Cloud Computing, it’s both more, and less, than you think

After helping to kick this Cloud Computing debate off, I’ve been watching the subsequent Debate pieces here with a great deal of interest. There have been some great insights from CIOs, consultants and even a lawyer...

If I had to summarise the positions of the CIOs interviewed in a couple of words, my response would be “open-minded, but cautious”. Caution is hardly surprising, given the amount of Cloud Computing confusion in industry – confusion which is being fuelled not only by hyperbole and oversimplification but also by significant amounts of “cloudwashing” (attempts to make only tangentially relevant products and services look like Cloud Computing).

Let’s look at one area of hyperbole and oversimplification: Cloud Computing is about a platform “stack”: infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and software-as-a-service (SaaS). The trouble with this viewpoint is that it seems to make sense when you take a quick glance at things from a purely technical perspective – but it also makes Cloud Computing look like something that stands completely alone from the rest of the computing universe, and this is clearly rubbish. It’s one of the things that makes people nervous about technology integration questions – regardless of the fact that organisations the world over have managed to connect their systems together over the Internet using Web Services protocols and even variants of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) for decades now.

Who’s to say that IaaS can’t be used to deliver custom-built applications that are private to individual enterprises? Who’s to say that outsourcers can’t use PaaS offerings to deliver tightly controlled offerings to customers? There’s nothing to say that the pay-as-you-go, utility billing model that some Cloud infrastructure providers use has to be passed onto end customers by service intermediaries.

While we’re on the subject of outsourcing, here’s another one: the canard that Cloud Computing will deliver us a legion of new, specialised service providers that are able to pull the rug out from underneath established IT outsourcing players. The truth: Cloud Computing is likely to have a significant impact on outsourcers – but primarily by making their own existing application and infrastructure outsourcing businesses more profitable. For these providers Cloud Computing isn’t disruptive to the extent that it undermines their business model; it’s something they can leverage behind the scenes (if they’re smart).

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