Apple's MobileMe Closure Is a Sign of Growing Cloud Investments

Apple closed MobileMe June 30, moving its focus to iCloud. The same week, Google introduced new cloud services and two major cloud providers stumbled.

Apple's iCloud has officially succeeded its MobileMe service, marking a cloud milestone.

The iPhone maker announced June 6, 2011, with the introduction of iCloud, that June 30, 2012, would be MobileMe's last day. While Apple has been sending out messages, reminding MobileMe users who had yet to take action that the end was nigh, procrastinators who missed the deadline can download their Gallery photos and iDisk files at "for a limited time," Apple said on its Website.

Apple has invested significantly in iCloud. While it has chosen to do away with Gallery, iDisk and iWeb publishing, iCloud otherwise includes all the features of MobileMe€”most notably Contacts, Calendar and Mail€”plus a number of new features, such as iTunes in the Cloud, Documents in the Cloud, Photo Stream, and backup and restore capabilities, that contribute to the definition of Apple today.

Introducing the free service, Steve Jobs had emphasized its ability to keep all of one's Apple devices updated wirelessly and almost instantly. "You don't even need to think about it€”it just works," Jobs said.

iCloud has been a catalyst for new Apple data centers. Last year, it completed a third center in Maiden, N.C., investing more than $500 million to make sure it could support the expected customer demand for iCloud.

In April Apple shared€”after it was provoked by a Greenpeace report on the types of energy powering data centers, or server farms, as they're commonly known€”that the Maiden facility is the "greenest data center ever built" and that an Oregon facility, planned for 2013, will run on 100 percent renewable energy.

Owners of data, from consumers to large enterprises, are increasingly storing them in the cloud. Business consultancy Visiongain has forecast that the value of the global cloud market will reach nearly $38 billion by year's end and climb to $82.9 billion in 2016.

With all this borrowed storage space comes a certain amount of trust on the part of the user€”and in the case of IT staffs and CIOs, a surrendering of some control€”and heightened preparedness on the part of the provider. Still, the occasional snafu is apparently unavoidable.

In 2009, T-Mobile and Microsoft offered profuse apologies and a month's free T-Mobile service to T-Mobile Sidekick users who lost emails, photos, contact information and more, after Microsoft subsidiary Danger experienced a data center problem.

Much more recently, on June 28, experienced an outage that left some users unable to access the service. Two days later, a lightning storm in Virginia took down part of Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is used by hundreds of not-insubstantial companies.

The New York Times reported July 1 that "Netflix, Pinterest and Instagram were inaccessible for hours. There was little information for customers about what had happened, or even whether user data was safe."

From roughly 7 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. PST, Amazon worked to restore service. At 12:30 a.m., it posted to its AWS Service Health Dashboard, "We have recovered the majority of RDS [relational database service] instances impaired by the power outage and are down to the last few remaining. The power outage caused storage failures for a subset of RDS instances and they are not recoverable."

Should any frustrated users wish to defect, Google would be happy to accommodate them. From the company's I/O developer's conference June 28, it introduced new capabilities for Google Drive and Internet-based services at a steep discount from Amazon's.

In combination with its Chrome OS and Web-based apps, more people are able to access their information from whatever device they're using. Google said it calls this "going Google," and according to a blog post by Sundar Picahai, Google senior vice president of Chrome & Apps, businesses large and small are going Google.

Wrote Picahai, "Sixty-six of the top 100 universities in the U.S., government institutions in 45 out of 50 U.S. states, and a total of 5 million business are using Google Apps to live and work in the cloud."