Cloud Technology

Hey, hey! You, you! Get off of my cloud
Hey, hey! You, you! Get off of my cloud
Don’t hang around
’cause two’s a crowd  on my cloud, baby
                                                                                     — The Rolling Stones

It’s looking like The Rolling Stones almost got it right — but then who was looking to a rock band for technology forecasting  in those days?  I guess Mick’s forecast accuracy may have been improved if he had implored the hysterical masses (in those “crowd-producing” times before “crowd-sourcing”) to get “onto” his cloud and “hang around“– because that’s what so many major and start-up  technology companies are doing today.

In late 2009, I attended a panel discussion here in Silicon Valley on so-called “Cloud Computing.”  The panel included some starry-eyed, senior management evangelists of both Salesforce.com and Amazon. There was also a pundit from Oracle, then sheepishly following the doctrine of his saintly boss, Larry Ellison, who had recently come out as a “cloud atheist” (by basically asserting that Cloud does not exist). 

Totally uncertain about this new  trend or fad, I checked in with a few my technologist colleagues, who either said it was just fluff or menioned with a yawn that the were simply ignoring the whole phenomenon.  So I scratched my head, blinked my eyes,  and went about my business, figuring:  Eventually, “the truth will out….” 

And indeed, gradually, the truth does seem be revealing itself  (and, yes, yes….  up there, in the clouds…  something reassuring to all the true believers, I’m sure).

Over the course of 2010, I had formed my own agnostic conviction that Cloud was probably real (whatever it was whether or not it could be known), and I took it as working hypothesis that we had crossed a barely perceptible threshold into a new stage of the on-going evolution of  information technology (as cryptically revealed by this artificially cloudy rendering of a diagram (published by research and consulting firm, Saugatuck Technologies):

         Click graphic above, then click through again, to a get a clearer, readable rendering of diagram.

Though I am interested in understanding more about this technology paradigm, my interest is not to explain what Cloud Technology actually is, but to try to understand how it is now and may be impacting businesses in the future.  I very recently came across a book called Dot.Cloud by Peter Fingar (and remarkably and presciently published in 2009!).  Fingar does a great job explaining the mysterious essence of Cloud Technology in simple terms and also building a bridge from the technology to its business implications (some already observable, some potential).

Fingar draws upon a parsimonius definition of Cloud offered the head of HP’s Cloud Services Strategy Russ Daniels, who says that Cloud is comprised in (I guess, a trinity of) three aspects:

  • Cloud Computing, a design pattern that enables self-service automation, scaling, flexing, variable costs, and rich data analytics.
  • Cloud Platforms, the tools, programming and information models, supporting software run-time components, and related technologies. Platforms facilitate implementing Cloud Services that depend on the Cloud Computing design patterns to meet the requirements, particularly those related to cost.
  • Cloud Services, a delivery model for information services.

According to Fingar, “Cloud is the next step of the evolution of the Internet as a source of  ‘services.’  It’s those services that users are interested in, not the underlying technologies [that deliver them].”  Further “To realize the full potential of this new model, the technology industry needs to think of Cloud as a platform for creating new services and experiences…”   Fingar even goes so far as to talk about that great IT Noah’s Bagel in the sky:  “Everything as a Service.”  So, yes, the writing does get visionary and speculative, but I believe it is stretching our thinking and scenario building in the right directions.

Peter Fingar is no Mick Jager, but his ability to boil down a new technology and provide a road map for thinking about it in terms its potential business applications is formidable (a real technology and business forecasting “rock star,” singing “hey, hey;  you you;  get onto my cloud!”).  As for me, I am excited and interested to see how this new stage of technology evolution will play-out (and pay-out), how it will  impact businesses and business models (markets and industries) and how it can be leveraged to create new value for businesses and people.

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