Stephen Fry Explains Cloud Computing in a Short Animated Video

Just the other day, I did the unthinkable: I actually watched a pre-video advertisement. The spot, for a major bank, spent its first few minutes explaining the mechanics of credit rating. Promising useful knowledge, this bank received my attention in return — for about two thirds of the commercial, anyway. The video above, commissioned by a company called Databarracks, does much the same by offering an explanation of “cloud computing,” a concept you’ve surely heard much thrown around over the past several years. Sweetening the deal, it uses for its visuals a drawn-as-you-watch style of educational animation you may have encountered here before, and it employs as its narrator writer, comedian, and man-about-internet Stephen Fry, from whom I’ve always enjoyed a good explanation. “Today,” he begins, “we are in the middle of a revolution in business computing.”

In service of this thesis, he then goes back to 2700 BC, when the Sumerians invented the abacus, continuing on through Leonardo da Vinci’s plans for a mechanical calculator, Charles Babbage’s difference engine, Alan Turing and Tommy Flowers’ forward-looking separation of hardware from software, and Tim Berners-Lee’s realization that computers could operate on something like a neural network — something like this very World Wide Web. We then see and hear an analogy made between computing and electricity. Where once firms wanting to use electricity had to build and maintain their own burdensome power plants, now they have electricity as a utility, paying only for what they need at the time. And while firms have mainly, up to this point, purchased and operated their own stores of computing power, doing it cloud-style will free them all to pay for that, too, as a utility. A bold pitch, perhaps, but everything sounds reasonable — inevitable, even — coming from Stephen Fry.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los AngelesA Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.



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  1. Ted Lemon says . . . | November 19, 2013 / 8:29 am

    This is a great presentation. Unfortunately, it’s already been proven wrong, because data and power are not equivalent. Data security cannot be delivered as easily as power can; cloud computing is a great way to have your crown jewels stolen. It does work for certain sorts of applications, but is not generally applicable, even though its proponents would very much like us to believe it is. I use a “cloud” service; I don’t put anything on it that could cost me money if it were stolen.

  2. David Bradley says . . . | November 20, 2013 / 12:22 am

    Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb, there were a couple of dozen that pre-dated his commercially successful version.

  3. Johnny says . . . | November 20, 2013 / 12:56 pm

    It is a utility. But as you say there is the issue of trust. And that comes from reliability and security. nnOnce people start seeing cloud services as secure and reliable the mass adoption will begin.nnIm sure it was the same with electricity and water supply too.

  4. Ted Lemon says . . . | November 20, 2013 / 12:58 pm

    If people see cloud services as reliable and secure when they aren’t, that’s a bad outcome. And at present they aren’t, for a variety of reasons.

  5. Chiarofiume says . . . | November 21, 2013 / 12:31 am

    I’m very concerned by what you call “a bad outcome”: a knowledge management service “user” should never be equated [?] to a power supply “user”.

  6. Ted Lemon says . . . | November 21, 2013 / 5:29 am

    Right, but that’s precisely what they’re doing here.

  7. josef wier says . . . | November 22, 2013 / 3:39 am

    StephennFry is truly amazing, though I donu2019t know about its user friendliness. His tonenis perfect. However, only artists know about true art, thatu2019s whynBroadcast2world has that particular finesse that ensures animated videos get annapplause that I got for my company. I donu2019t know if any do it yourself methodsnwould receive it, or be so memorable. nThe problem with the latter approach is that people might remember thenanimation but forget the brand.

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