First, there is no cloud.

Having said that, I also need to say that “The Cloud” occupies some of the most valuable real estate on the planet. You see, “The Cloud” is a euphemism (aka, pretty word) for vast server farms scattered across otherwise unimportant swaths of the world, all networked together.

Imagine you are driving down a country road. Corn and soybeans on one side. Anonymous warehouses on the other. Get it? (Now imagine all the wires. Not enough twisty ties in the entire world to keep that straightened out.)

In the beginning, computers were as big as houses. Or at least rooms. We thought we were oh-so-clever when we managed to miniaturize them so they could fit on desktops, and then light enough that we could carry them around. We even shrunk them enough to fit in our pockets (phones) and on our wrists (watches.)

(Face it, miniaturization is almost a fetish with our culture. We’re even breeding designer dogs, ever smaller and tinier. But I digress.)

Sadly, as our computing devices get smaller, they also get more specialized. Meanwhile, the number of things we want to reliably do gets larger and larger. Time. Heart rate. Number of steps. Read. Write. Build spreadsheets. Invoice. Pay. Share Photos. Shop. Research. Nanny cam. Facebook updates. Turn on the coffee. Turn off the lights. Take over the world maybe even. We want to do everything, and we want to be able to do all of it now. Here. Wherever “here” is.

Enter The Cloud.

Now, with The Cloud, you can be wherever you like. All you need is a piece of hardware (tablet) that connects to another piece of hardware (giant server farm )…and a subscription to software that facilitates what you want to do: the software is stored in the cloud.

The whole idea of software as a service (SaaS) was unimaginable until a few years ago. What? Not owning something that I pay for? But over time, as shiny, important upgrades came out more and more frequently, people did not like being left in the dust of the new model. SaaS allows the user the flexibility of pretty much instantly changing that for which they pay. Today, you don’t even buy your new cell phone. You just pay on it until the next model comes out, and then you adjust the contracted rate and keep going.

A little secret: Amazon is one of the biggest cloud providers in the world. Want to know how they stay alive selling you cheap stuff? Along the way, they built the most and the biggest and the reliable-est server farms. Last year, a vendor at a conference proudly told anyone who would listen, “We ping off the Amazon servers.” (Yes, go ahead: imagine the thumbs in the suspenders.) It must be profitable. As I write this, Amazon is installing the glass in its downtown Seattle biospheres where they intend to foster creativity among the workforce with treehouse-like meeting spaces and a few hundred species of endangered plants, specially selected by the corporate horticulturalist for tolerance of cool, dry temperatures. Nice.