Today’s Weather Forecast – Sunny With More Cloud Computing Ahead

by Kevin Singarayar on September 11, 2008

in Business Strategy

Photo Credit: cote

Have you heard?  Michael Dell has been refused by the U.S. Patent and Trade­mark Office to cash in on the buzz­word, “cloud computing”.

Not exactly break­ing news, I know, but Dell to sell its fac­to­ries world­wide is (more on that later).  I was root­ing for Dell to win, actu­ally.  And it’s not because I own a Dell.  It has got more to do with me want­ing the titans of busi­ness to cash in on insignif­i­cant catch­phrases like “cloud com­put­ing,” that are as Ted Dzi­uba puts it — catch­phrases in puberty.  Mean­ing, Dell could trade­mark the phrase “cloud com­put­ing” all they want, but it’ll be worth squat once the digerati drops the grok bomb and adopts some­thing more apt to define hyperscale.

I could be wrong about Dell’s inten­tions though, but it’s just the way memes and phrases evolve online.  It was Web 2.0 before, and today it’s social media.  It never fails to bog­gle my mind, as to why com­pa­nies like Dell flex their finan­cial mus­cle on irrel­e­vant memes and phrases which won’t stand the test of time because metaphors like “cloud com­put­ing” are just too vague to mean anything.

How­ever, this isn’t why I’m writ­ing to you.  What I really wanted to draw your atten­tion to was towards Dell’s relent­less pur­suit to trade­mark “cloud com­put­ing” in the first place.

Remem­ber the Gart­ner Hype Cycle of 2008, and how cloud com­put­ing is expected to receive main­stream adop­tion within 2–5 years?

Now, top that off with Mer­rill Lynch’s esti­ma­tion of “cloud com­put­ing” to be a $100 bil­lion dol­lar mar­ket and Dell’s pur­suit to trade­mark this umbrella term might begin to make some cents sense.  Mar­cus Klem writes:

Mer­rill Lynch recently issued a research note: “The Cloud Wars: $100+ bil­lion at stake” (07 May 2008). The ana­lysts write that by 2011 the vol­ume of cloud com­put­ing mar­ket oppor­tu­nity would amount to $160bn, includ­ing $95bn in busi­ness and pro­duc­tiv­ity apps (email, office, CRM, etc.) and $65bn in online adver­tis­ing.1

Not con­tent for set­tling with idle dis­si­pa­tion, I did con­sider pen­ning an exhaus­tive andante all about cloud com­put­ing, but thought bet­ter of it when I hap­pened to unearth a gold­mine of opin­ions by thought lead­ers on this subject.

Below, is the accu­mu­la­tion of such thoughts, dis­played in all its glory and glit­ter.  I must warn you though — that by the time you’re through read­ing them, you’ll prob­a­bly know more about cloud com­put­ing than Al Gore.  Pro­ceed at your own discretion:

What Is Cloud Computing?

The His­tory Of Cloud Computing

The Ben­e­fits Of Cloud Computing

Prob­lems With Cloud Computing

Com­pa­nies Pimp­ing the Clouds

Prepar­ing For Life In the Clouds

Where The Clouds Are Headed

Like It Or Not, The Clouds Aren’t Going To Blow Away

Lets face facts.  Many aren’t going to embrace “cloud com­put­ing” with open arms due to the “here be drag­ons” vibe from it.  Take Ralph Roe for exam­ple.  He cited 5 rea­sons for not lik­ing cloud computing:

First, I worked in hi-tech for my entire career, and com­pa­nies who were my ven­dors and cus­tomers, as well as the ones I was work­ing for, went out of busi­ness or merged all the time. It is a very unsta­ble busi­ness. Trust them? HA! For that rea­son alone, I would never even con­sider trust­ing my apps and data to an online firm. EVER.

I have had ven­dor com­pa­nies where the IRS puts a pad­lock on the door with­out any warn­ing to cus­tomers, and you can­not even get in to retrieve your prop­erty (e.g. fixtures).

Sec­ond, they would keep “upgrad­ing” the apps even when I had data that relied on a prior ver­sion. I refuse to cede con­trol on changes. I have some great apps that are out­dated and sim­ple to oper­ate and I am through the learn­ing curve.

Third, all too fre­quently, ISP’s are not avail­able. Light­ning, fiber cables hit by ditch dig­gers, or servers go down, etc. With an app on my desk­top, I can keep pro­duc­tive. A few min­utes ago, my cell­phone could not place a call because “all cir­cuits are busy”, good thing I am not using a lap­top with wi-fi.

Fourth, it is in the papers all the time that some neglect­ful creep employee loses their lap­top with social secu­rity num­bers, credit card num­bers, and how about pass­words and accounts with online app providers? I take a lot of care with desk­top and net­work security.

Fifth, it puts me back into my early years (pre-1983) in hi-tech when ter­mi­nals con­nected to the main­frame were the only source of infor­ma­tion and the IT guys acted as gate­keep­ers who sucked up to top man­age­ment whims, and left the rest of us with­out timely data we needed to do our jobs. (Shud­der).2

Ralph isn’t alone in his fears.  There are many more like him who share sim­i­lar con­cerns and repine the inevitable.  Yes, the tran­si­tion to cloud com­put­ing is inevitable and busi­nesses have to play their part in allay­ing such fears if the tran­si­tion is to bear fruit.

The biggest indi­ca­tion yet that the tran­si­tion is closer than we think, is Google’s lat­est Dam­a­sce­neesque rev­e­la­tion — its very own Web browser, called Chrome.

Google Chrome, as Nicholas Carr calls it, is the first cloud browser, where dis­play­ing pages has given way instead to run­ning appli­ca­tions.  And noth­ing could add fur­ther proof to the impend­ing arrival of “cloud com­put­ing” than the foray into the impetu­ous devel­op­ment of net­books, or net­tops (Om Malik coins it the per­sonal cloud com­puter) by com­pa­nies such as HP, Lenovo, Fujitsu and LG.

Remem­ber Dell’s shock­ing deci­sion to sell its fac­to­ries world­wide?  No prizes for guess­ing then that they know some­thing that we don’t.  Cloud com­put­ing any­one?  Om Malik nailed it when he said,

IBM has done it by sell­ing off its iconic PC busi­ness and rely­ing on ser­vices. Hewlett-Packard focused on a mix of hard­ware and ser­vices for cor­po­rate cus­tomers while draw­ing in con­sumers on the PC side. And Apple shook things up with the iPod and now the iPhone. Dell had tried all of these strate­gies with­out huge suc­cess, but I think with cloud com­put­ing it has a chance.3

Dell already has it mapped out.  When cloud com­put­ing hits the main­stream, desk­tops are bound to take a hit.  Although demand for net­books are expected to be high, its low-pricing is not expected to gen­er­ate high-enough profit mar­gins for com­pa­nies like Dell.  Dell knows its bot­tom dol­lar will be affected.  By get­ting rid of its man­u­fac­tur­ing plants, Dell will now be able to con­sol­i­date its resources and strate­gi­cally tap into a $100 bil­lion dol­lar mar­ket for con­sis­tently high profit mar­gins.  Same mar­ket, dif­fer­ent focus.

Alright, I hear you, you’ve heard enough about clouds and com­put­ing.  Lets just end this with a fun sum­ma­tion of what cloud com­put­ing isn’t, by James Gov­er­nor:

If you peel back the label and its says “Grid” or “OGSA” under­neath… its not a cloud.

If you need to send a 40 page require­ments doc­u­ment to the ven­dor then… it is not cloud.

If you can’t buy it on your per­sonal credit card… it is not a cloud

If they are try­ing to sell you hard­ware… its not a cloud.

If there is no API… its not a cloud.

If you need to rearchi­tect your sys­tems for it… Its not a cloud.

If it takes more than ten min­utes to pro­vi­sion… its not a cloud.

If you can’t depro­vi­sion in less than ten min­utes… its not a cloud.

If you know where the machines are… its not a cloud.

If there is a con­sul­tant in the room… its not a cloud.

If you need to spec­ify the num­ber of machines you want upfront… its not a cloud.

If it only runs one oper­at­ing sys­tem… its not a cloud.

If you can’t con­nect to it from your own machine… its not a cloud.

If you need to install soft­ware to use it… its not a cloud.

If you own all the hard­ware… its not a cloud.

Footnotes:
  1. Mer­rill Lynch Esti­mates “Cloud Com­put­ing” To Be $100 Bil­lion Mar­ket []
  2. A Reader Rants About Cloud Com­put­ing []
  3. Dell Shrinks Com­put­ers and Oper­a­tions []

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