meeting in the mid 1990s, Microsoft realized it would bring in more users and create additional profits and so issued Eikeland the world’s first “fractionalized” software license. That allowed Telecomputing to offer bundled services all the way back in 1999 that included Internet access and popular software programs including MS Office ’97 in an affordable monthly package.

“That meant that businesses could focus on their business, rather than each individual company having to have a senior tech person on staff,” said Eikeland. “Most importantly, it significantly reduced the investment required in software and hardware by each of these companies. It really represents the triple bottom line: people, profit and planet.”

Inc. Magazine, which profiled Eikeland’s ASP evolution in 2000, estimated the market for these Cloud-like services at about $933 million in 1999. Today estimates range into the hundreds of billions, if not more than a trillion dollars, in collective annual Cloud fees.

And though someone else is now profiting from all that money changing hands, Eikeland said we are all benefiting from the Cloud’s unique ability to take advantage of unused resources, which benefits users as well as the entire, IT ecosystem.

“These days, everyone deserves access to the full potential of the computer and, by and large, that has happened,” said Eikeland, now a U.S.-based investor in clean alternative energy. “Most importantly, we’re no longer building these massive mainframes that waste incredible amounts of energy and resources. Remember the days when a computer unit would take up the entire floor of a building? Today’s Cloud system optimizes the usable capacity of all the components involved, creating efficiency gains in hardware manufacturing and energy usage. The Cloud is just far, far better for the planet. We all win when that happens.”

Meanwhile, way up here in the middle of Maine, I can get you a good deal on a few crates of hard drives . . . and maybe a few packs of vegetable seed at no extra charge.

Contact: Paul Tukey (207) 252-0869                                        

About the Author

Paul Tukey is a best-selling author, freelance journalist, professional gardener and environmentalist who founded the SafeLawns Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation with offices in Newport, R.I., and Cumberland, Maine. SafeLawns advocates for environmental stewardship, toxic reduction strategies and resource conservation.

To make a contribution to the SafeLawns Foundation or to arrange an interview with the Author contact the SafeLawns Foundation at Safelawns Foundation, P.O. Box 301, Cumberland, ME 04021 Ph: (207) 252-0869.


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