Look beyond the tumultuous economic storm and you'll see something else forming--cloud computing, a term and concept that took off in 2008.
"If you look at Google Trends, 'cloud computing' came out of nowhere in 2008. People were searching for it in the third quarter of 2007, but it went bonkers in 2008," said Frank Gillett, vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research.
Indeed. Not only did the number of Google searches for the term "cloud computing" skyrocket in 2008, so did the number of related news stories.
The concept of cloud computing, in which the cloud is another name for the Internet, can also be another name for on-demand computing, utility computing, and software as a service.
"2008 is the year that everyone began talking about the cloud, and people felt it was a phrase they needed to know," Gillett said. "It became an industry buzzword this year."
Contributing to that end was a book by Nick Carr called The Big Switch.
Among the larger cloud computing announcements this year was Microsoft's launch of Windows Azure, which is designed to allow developers to write programs that run over the Internet from within Microsoft's data centers. But that effort has left some industry watchers bewildered as to Microsoft's intent. Dave Rosenberg of CNET's Negative Approach, for example, notes that because developers are more familiar with the "nonpackaged software" approach of Amazon.com and Google, they may find Microsoft's approach and "deployment mechanics" somewhat perplexing.
AT&T joined the fray with plans to offer networking and storage via the Internet. And virtualization company VMware also announced its "on-premise" cloud-computing offering.
Even heavyweight hardware makers believe they can ride the cloud, with IBM announcing Bluehouse, a business-centric, Web-based social networking and collaboration service. Bluehouse aims to offer cloud-based and on-premises services.
Beyond corporate America, cloud computing is growing as a concept for consumers and smaller businesses. Google, for example, offers calendar and documents features as hosted services, aiming to attract those who no longer want to be tied to loading software onto their computers.
Heading into 2009, chances are no gust of wind will blow the cloud away.
Some Web 2.0 start-ups get cranky after Amazon.com's Simple Storage Service goes offline for a few hours.
New hosting companies that target start-ups could bring cloud computing into businesses as a data center replacement, research firm Forrester says.
Microsoft's new SQL Server Data Services, a database-in-the-cloud service coming soon, might have been the sleeper announcement of this year's Mix conference.
CTO Ari Balogh says that much like Amazon's EC2 and Google's App Engine, Yahoo could offer infrastructure services
Cloud computing is ever more fashionable. This week's Google Apps outage shows that online applications and services aren't perfect, but that the concept is growing up.
New "test bed" project will give companies, as well as partnering researchers, access to top-notch hardware for exploring the future of the hot server-outsourcing technology.
It's a countdown of crashes, a timeline of terror. See what happens when the cloud rains on the likes of Amazon, Twitter, and Apple.
Speaking at OracleWorld, CEO Larry Ellison says that the computer industry as fad-driven as fashion and that cloud computing is simply the latest fad.
In a speech in London, the Microsoft chief executive reportedly talks about a coming cloud-based OS, as well as plans to allow light Office document editing over the Web.
Company will challenge Internet-centric "cloud" pioneers by promoting a mix of cloud-based and on-premises services.
Analysts praise Microsoft's ambition with its Azure cloud-computing effort but say that getting there will take some time.
Overall, Gmail has been available 99.9 percent of the time. Now, Premier customers get a promise of that level of reliability for all of Google Apps.