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The Cloud is Dead : Long Live the Cloud!

Recent weeks have brought a bewildering number of competing claims around SaaS and cloud computing. On one hand we are debating whether the SaaS experiment is over, IaaS is just an incremental advance in hosting technology, and the cloud is just hype. While on the other, Gartner estimates SaaS is now 10% of the enterprise market, Amazon AWS is a $500 million dollar business and Jim Cramer is picking his favorite cloud stocks. What’s a person to think? I for one think that recent reports of the cloud’s death are greatly exaggerated, and here is why…

The cloud is real.
The cloud is big.
But, the cloud is slooooowww.

The Cloud is Real. The Cloud is BIG.

It’s absolutely true to say that the cloud is simply the next evolution in computing, but saying it is an incremental change and isn’t all that different from traditional hosting or time sharing is like comparing the Internet to a T1 line. There are lot’s of new technologies and standards, big and small, that go into the cloud. And, there will continue to be others added as it matures. But, you shouldn’t allow the technology to cloud your thinking. The cloud, the REAL cloud, is about bringing any and all of the computing resources available on the Internet together to create Inter-networked applications and computing infrastructures. Consumer mash-ups perhaps being the simplest and earliest of these, but it isn’t that hard to imagine much bigger iron, mission-critical business applications running the same way. Most Internet innovation to date has focused on users and content, and has been strangled by a lack of bandwidth and integration standards. As these constraints erode, the cloud will continue to emerge. The cloud is about the machines. It is as big as all the computers connected to the Internet.

The Cloud is Hard

Security is and will remain the most difficult problem of SaaS and cloud computing, with reliability following close behind. But, this is more a matter of proliferating standards and best practice than technology. The problems are completely tractable. In the end, public standards and SLAs backed by SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS professionals working in their own areas of expertise will ultimately outperform all but the largest and most sophisticated internal IT departments. Most companies hire security firms to handle their physical security, why would they do any different with their IT infrastructure? Specialists do it better.

Cloud Adoption will be Gradual and Inexorable

The cloud is fundamentally an enterprise phenomenon, because it is about building applications and infrastructure. This is the business of businesses. And, like all things enterprise you can be sure of two growth characteristics. One, it will happen cautiously, slowly and gradually. Two, it will follow the money. The economics of the cloud are as simple as commodification, specialization and scale. Each year, more applications and infrastructure that have historically been hand-crafted on-premise by generalist IT departments becomes available online as specialized commodities. The movement from centralized generalist application deployment to distributed specialist application delivery is made possible by the Internet, and will continue to gain momentum as bandwidth and standards allow more sophisticated applications, data and computing power to be delivered over the public networks.

Cloud Fatigue is Unavoidable

So here we are. The cloud is real, the cloud is big, but the cloud is slooooowww. Salesforce.com has been preaching “no software” since 2000, and has taken a decade to build a billion dollar business, while consumer apps like FaceBook reach 500 million users in just a few years. It’s no wonder we’re tired of waiting already. All we are really seeing is that the cloud excitement is outstripping the pace of cloud adoption. And, this is likely to remain the case for the decade to come.

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