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Cloud Computing: I Can Get Along With It All

This Fundamental IT Shift Faces Resistance, But It Remains a Great Hope

There's a wonderful song named "Clay Pigeons," written by the late Blaze Foley. In it, he expresses the need to "get along with it all...get back in the game, and start playing again."

It's been a few months since I've written about Cloud Computing, and I guess I can take some inspiration from old Blaze there. It's tough to stay relevant in a world that seems only to move ever faster, in an echo chamber that seems only to be ever more cacophonic.

The Great Cloud Computing Land Rush is on. It has been for more than a year now. In the midst of ongoing concerns about security, products and services associated with Cloud Computing will no doubt rack up substantial revenues this year, next year, and beyond. Cloud Computing is a syncretic pastiche of several things; it's not just the Next Big Thing That May Never Be.

A few months ago, I was enthusiastic about Cloud and its potential in developing countries. The idea of putting the capex burden on the IT provider, rather than the end-user organization, seemed huge. It still does. Infrastructure-as-a-Service, yippee, and Nic Carr's vision of The Big Switch come to life.

But somewhere along the line I grew disenchanted. It's probably because I'm getting older.

The IT Tide Lifts All Boats, Right?
I've been writing about leading-edge technology trends since I was Managing Editor of the very first mobile computing magazine (called Portable Computer) in the early 80s. Our inaugural issue had an interview with Adam Osborne, no less.

The great debate of the age was whether MS-DOS was going to blow away the better established CP/M as the dominant operating system. (NB: It did.)

All these years, I (and thousands of industry writers, researchers, developers, and buyers) held this unshakeable belief that computer technology was going to make for a better world, if not save it entirely.

The post-industrial Information Age was upon us, promising to build future societies anchored to innovation, and to deliver a modicum of prosperity to nations, even entire regions, that missed out on the Industrial Revolution.

But to paraphrase an old Yiddish saying, "Man plans, Buddha laughs." Hatred among peoples plagues the world day as it did in the age of Homer, in biblical times, and in other ancient societies too numerous to mention.

How can Cloud Computing be considered consequential on a planet where military drones and car bombs rain death indiscriminately more or less, where random crime plagues our sick societies on our six inhabited continents, where "healing" and "closure" are so starkly trumped by open-ended violence?

This was on my mind. So I didn't write about Cloud Computing.

The Fight Continues
Meanwhile, others have. My colleague Jeremy Geelan has just put together a list of 50 influential Cloud Computing bloggers, and it illustrates the wide scope, the breadth and depth, of our little syncretic pastiche.

A couple of things jumped out at me as I perused this list of writers. The first was a chart provided by Geva Perry's "Thinking Out Cloud" blog, which listed the top challenges and issues raised by potential cloud adopters.

The chart comes from an IDC survey, and featured no less than eight key issues that were mentioned by at least 76% of all respondents. It's no surprise that Security topped this list, with 87.5% of respondents mentioning it.

But the other seven issues were tightly bunched-Reliability was mentioned by 83.3% of respondents, followed by Performance at 82.9%.

Then it gets interesting. The remaining issues included "On-demand payment model may cost more," "Lack of interoperability standards," Bringing back in-house may be difficult," "Hard to integrate with in-house IT," and "Not enough ability to customize."

These all strike me as classic CYA rationales for either not wanting to push forward with Cloud Computing, or making darned sure someone else gets stuck with the blame if it doesn't meet expectations.

The second was an entry that I noticed from Scott Sanchez at Cloudnod.com, in which he bemoans a very specific lack of communication, which could be impeding the adoption of Cloud. As Scott writes, "What stood out for me in (something I just read)  is that most enterprises are still neglecting their auditors. Organizations that are interested in cloud computing must educate not just their security teams about how cloud is different, they must educate the auditors.

"Don't just think about your internal auditors, even go as far as to pay for a few days of training for your key external auditors if you have the budget. Teach them that although this is a new model of computing, security levels can be maintained even though they may look different. Help them to help you."

Both Scott and the source of his comment--a posting at Christopher Hoff's Rational Survivability blog, which is also on Jeremy Geelan's "50" list-were talking about security, but the concept of teaching an organization a new model of computing is a profound one.

It's always been this way. The first PCs were snuck into offices under budget lines allocated for typewriters and office supplies. Top executives viewed a laptop computer as an assistant's tool for years, rather than their link to their enterprise and the world. Corporate email didn't become common until AOL popularized the use of personal email. To this day, it's a struggle to find enterprise software that is truly Web-centric. And now, you're telling people to put everything into a cloud that doesn't really reside in any particular place?

My Head Back in the Clouds
For the past year, I've been living in a place where construction workers wear flip-flops, where graduation from elementary school is a big deal for many, where remittances are a major component of GDP.

This place is hardly the most indigent place in its region or the world. Planet Earth in 2010 is a place where Peru and Jamaica are near the median in per capita income. Troubled Mexico is in the top third, as is Libya. Greece is within the top 15%.

Can Cloud Computing make a difference in such a world? It seems that there is no choice; it has to.

It's too much to expect human nature to evolve at a pace faster than its current Darwinian, geological pace. But it's nice to know that so many are trying so hard to achieve a global shift in how we think about IT, its deployment, and its use, even as IT remains one of the great hopes for societal transformation, ie, better health, more wealth, less grinding poverty.

Thanks for keeping up the good fight, everyone. I just need to be get along with it all, and start writing again.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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