Over the last few weeks there has been a succession of ‘serious’ conferences. By this I mean gatherings of people trying to make sense of, and come up with answers to, issues that matter around people and technology. Sadly the so called ‘Chatham House rules’ mean it is impossible for me to report on the details, but the breadth and depth of the discussions provided fascinating insight into why the topic of clouds seems so confusing in terms of what it covers and delivers.
Is cloud computing the next generation of IT systems offering tremendous cost cutting potential? Is it the ability to create new markets and marketplaces? Or is it an entirely new business model to enable innovation in smaller companies and start-ups by reducing capital, time and skill requirements? Moreover, beneath each of these statements sits differing attitudes about the core approach to the technology elements involved.
During the presentations and the debates something simple, yet quite surprising, hit me. The three major regions – North America, Europe and India’s perspective on clouds are all quite different, and all based on the business models of the leading commercial organisations in their regions. This may be an oversimplification, but it is both recognisable and, I would argue, understandable. So how do I see the drivers that are defining clouds in each region?

North America: the market is largely created and driven by the group of major technology vendors who quite naturally want to be able to grow their current installed customer base and sell more of their products in an upgrade cycle. This leads to their marketing messages emphasising how to change existing IT with improvements and reductions in operating cost positioned in a manner that will appeal to their existing customers’ IT challenges.
Europe: has a market driven by ‘services’ companies, and diversity of the environment at a local level in terms of how European enterprises go to market in different countries and regions. It also has the EU driving policies to create common business markets through which citizens will access government services not only at a country level but at an EU level – the Malmo Initiative. Taken together this has produced an emphasis on creating externalised shared markets in which to do business.
India: is more complex being a stakeholder in the North American and European markets with concerns on how ‘services’ as software objects will be built and sold. On the other hand – together with China – there is the issue of their local markets, where dynamic rapid growth across large geographic areas calls for the use of ‘as a service’ models to cut capital costs, time, and skill requirements of conventional IT. Here, the ability to use ‘cloud’ models to shape new economies is a real game-changer.
And there you have it. Three different drivers and goals in three major regions, each of which calls for a definition of cloud technology to suit the core focus. Yes, for each primary driver there is then an overlap with various aspects of the other two drivers, but much of that is getting ‘drowned out’ by the marketing messages championing the primary driver.
Is this a stunning insight that helps explain the confusion and mixed messages, or have I got it all wrong?? I hope that we can move this debate along to clarify for all our sakes exactly what the primary driver for our enterprise will be.
Look forward to your views!!