11.09.2009

Smoke Signals - Musings of the Cloud

I'm musing my way through the daily growing smoke of Cloud Computing. Its not that I think Cloud Computing is smoke. Its that much of what traditional vendors are saying about Cloud is, well, less than clear.

Businesses have long sought to get to a "utility" view of IT - Cloud seems to be the latest version of that. Lease, don't buy the means of production. Only pay more as you need more to make more money. Cloud enables the encapsulation behind a web accessible interface delivering whatever business relevant capabilities you may need. Think SalesForce.Com for CRM, e2open for supply chain, IBM ISS Managed Security Services, etc.

If this view is correct, then Cloud is not about the elimination of IT - it is about paying someone else to worry about it, about using their IT, and not our own. But its more than traditional outsourcing. It is not having to think about anything (or very little) beyond my business. Cloud vs. traditional IT is Mac vs. PC - use, enjoy, even love the apps - don't worry about how the machine makes them work.

If you're a consumer - or a business that needs particular information services, Cloud is very easy to understand. If you're a provider of Cloud services, or of the software and hardware and virtualization and network technologies of which Cloud is comprised - You may have trouble getting your head around it.

Cloud implies economies of scale my business gets to share in and better yet, not think much about (let alone manage). Cloud implies shared infrastructure multiple enterprises, not just across departments and corporate divisions. It is the natural evolution of shared services beyond provincial and ephemeral corporate borders - it is the ultimate separation business and IT. At least in theory. Fortunately the theory is playing out well in some sectors - if less so in others.

Why Cloud? IT support and maintenance budgets that are growing faster than the businesses they support. IT lock - businesses are unable to move to competitive offerings (observe the sole source economics of internal IT departments). With traditional IT, business flows like cold molasses when trying to morph their information services to address or create new business opportunities.

Cloud is not a panacea - it is a signal telling us its time to deliver products that support a utility model. Now, not next year. We've found the need, lets fill it - not redefine or hope to ignore it because our products "don't work that way."

I'm also thinking about how we as hardware, software, and solution vendors can support the opportunities the Cloud offers - but that's a blog for another day.


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