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Cloud Computing and the Hype Cycle

Interview with Mark Raskino, Vice President at Gartner

I had the opportunity to talk to Mark Raskino, Vice President at Gartner, at the "UT Messa" in Reykjavik (Iceland). Mark is one of the authors of the book Mastering the Gartner Hype-Cycle. At the conference, Mark gave the keynote, and I presented a talk on Cloud Computing. This interview is about how to Master the Gartner Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing. This interview represents Mark's opinion, not the opinion of his employer Gartner.

Mario Meir-Huber: We currently have the IT trend "Cloud Computing" and it's interesting to compare this trend to the "Cloud." Where would you see this trend?

Mark Raskino: It's important to understand what the hype cycle is all about. There are two axes. The x-axis is the time and the y-axis is the expectations for a technology - the future value people expect to obtain from it. The hype cycle contains five major phases. The first one is the technology trigger. This is when a product gets launched or there is an event for a technology to be adopted. Next, is the "Peak of Inflated Expectations." This is a phase where a product or technology is overhyped and people expect more than it can actually serve. This leads to the next major phase, the "Trough of Disillusionment." This happens when people find out that the technology can't entirely serve their needs or it's not as good as marketing told us. The topic is no longer hyped by the press. In this phase, some businesses start to use the technology, which leads to the fourth phase, the "Slope of Enlightenment." The hype is gone and finally we reach the "Plateau of Productivity."

Meir-Huber: Where would you say Cloud Computing is at the moment?

Raskino: This is hard to tell, since Cloud Computing is not one "thing." A lot of technologies exist in the cloud. There is SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and a lot of different products. Some products might be at the peak of inflated expectations and others might be at the plateau of productivity, and others in between. But you should keep in mind that Cloud Computing is hyped a lot and it is rather a new technology.

Meir-Huber: If a technology is in the Peak of Inflated expectations, when can we expect the technology to be in the phase where we can "really" use it? Is there any time frame of, e.g., two years to get into it?

Raskino: This is also different from technology to technology. If we look at podcasting, the cycle took about three years until it was adopted by Apple. If we focus on CRM, it took some 25 years and there is still some hype around it. What is also important to mention is that the "Plateau of Productivity" can be at a higher visibility as the usual Peak. As mentioned before, the hype cycle is individual. Cloud Storage, for example, is different than other areas of the cloud.

Meir-Huber: Since we are talking about Cloud Computing as Hype - what do you think about the "Hype"?

Raskino: The term "Cloud Computing" is definitely hyped at the moment. However, the word is "hijacked" by marketing. A lot of companies now use Cloud Computing since it's everywhere in the press. The question is whether this is a good thing for the technology itself.

Meir-Huber: What do you think will happen "after the hype"?

Raskino: Sometimes a technology simply drops off the hype cycle because it fails - a recent example was Internet service over utility power lines. We don't expect that to happen with Cloud Computing, but as any technology passes through the trough of disillusionment we expect to see dissonance and turmoil among the business models and vendors.

Meir-Huber: Talking about SaaS, PaaS and IaaS, what would you say to the different platform levels?

Raskino: I would say that SaaS is more mature than the other platform levels. We currently see an increase in IaaS as this topic seems to be very visible in the press. There is a high adoption process. It's important to mention that the hype cycle informs the buyers as to how mature a technology is. If you are a CIO or CEO of a company, you need to find out if the technology is in a state that is easy for you to use. It's up to you to decide to "play early" or to get into the technology rather late - at a time when it is already mature.

Meir-Huber: What do you think Cloud Computing means to data centers?

Raskino: I absolutely like the way how data centers are built. We could say that Cloud Computing is the industrialization for data centers, right? The data centers are more efficient, you have great possibilities, but on the other hand you need to have a lot of money to build such data centers. It is critical where datacenter owners build the data centers as they need efficient cooling, cheap energy and so on.

Meir-Huber: What would you recommend companies do with Cloud Computing?

Raskino: If we look at the Hype Cycle, there are several things we can do in order to master the hype. First, there is the question of whether you play early or late. The hype cycle tells us where a technology is at the moment, so IT decision makers can find out what phase a technology is in. If you decide to play early, you will have an advantage in terms of competition. On the other hand, it's important to know that you can fail and you have higher risk. At the moment, you can experiment with Cloud Computing in the hype phase. If you decide to play late, you get a mature "product" or "technology" but you lose the advantage I mentioned before (assumed: competition). If you are already "into" Cloud Computing and you want to master the hype, it's important not to give up in disillusionment.

In 2003 when Software as a Service became popular (it was named ASP - Application Service Providing back than) many gave up. Those that didn't give up improved their platforms and are now very successful. If you are not into Cloud Computing right now, you shouldn't dive in just because it's popular. Once a technology is in the "Hype," it's like a fashion thing. Many dive in just because it is very trendy and there is this feeling that you need to get into it. Just wait until it's proven and stable. However, there is always this difference between a time-based tradeoff or a mature thing for companies. But you can't have both.

More Stories By Mario Meir-Huber

Mario Meir-Huber studied Information Systems at the University of Linz. He worked in the IT sector for some years before founding CodeForce, an IT consulting and services company together with Andreas Aschauer. Since the advent of Cloud Computing, he has been passionate about this technology. He talks about Cloud Computing at various international events and conferences and writes for industry-leading magazines on cloud computing. He is Cloud Computing expert in various independent IT organizations and wrote a book on Cloud Computing covering all topics of the Cloud. You can follow Mario on Twitter (@mario_mh) or read his Blog at http://cloudvane.wordpress.com.

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