No, not exactly. But they actually do have a lot in common in that they are both about sharing resources and using them to achieve cost-savings and flexibility.
An article in Fortune Magazine (September 14, 2009) on Zipcars really got me thinking about this.
With cloud computing, we are sharing our IT infrastructure, storage, and/or applications with others and using the services of cloud providers. It is one big virtual environment, where instead of everyone having their own technologies and applications, we make use of shared resources and we meet our information technology needs on demand and pay only for what we use.
Zipcars has the same-shared model as the cloud, and shifting toward this new paradigm is going to help preserve the environment.
Usage: Like cloud computing, Zipcars provides for the use of automobile when you need one and you pay by the hour or day, according to what you use. It’s flexible, saves money, and cuts down on the number of vehicles on the road and therefore on the pollution associated with them.
Cost: Both Zipcars and cloud computing cost pennies on the dollar. For a basic $50 membership and $11.25 an hour you can drive a Zipcar (note: drivers who give up their own cars save an average of $800 per month). For 12-25 cents per month you can store a gigabyte in the cloud or for 10 cents-$1.25 an hour you can process tasks on the Elastic Computer Cloud (EC2).
Functionality: Zipcars move people around and cloud computing moves data.
Centralization: Zipcars are co-located in “company created ‘pods’ or group of cars in parking lots or garages,” and cloud computing services are centralized in data centers of large cloud providers (like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM)
Market: Zipcars has grown already to 325,000 members and is growing 30% a year with a overall market for shared vehicles expected to balloon to $800 million over the next five years (Fortune), and business IT spending on cloud computing is expected to rise from $16 billion last year to $42 billion by 2012 (IDC).
Users: Major companies (not just individuals) are using Zipcars—so far “about 8,500 companies have signed up, including Lockheed Martin, Gap, and Nike.” And brand name companies are signing up for cloud computing, such as NY Times, NASDAQ, Major League Baseball, ESPN, Hasbro and more. (http://www.johnmwillis.com/other/top-10-entperises-in-the-cloud/).
Going green: Each shared Zipcar “takes up to 20 cars off the road as members sell their rides or decide not to buy new ones.” Each move to cloud computing makes some or all of organizations unique servers, storage devices, and applications obsolete.
The trend: With the transportation market, the future will be “a blend of things like the Zipcar, public transportation, and private car ownership (according to Bill Ford), and with the IT industry, the future will be a combination of cloud computing, managed services, and in-house IT service provision.
Zipcars and cloud computing are benefiting from the new shared services model driven by cost-savings, flexibility, efficiencies of allotment, and eco-consciousness. These are driving change in our usage of transportation and computing for the better.