Jon Stokes recently penned an interesting article on cloud computing innovation over at Wired Cloudline. In his article Mr. Stoke posits that the current tech bubble is stifling innovation – primarily from the perspective that the skills required to implement cloud computing models are in short demand, exacerbated by the rapid change in technology induced by Moore’s Law and the free flow of “go go funding” from the VC community, which creates an environment where it’s easy for the really smart people to go work on the latest whiz-bang startup idea. This in turn draws down the talent pool which is needed to enable cloud adoption and innovation. While there are several interesting points in Mr. Stokes’ article, I believe that if cloud innovation is being stifled, it’s not because of the current tech bubble.
I’ve always been of the mindset that cloud computing, from a technical perspective, is not really anything new. Virtualization has been around a lot longer than we tend to believe. Distributed applications, service oriented architectures and application programming interfaces have also been around since the dawn of client server and Web 1.0 computing. And while the ability to rapidly scale out infrastructure at the container level is somewhat a recent phenomenon, the ability to scale up and cluster systems has been with us for years. Now, when you combine all these elements together, you do have the opportunity to build some quite complex application models. But this in and of itself should not, and is not in my opinion stifling cloud innovation and adoption. I don’t think there is a shortage of talent that understands these models. If anything, with the wealth of tools available to create cloud apps, I would say that the opposite may be true – we really have more opportunity to innovate in this area.
If we are not technically inhibited from building cloud solutions, then what (if anything) is slowing the deployment of cloud computing? Obviously the economy has a lot to do with it. Cloud computing has given us a new model for IT consumption – one that allows us “order up” infrastructure and services on demand. But even with the pay-as-you-go model, IT and line of business budgets are still constrained. Take cloud computing out of the model and the problem is still the same – in fact, it becomes worse as enterprises now have to dip into the CAPEX bucket to acquire new infrastructure and services. While the economy is a problem, it’s not stifling innovation or adoption of the cloud.
I’ve read numerous articles stating that CIOs, IT managers and line of business owners don’t understand what the cloud really is. That may be true if they just arrived here from another solar system and the first words they heard were “cloud computing”. We’re now reaching the 5 year mark with this latest IT services model, and if you’re one of the aforementioned leaders who truly doesn’t know what the cloud is all about, then I would suggest it’s time for a career (not just job, but career) change. In defense of these people though, we as an industry have burdened ourselves with unnecessary variations of essentially the same model. Private, public, private, IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, XaaS… In the end, they are all the same thing – the ability to deliver elastic IT services (not just infrastructure) that can adjust to the scale and functionality demands of the consumer. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not a technical problem. It’s a marketing/hype/competitive posturing problem.
So what is stifling innovation and adoption of cloud computing? Actually, nothing in my opinion. Just look around. We are seeing some amazing new products and services that are enabled by this thing called the cloud. Granted, it’s not just the cloud alone that is making these things a reality. It’s mobility and smart devices and protocol advancements and standards adoption – all combined with an elastic infrastructure model that are enabling us to build applications and services that are personalized at an almost scary level. Even in the “ugly” layers of raw infrastructure we are seeing some pretty interesting advancements. Just look at what ARM, SeaMicro, Calxeda and Tilera are doing in the multi-core, low power processor space. And I don’t think anybody can argue that the need for web-scale data centers to support cloud computing models has not had a huge impact on green-computing. And finally, the whole model for service acquisition and consumption at the consumer level has been totally turned on end. We as consumers have reversed the B2C model. It’s now C2b…
While I found Mr. Stokes article enlightening in may ways, I guess I just don’t quite see cloud computing innovation and adoption in the same light. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been pretty harsh on aspects of this latest IT and business model, dishing out my fair share of criticism. But I think the hype dust is finally settling, and we are starting to see that the cloud is a good thing… and we have smart people who know what to do with it.