What is cloud computing and why should I care if I am in manufacturing? Cloud computing simply means using remote, large Internet server farms in the same manner as if they belonged to your own company.

Here is an example.  When you use your browser to search for something, such as through Google, do you know where the servers that are processing your search request are located?  Do you even care where the servers are located?  No, of course not.  You have a browser window open, you type in what you are searching for and the results come back.  The search could have been run in California or London for all you know.  It does not matter where these servers are located because you are not using a telephone dialup to get to the Internet like back in the early 1990s.  You are using high-speed broadband.  As we all know the speed difference is significant. Instead of moving a paragraph per second, you can now move a book per second with broadband.

These tremendously large information pipes allow large groups of server farms to appear like they are local to your manufacturing shop. This is a tremendous change from what manufacturing shops had to do just 5 to 10 years ago.  Instead of having to buy large computers and purchase lots of software, with these large information pipes and Internet server farms, you can simply pay for the services you need on a "pay by the drink" basis.

This "pay by the drink" scenario will revolutionize manufacturing in the same way that the Internet has already revolutionized our everyday and business lives.  Manufacturing shops are starting to take advantage of cloud computing because it simply makes good economic sense.  You pay for what you use and do not have the additional costs and burden of managing your own data center.  Instead of large capital expenses for new computer systems, the costs will move to operating expenses and you will pay for only what you actually use.  The graphic illustration below shows how MTConnect machine tools can be connected to the cloud where detailed analytics could be run simply from a browser.

Cloud Computing MTConnect

Cloud computing is real and manufacturing shops should seriously consider it to take both time and cost burdens off their businesses. Next month we will explore specific examples of manufacturing in the cloud.

The International Manufacturing Technology Show takes place September 13-18, 2010, at McCormick Place in Chicago. For more information, visit the conference Web site at www.imts.com.