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Editor's note: All you need to know about our upcoming cloud computing event is right here.

Cloud Computing is, by its very nature, nebulous. Users of Cloud Computing do not "touch" the Cloud, which is housed in data centers and server farms located in far-flung places. Because of this, Cloud Computing can be difficult to explain to a non-IT person. However, everyone is familiar with utilities such as phone services, cable TV, and electricity. Although few people may fully understand how electricity is generated or provided on an electricity grid, they do understand that electricity is provided on a pay-per-use model. The metering for these services is provided by the service provider itself, but measured using tamper-proof electricity installed at the user side. These meters are under the control of the service provider themselves, even though they are installed at the "client-side" i.e. at people's homes. These meters are generally trusted by consumers, because they are familiar, established, and provide feedback on usage (even if it's just a little spinning disk showing electricity usage).

With Cloud Computing, the meters are provided by the Cloud Service provider. There is no client-side meter, as in the case of utilities. This means that there is no local onsite meter to examine, and to trust.

The Problem with Meters

Meters are not without their problems, however. The Californian utility, PG&E, recently had problems related to a rollout of "smart meters" in Bakersfield. The website SmartMeters.com reported: "Bakersfield residents believe their new smart meters are malfunctioning because their bills are much higher than before. PG&E claims higher bills are due to rate hikes, an unusually warm summer, and customers not shifting demand to off-peak times when rates are lower."

In this same piece, State Senator Dean Florez, the Majority Leader in California, is quoted as saying, "People think these meters are fraud meters. They feel they're being defrauded. They're getting no benefit from these things."

The story of this "smart meter" rollout has a direct bearing to Cloud Computing. Customers of Cloud services right now depend on the "meters" being provided by the service providers themselves, just like the PG&E customers in Bakersfield. This means they depend on the service provider to tell them about usage and pricing. There isn't an independent audit trail of usage. Additionally, the meter also locks the customer into the service provider.


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