The future is clouding over!

For a long time I have really disliked the use of the word “Cloud” with respect to computing resources. Everybody knows what a physical cloud is, and having flown through a few I happen to know that they are fuzzy at their boundaries, gives you bad visibility once you’re inside, floats where they want, and cannot be managed. It certainly doesn’t sound like somewhere you would put your critical data, does it?

Simultaneously the expression has come to encompass more than just resources for hire at a remote datacentre. Most major contenders within the IT industry are boasting to have some kind of cloud going, whether it is iCloud (Apple), Oracle, Amazon, Microsoft or VMWare.

A casual observer will find it difficult to spot what the different “Clouds” have in common, except that it means that my data (and possibly my software) is out there somewhere.

Or maybe not?

A couple of years ago “Private” clouds appeared too, to increase the confusion. It seems a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it? What makes a “Private” cloud more than just the computing resources of your local IT-department? Or could it maybe mean some locked in resource at your hosting provider? IaaS, PaaS and SaaS brought yet some more acronyms to the scene, but let’s not worry about their exact meanings at the moment. Still, they offer a clue to what clouds are, in that they all end in “as a Service”.

Today we are used to ordering our computing resources from either our local IT-department, or from an external hosting provider. This is a manual process, often involving:

  • Paper work (or possibly electronic forms…)
  • Permission seeking
  • Internal competition for internal hardware resources
  • Problems with miscommunication
  • Problems with hardware and software order and deliveries

This leads to

  • Late delivery of software projects
  • Long periods of idleness in the organization
  • Missing important milestones

In short, getting computer resources the traditional way can be a major drag on efficiency of software delivery. So what’s in this cloud business? You’re getting what you need when you need it! Public clouds have become popular because in setting up a system you are your own boss, no hassle, no miscommunication, and full control of the firewalls that can delay production systems for weeks. Business units within many companies have started setting up their own infrastructure instead of dealing with their IT-departments to set things up.

Why? (in descending order of importance…)

  • Time to market
  • Flexibility
  • Price

Flexibility and time is the primary driver, rather than price. Basically it’s about earning more money by being earlier at the market, and not wasting money waiting. I strongly believe that this is a behavior that IT departments must adapt to, rather than disallowing it. But am I envisioning a future of free-for-all computing where an IT-department has no role, and no say in user’s choices? No!

 [Photo: Carol Sandra]