Regular readers – and thank you, as ever, for your time – will know that I have a passion for trying to dig into a topic to find the one or two key points that, once you find them, provide real clarity of insight into what is actually happening. I have a great intellectual curiosity about technology, how it is used and what the benefit of it actually is. Although, I read widely, I don’t think I have seen the following point made in a simple manner anywhere. Then again, maybe you will disagree!
So if you take the starting point as one of my previous posts ‘why are clouds so hard to understand’ then this week is all about providing the single simple point that we all need to grasp. Get this into your mind and all that flows from it becomes relatively easy to understand in context!
What has changed, and is changing our environment is a reversal of the technology model from a focus on data and the ‘pushing’ of this structured data towards users, to a ‘pull’ model based on users’ abilities to find unstructured data using search.
There I have said it! Now think about it! The whole cloud model has been morphed into a debate about computers and resources when it actually started as a move to extend the freedom and simplicity of the user-centric web model towards interactions and processes on an ‘any to any’ basis. Indeed the term ‘cloud’ was meant to signify that the technology complexity was hidden from users who could satisfy their own requirements without needing to know what and how it was done in the cloud.
You can view this as a simple stack argument, and present it in a diagram like this. Although this clarifies the ‘what’s the big difference’ point very nicely, it misses the other key part of the change – technology resources. This topic, in my view, has dominated far too much of the discussion about why and how to use clouds. So who benefits, how and why from ‘cloud services’?
It is individual or collaborative groups, working in a wholly different way between themselves, and not looking to use conventional IT applications at all. In short it’s a users and services horizontal activity across the top layers, and not the conventional vertical activity over an application and its technology resources. Most importantly it is supposed to be an environment that allows the user(s) to handle all of the activities and orchestrations for themselves.
System integration has been about connecting computing systems running applications (i.e close coupled and state full) together to share data. The resulting IT systems would then ‘push’ to the users the application or data they had. Compare that with the services model and you see the users working in a loose coupled stateless environment choosing and ‘pulling’ what they want to use. The easy example to think of is the Apple iPhone where multiple developers can place apps into the Apple App store and users choose what to take and run on their iPhones. It’s the same principle and in this case Apple uses proprietary technology to produce a cloud-like capability.
With three billion downloads in eighteen months I think we can say that users like this model, but IT departments will be saying that it is dangerous. They are right. However that did not stop users with PCs in 1990 and it hasn’t stopped iPhone users, so it is clear that now is the time to understand how to really use cloud technology safely!