Last weeks were cloudy. Microsoft announced a Windows Cloud OS. Amazon announced that Windows will be supported in their Elastic Cloud. The blogosphere was full of comments on the brilliant talk of Larry Ellison at Oracle Expo where he stated that Cloud was something like old fashioned and vaporware. Like an echo, Richard Stallman, the father of the most disruptive innovation of the last 30 years when it comes to software and law, called Cloud Computing just plain stupidity (See Mark post on that). So many buzzwords in PRs. So many lyrical speeches. Is the IT planet going mad when it comes to clouds? Yes. And there is a reason. Cloud computing is going to be huge. Bringing Innovations to Business & IT like the Internet or the Web did in the past.
The cloud is a part of the Invisible Infostructure described in Capgemini’s Technovision 2012. The cloud has emerged in the Infrastructure space, enabling real-time IT resource provisioning. You want 10 servers for a peak on your e-Commerce site? You have them. 20 more? Ok. You’re in the financial services and you want 100 less servers? No problem. That’s the promise. You provision what you need, for the duration you need. And you are billed for that, and only that. The launch by Amazon of such a service in 2006 has created the buzz, and focused the attention on the cloud. Hosting Providers like Joyent, Mediatemple, GoGrid or Gridlayer are paving the way to massive Cloud adoption on the Internet. Many Web 2.0 services all over the net are relying on them. Pure players like Flexiscale, Enomalism or Cohesive are paving the way to corporate use in Fortune2000. And IBM, Microsoft and –yes- Oracle are leveraging their positions to catch the Clouded Infrastructure demand as well.
After the Clouded Infrastructure, as very clearly explained by the RightScale team, the cloud went up to application platform space. Clouded Applications. Google Apps Engine,QuickBase, MOSSO or force.com let you develop your application, send it to the cloud and deploy it for a fraction of the usual costs. Cloud is not Software as a Service, but not far way. SaaS offerings are more and more relying on the Cloud. And some just call SaaS “Clouded Application””. Whatever the definitions are, one thing is sure: SaaS providers are injecting millions of dollars in the Cloud.
Cloud is moving fast. And here are 5 facts we cannot ignore to help business benefiting from it.
Fact #1: Yes, Cloud computing is trendy.
Is it a reason to ignore it? No. Ignore snobbism. The key is not to be buzzword compliant or to join the trendy game of buzzword bashing. The game is: what the cloud can bring to my business?
Look at what changes the cloud can make to the economic equation of IT operation, or what it can bring to agility and security. Forget buzzwords, look at facts.
The adoption driver for Cloud adoption is unbeatable: moving IT costs from Capex to Opex. Not investing millions before using, but paying for what you really need, when you need it. Instead of investing in rigidity, you buy agility. Look at the IDC study released last week. Businesses want the clouded infrastructure because of pricing. You can’t beat that.
Fact #2: No, the Cloud is not (that) new. It’s just a…disruptive Innovation.
Is Cloud computing that new? Not really. Will it reshape the way we use and buy IT power? Definitely. Like Ajax and DHTML, two 90’s technologies that changed the face of the Web 10 years later, Cloud computing is not new. It is based on virtualization, extended file systems and open source operating system and software. It’s not new but it will change forever a part of the industry. The cloud is an innovation. Like the Internet in the 90’s, the cloud is an aggregation of ideas and solutions that just work…And the cloud will change IT landscape like the Internet changed, well…the world.
Fact #3: Yes, the Cloud is generating security concerns about privacy & reliability.
That’s the case as soon as you put a byte on a disk. Like Mark said, many users (and corporations) can deal with that. And if SaaS is one thing, Clouded Infrastructure is another thing. Many cloud infrastructures are based on open source software: Xen for virtualization, Linux for operating system, MySQL for database. If you think privacy and security come with open source, you’ll find what you need in the cloud. And yes, Amazon EC2 is not providing –yet- SLAs. But others do. You will see a growing number of Cloud providers with all imaginable SLAs. The market will adapt itself. In the mid 90’s, IP reliability was supposed to be problem against X.25. Remember who won? 🙂
Facts #4 : Software Architects, be prepared
The Cloud will change the way we design and build applications. We’ll go for a stateless world like Jeffrey Birnbaum of Merrill Lynch explained very well al Linux Expo. Ubiquitous storage, strong naming conventions and immediate horizontal scalability. Making software run well on many processors and making them scale linearly when adding horsepower. Look at what Google did with BigTable or Map and Reduce. Look at the BASE design pattern against the more traditional ACID pattern. Some drastic changes are coming in the way we design things. Internet companies like Google, Amazon, YouTube or Twitter do not have the same integration complexity as we have in modern corporate information systems. But learn from them. They scale and serve millions of users. Paypal is a bank. Google is a huge information system mixing mail & office productivity apps. Salesforce.com is a 360° CRM. Look at their architecture, learn from them and reuse when adequate. You can find some details on their architecture on HighScalability.com. It is worth a deep look. Software Architects, be prepared to the Cloud.
Fact #5: IT Architect, be prepared. The cloud effect is coming fast.
You probably already had one of your Business stakeholders coming into the room and saying “Hey, I can’t understand why it takes so long to have our CRM up and running. I can have a full one in minutes with Salesforce.com !”?. The Clouded Infrastructure will generate the same kind of “hey, I can have 100 virtualized OS in a matter of minutes on the Internet, why can’t I have 2 more servers for my ERP system?”. You’ll need to provide answers, explaining that the enterprise must leverage its core backbones, that security and integration issues are important for business, and well… Yes, you are going to provide the same kind of agility and provisioning strategies as the cloud does.
Be prepared to the clouded infrastructure. Use it when it reduces the TCO of your infrastructure while increasing your agility. Build your own cloud. Use the outsourced one. Or mix both strategies. Yes, the future is cloudy, and not only because of Wall Street.