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Cloud Computing Is and Is Not about the technology
by Scott Stewart on September 12, 2010
My previous comments about ‘cloud is not about technology’ caused some reaction and I found myself exchanging tweets on my BlackBerry (gotta love social media) with Mike Fratto, Site Editor, Network Computing, who argued in response that Cloud IS about technology http://bit.ly/aIb0EK
So Mike says it is all about technology and I say that is not all about technology.
But this difference in our perception and viewpoints of how we see Cloud Computing is exactly representative of the change that is occurring, it is the way it is becoming and it is the way it should be. Let me explain…
Mike is a network guy, a technologist who knows his stuff, one of the best, a well respected expert and when he talks of Cloud he talks about networks, TRILL and 802.1aq and all the technology that makes Cloud Computing work. If he thinks about how he would deliver Cloud Computing to the business he will think about deployment models, virtualization, networking products and protocols. When Mike reads the NIST definition it makes sense, its technically accurate and he thinks we should accept it and move on. Mike knows IT will continue to buy servers, racks and data centres, capex spending on IT will continue and that is why he shakes his head when someone says “IT will stop buying servers”. Mike says that technology matters and he says ‘IT cares about how they will deliver cloud services to the organization’. I am so glad that we have experts like Mike to take care of all that IT stuff for us. You see Mike is an industry expert and is very switched on and we need experts like Mike to working on our networks and taking care of things for us, out there in the cloud and IT vendor world.
There was a time, not that long ago, that I would have thought of hiring Mike but those days are gone. Because there has been a fundamental change in what I call ‘organizational IT’ within our organization and it is happening elsewhere and without any doubt will happen in many other organisations.
Now take the CIO, when I talk about Cloud Computing I talk about the business transformation – the business change behind the technology change. My perspective is from organizational IT and I am seeing everyday the change that has been occurring in the attitude of the business on how the business wants to buy IT. The business only wants to pay for the IT that it uses and it wants to pay lower amounts for users who have lower usage.
After years of investing in a sizeable expensive infrastructure that served everyone across the one organization (the same cost per user for all users) we now see IT infrastructure and the people who run it as a utility, the cost of doing business, it doesn’t add any competitive value and it can now be procured much cheaper and more efficiently as a service and pay only as you use it. We are moving all our infrastructure to a “Trusted” cloud platform, multi-tenanted, shared service, one to many, with much lower costs and far more scalability plus there was a host of other compelling reasons why we would do it.
This is why we hope there are lots of guys like Mike around that we can buy those services off.
We don’t buy IT using capex anymore, we don’t buy servers, racks or data centres. When a software vendor comes to us pitching a big capex investment in their software we take them to our cloud provider and we jointly negotiate a price on a subscription basis and then if they want they can also sell it to the other tenants. We still only pay one bill, a per user per month cost based on usage and only what we use.
I don’t have any infrastructure, no sysadmins, and because our cloud provider takes care of our IT I don’t need to know about TRILL or 802.1aq but I would be glad that experts like Mike do.
So when I use the term ‘Cloud Ccomputing’ I don’t think about the technology but I use it as a generic term that describes the disruptive transformation occurring in the industry as we move from a product based industry to a services industry.
Now when Mike says “I think the transformation is a side effect stemming from how IT delivers services to the organization via cloud regardless of the definition of “cloud” or where it is located”. I understand what Mike means, and this is mostly right, but I don’t fully agree that the transformation is actually a side effect of the technology.
This is not a change that has come about because of the technology but a change that was waiting for the technology to arrive.
Since the days that businesses stopped using its own steam infrastructure to generate their own power, switching instead to reticulated electricity, the business has understood utility, commodity and ubiquity. After investing in steam infrastructure that generated power in some cases for over 30 years the business switched to electricity and decommissioned its investment in that steam infrastructure.
To the business utility makes sense, we don’t build our own steam power plants anymore and increasingly businesses will not want to run their own IT infrastructure either, especially if their competitors aren’t doing it then they will need to find a way to close that competitive gap. That’s where Mike helps.
The concept of cloud computing is not new or revolutionary, the concept was first mooted by Professor John McCarthy in 1961 when he spoke of utility computing and it has taken this long for the technology to be able to deliver on this concept.
The concept has been around for a while and the technology also has been around for a while (1974 for virtualisation) and the changing business attitudes will now start to manifest and more businesses will want to use Cloud Computing to exploit the shift to a services based economy. A shift that it knows and understands and will gain maximium benefit from.
We may not be able to define cloud computing well, but it certainly makes sense to do it.
Perhaps we should have stuck with McCarthy’s term of “utility computing” but then the marketing machines would not have had as much fun as they have had with the term Cloud.
Mike, on one other of your comments:
“I don’t believe for one second that there are many organizations that are even contemplating moving all, or even a majority of, their IT applications and services to an external, cloud-based service anytime soon. There may be some small start-ups doing so, but I bet they are the exception and not the rule”.
Just so you know…
This year the largest bank in Australia with over 7 million customers announced an aggressive cloud computing strategy that will see it move all its infrastructure to a cloud platform in collaboration with at least two other banks. I know the architects working on that project and the scope of that transformation is mind blowing.
This year my own organisation, a prestigious stockbroker and investment management house announced to the stock exchange a strategy for moving all it’s IT infrastructure to a Trusted cloud computing platform and this transformation is now well advanced.
My message to CIOs is that with cloud computing you do not get a choice so you had better be prepared to adapt.
My message to you is keep caring about how you will deliver Cloud Computing to organizations because many will need your help.
As you said it is really a great time to be in IT.