Dude, where’s my cloud?

By Kevin Bailey, Head of Market Strategy.

Cloud services

If you ask a random sample of people in the street if they use the ‘Cloud’ as a way of accessing and storing their personal information, music tracks, videos or many of the hundreds of apps they use on a daily basis, you will get responses ranging from “of course, I have an iPhone” to “no idea - I just press the button”. The responses are all valid as they are based on their knowledge (or lack of knowledge) and external influence.

Over the past 100 years, companies have been plugging into the electric grid, with a blended mixture of private and centralized electricity power sources – very similar to the evolution of cloud services (internet utility).

The world of computer utility/grid services have been offered for over a decade, but as outlined in ‘The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from "Edison" to "Google"’ by Nicholas Carr, the economics never stacked up and data centre managers fought the transition by making their computer systems more elaborate, cost effective (client server vs data centre) and organisationally dependent, reducing utility computing’s viability for wide scale adoption. Electricity went through the same growing pains, as it competed with the incumbent horse power, water mills and steam engines, plus advancements in power transmission. As the third great source of industrial power, all its advantages of being cleaner and easier to control than water or steam power was a forbidding proposition - not only due to the de-investment in current power sources, but the fact that electric power was new and untested, which meant a high risk.

The re-emergence of utility computing under its new fascia and reported success as ‘Cloud’ computing could be laid at the feet of many contributors and technologies such as Amazon, Eucalyptus, Virtualization, Service-Orientated Architecture, Multitenancy, as well as architectural delivery options such as private, public, community, hybrid, intercloud and cloud-bursting, all influencing the viability of this valid choice of computing. General Electric and Westinghouse made electric systems and motors ever more affordable and reliable, creating the opportunity for people like Edison’s Pearl Street factory to supply electricity to local homes and shops. But factory owners had always supplied their own power and were loathed to entrust a critical function to an outsider.

But the delivery options for both cloud and electricity create confusion as well as choice. Just as the US census bureau found in 1900 that there were already 50,000 private electric plants in operation, far outstripping the 3,600 central stations, IDC found in their 2012 Cloud report that private cloud would continue to outpace public cloud implementations 70:30 into 2016.

As we return to the first paragraph which asked random people in the street if they use ‘Cloud’, think about the same question for the companies and clients that you deal with every day. Cloud does not mean Multitenancy or Public cloud only. Cloud is an overarching service for the many delivery facets that exist internally or externally of a central data centre, in the same way that electricity is the fuel that runs through a cable or pylon and is created by a turbine or bicycle dynamo.

Never assume that people around you fully understand what type of cloud service they require. Educate them that public, private, hybrid and community services amongst others all provide individual and integrated advantages, while also balancing the [perceived and real] negatives of accessibility, security and costs when the wrong choice is made.