For the last year, Larry Ellison has been ranting on the hype of cloud computing. His driving message is: cloud computing is just a cool new name for a set of technologies that have been around for years. I mean, let’s face it: what is cloud computing but a computer and a network? Not only has there has been no fundamental change in technology, but our “clouds” are powered by the exact same technology we have used in our data centers for the last decade.

So I’d like to go on record as saying that Larry is right: cloud computing is all hype.

Well, except for the fact that Larry is completely wrong.

To give you some context, I’ll take you back 16 years to the moment I first understood the World Wide Web. A former colleague was showing me the web site for his new startup that allowed buyers to search for homes on the Internet. I’d played with the web for a few months at that point, and nothing about it had peaked my interest. I’d been using online bulletin boards since middle school, and the Internet and email since college. I mean, what could I do with the web that I wasn’t already doing with my CompuServe account (whew, that one dates me)?

But in that moment of clarity, I suddenly realized what I had been missing: the web was not simply a repackaging of existing technologies, but the start of a fundamental shift in consumer behavior. In my colleague’s startup, the business was real estate, and the affected consumers were home buyers, home sellers and real estate companies. Would we still need real estate companies on the web? Would buyers find their next home over the Internet? Would we purchase homes with a computer? All of these suddenly seemed possible.

Like the World Wide Web in 1994, cloud computing represents a seismic shift in consumer behavior. Businesses today want to move beyond corporate IT. They want control, choices, and to pay for these choices based on consumption. They also want on-demand services that they can scale up or down without launching costly and lengthy internal projects.

Due to a confluence of technology and business changes - some of which have been 40+ years in the making - all of this is now possible. With a web browser, a credit card and a few minutes of time, you can provision compute, storage, database and application services that are global accessibility, high availability and completely controlled by you.

So is cloud computing hype? Yes. Is cloud computing reality? Yes.

I’ll confess: I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever have another “World Wide Web moment.” But I have, and it is cloud computing.