Cloud Computing: The Promised Land or The Big Lie?

First of all, 99% of the people in the world could care less about "Cloud Computing" - they want their email accounts to work, they want their checking account balance to show up on their iPhone, they want to listen to music, and could care less about the underlying technology that does that. And really, why should they?

But, I'm part of the 1% that does care. I care because the word "Cloud Computing" has created enough buzz that everyone wants one [but don't really know what they want] and believe it's going to allow them to save money, be more "agile", and be the savvy IT business guru they always wanted to be.

So my question - Is it the Promised Land or is it a Big Lie?

It's important to understand the answer. If you throw your hat in the wrong ring, it could take you years to recover - if you do [from a career standpoint]. And if you're the top IT guy at a company and start doing a "rip-n-replace" on anything "not cloud" - what happens if Cloud turns out to be another ASP technology?

So to clarify, the following is pretty standard for someone talking about Cloud...

Cloud computing promises to cut operational and capital costs and, more importantly, let IT departments focus on strategic projects instead of keeping the datacenter running.

WOW - what a mouthful! Let's make it bit easier - Cloud Computing promises so cut cost and let the IT folks do tech stuff that supports the business. In other words, IT people should be helping run the business, not making sure the computer is running. OK, I get that - and to have a bunch of people sitting around waiting for something to break is not very efficient. But I guess some IT organizations run that way.

So, if you have one person doing the work and 14 people standing around watching him - then does it really matter if you move to the cloud? You need to do something - cloud is a good as anything - then you can get rid of yourself and the 14 people and promote the one guy that actually works.

But, in the real world - definitions like the one above don't really help anyone. So, in an effort to help out, here's my stab [and not original at all] at two things - the definition and the benefit for Cloud Computing Services...

  • Definition: Utility-like service, based upon an easy to understand billing and usage system. I get billed for what I use and nothing else.
  • Benefit: I never consumer more than I need of the service, but also puts the responsibility on me to monitor my use [not the service provider].

Now, in my definition, there two basic assumptions about a Cloud Computing Service (1) that there will be enough of the service available [computing power, storage, bandwidth, whatever] so that the service is always available when I [the consumer] need it to be available AND (2) that the service provider gets paid for taking on the risk of provide "enough" which means if you leave the "lights on" but don't really need them on, you still pay.

What this does is create a situation where IT people have to think about how they use computing resources - rather than just buy a server and use it - they have to think through how to best use these resources, making informed decisions, and then implementing them.

[still writing and thinking - more later]


  1. An alternative would be to look at it from the user point of view. As you stated, most users could care less about WHERE their applications and data reside--they are much more concerned with assess. Access means getting to any content, anytime, from any location, using (virtually) any hardware/software platform. Having a dedicated application on a dedicated machine does not cut it. Having a small instantly loadable, end-user application on a dedicated machine comes closer. Having a browser-based application that works on any machine--desktop, laptop, palmtop, phone--fits the bill.

    The point is, it doesn't matter what the IT folks want. What matters is what end-users demand.

  2. Anonymous4/20/2010

    It does matter what IT folks want......if you can't bill it, serve it, you can't make money. If you can't make money then you can put it in the open source communitities...hmmm...who is making the profit to re-invest in Linux.....would that be IBM?

  3. I recently saw a cloud presentation from Microsoft promoting their Azure platform. The speaker claimed that MSFT has been doing cloud for 11 years, starting with Hotmail. The graphic he used to illustrate their support for cloud included Windows Update as a cloud offering. Since when does an internet-accessable, online application become a cloud offering? Even worse, they bought Hotmail, didn't even invent it. No street cred for MSFT!

  4. Interesting how we in the IT Services business want to be "cool" again, that something like cloud has taken on a life of it's own. I agree - it's interesting - and from an operational standpoint, it's not easy to balance raw computer and storage vs some level of management and service level.

    But I believe we are going to witness a "race to bottom" and see Cloud service quickly become commodities - and when they do - only those provides with very large scale will be in a position to make money [think telecom].


Thanks for commenting and go ahead and let me know what you like and don't like. Always looking for ways to improve.