IT Innovation Won't Be Slowed by Cloud Concerns

Those who continue to deem the cloud "rogue IT" fail to see the forest for the trees, CIO.com's Bernard Golden writes. Institutions dead set in their ways should prepare to see smaller, more innovative firms embrace the cloud -- and race past them.

By Bernard Golden
Thu, May 31, 2012

CIO — Innovation is in the air. Everyone talks about it. Companies hunger for it. Nations pursue it. But how does it happen?

I firmly believe that we are in the midst of an IT-enabled deluge of innovation. One high-profile Silicon Valley resident, Mark Andreessen, famously penned a Wall Street Journal piece titled "Why software is eating the world," noting that IT is invading many traditional industries and upending them with software-driven innovation.

Left unsaid in his piece is the fact that, as the saying goes, one man's meat is another man's poison. Consequently, while many may embrace the disruption this new mode of innovation, others are threatened and will resist it with all their might.

At Maker Faire, IT Innovation Is Literally Everywhere

Over the past two weeks, I had the opportunity to catch an eyeful of that innovation and also witness what happens to those who find it intimidating. Somewhat surprisingly, it is often those most connected to existing IT arrangements who most strongly battle it. Odder still, the resistance is of a particularly beguiling approach—while offering lip service support to the innovation, the actual behavior is to stonewall it as much as possible.

Of particular interest is the role cloud computing plays in this innovation dynamic.

I got the first glimpse of this innovation at the local Maker Faire. This is its sixth year; attendance is now up to 120,000 people over the course of weekend. Maker Faire, if you're not familiar, celebrates the creativity and innovation of hackers and hobbyists. While many of the participants put forward extremely silly things, I was astonished at the level of innovation many other participants were showing off.

Maker Faire dragon
The fire-breathing dragon at Maker Faire provides an example of the event's innovative yet silly nature.

The setting of the Maker Faire is, put charitably, a bit shabby, resembling a Depression-era county fairground. The displays are raffish, unpolished and often unsophisticated. The Maker Faire is a sprawling, anarchic, noisy mess of chaos and whimsy—but also a hotbed of creativity and innovation.

Right at the entrance there was a really interesting display of how inexpensive tech is dispersing design into new markets—specifically, kids. Autodesk has rolled out a free iPad app that kids can download and create new designs. (Anyone can download it, of course, but an Autodesk rep on site told me the program is targeted at getting kids involved in design.)

Great, right? What is really cool is that the designs can be downloaded and taken to a local TechShop, where the designs can be cut into cardboard sheets and assembled. This gives the designer the experience of seeing his or her designs in physical form. By way of example, the dinosaur behind the Autodesk rep in the picture on the next page was created in this fashion.

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