Cloud computing is all about people quietly “spinning up” instances in some giant network on the Internet to solve all problems, right? Guess again!
Cloud Computing is Not New!
While many would argue the modern incarnation of cloud computing is only a few years old, there’s no denying that the conceptual and practical underpinnings date back at least to the early 1960’s.
Things we take for granted today as “inherent” in cloud computing, such as resource pooling (first implemented as time sharing), measured service, and rapid elasticity are decades old. To say this is not new is a massive understatement – cloud computing is actually ancient by modern standards.
There’s no Such Thing as “The Cloud”
We’ve all seen advertising campaigns shouting slogans like to the Cloud!”, leading us to believe in some singular omnipotent information and processing system in the sky. Even if we limit our view to just public cloud, this is far from true. There’s the Google cloud, the Microsoft cloud, the Salesforce.com cloud, and let’s not forget the Amazon cloud. Yes, there’s the Nimbix cloud too for when you need High Performance Computing as a service!
If the last 3 decades of personal and business computing was about applications, the next 3 will be about cloud aggregation. A whole new segment of cloud computing products and services emerged just to help businesses tackle this. Gartner calls this Cloud Services Brokerage (CSB).
As consumers, our mobile devices and PC’s are more about receiving, presenting, and modifying information from multiple clouds than about actually running applications. In fact most desktop and mobile applications today are simply cloud “receivers.” It’s no wonder we are seeing such diversity in operating system adoption as compared to, say, in the 1990’s – platform affinity is more and more a matter of preference now, not application support.
Cloud Computing is not About “Instances”
Many people mistakenly associate cloud computing with virtualization, and given commodity public Infrastructure-as-a-Service’s popularity, “instances”. It’s ironic that the lowest common denominator in cloud services is so much a part of technology culture that even some professionals think that’s all there is to it.
Giving an end user an ephemeral virtual machine “instance” certainly serves some purposes, but it doesn’t really solve any problems. Higher value platforms and applications are what solve problems – many of which don’t even leverage commonly understood virtualization techniques due to their overhead and cost. Recently we learned about the anatomy of HPC Cloud, for example, where virtualization is generally absent. But there is also email, collaboration, and customer relationship management (CRM), to name a few examples of cloud computing applications and platforms that deliver real solutions without offering or even leveraging “instances”.
Cloud Computing is “Noisy”
Well, chances are you already know about this one. Pundits and “strategists” bicker about Open Stack versus Cloud Stack versus Azure. Developers argue about API’s. Microsoft claims you are “Scroogled”. The list goes on and on.
The most powerful tool we have as end users is not on our PC or mobile device, but rather in between our ears – specifically, the ability to ignore noise and focus on what’s important to us.
When choosing cloud computing infrastructure, architecture, or providers, what matters most is that our problems are solved. First we have to actually articulate our problems and decide what’s really important. Is portability between clouds important (if so, why)? What about privacy and data protection versus cost and ease of use? You get the picture. Solutions become easy choices once we’ve identified and prioritized our needs.
Cloud Computing does not Solve Everything
This should be pretty obvious as well. Technologists tend to fall in love with Megatrends, which is often like missing the forest for the trees. The end result can be wasted time, effort, and money.
There are many problems cloud computing solves well. There are others that it can also solve, but at higher cost and lesser quality than traditional infrastructure. Before jumping “into the clouds”, remember that like anything else, cloud computing is about solving problems, not perpetuating technology or advancing a “cause”.