The Sky looks Misty and Cloudy

I expect very few people to recognize the opening line “The sky looks misty and cloudy” to Majek Fashek’s hit “Send Down the Rain” (it was a hit in Nigeria!) , but I must confess that every time I think or hear about cloud computing that line jumps into my mind unbidden.

There is no doubt that everyone is talking about cloud computing and while it has not exactly made it to headline news (that honor is reserved for Twitter), you can’t get an IT weekly on your desk anymore without seeing a cloud on its cover (please don’t tempt me to create a collage).

As a Product Manager in IBM, I have tracked many a technology trend, and noodled on how they bring value and how that value might be harnessed. As Majek says “Everything in life has got its time and seasons…” and the season of “shared resources” is definitely among us. For anyone willing to look back in time, we have in the IT industry moved through cycles of “sharing”, at first it was not an option, there was the mainframe and we all shared it, then client/server came to the fore, and the client became fatter, more independent, all powerful and the desktop was born, and some might say we didn’t think about sharing as much. Then the Internet was born and we all got connected and now find ourselves in the mode of sharing everything. It is interesting to note how much time we spend on our powerful desktops (portable or otherwise) using browsers and driving shared computing resources out there to do our bidding (thin client anyone? Yes I said it!) indeed we do this so much, that most of the real interesting logic gets executed out there somewhere in the Internet … Cloud.

So what is the or a cloud? What interests me more is less an absolute definition, but more a notion of how would you know one if you saw one, applying Duck Typing principles (Walks like a Duck, Talks like a Duck … Must be a …) one thing that immediately bubbles to the top is a cloud provides a service, be it compute resources or functional capabilities, we interact with a cloud to get a service. Access to that service is typically simple, cloud based services being characterized by a low barrier to adoption, no install, minimal setup, just point and use … and typically usage of these cloud services can thus be metered and appropriately charged for.

Now from this perspective .. The perspective of the user of of a cloud service, the question that bubbles to mind (applying the principles of service abstraction and service orientation) is given all the user wants is an easy to use service, do they care that it is in the cloud? If truth be told probably not, it could be in a raindrop for all they care. That said there is an emerging level of expectation that a user has in interacting with an entity termed a cloud (in no small part shaped by those who deliver cloud services).

Which leads to the next thought, “so who really cares about cloud computing and clouds?” … and to this I respond the service provider, cloud computing and cloud is really about an infrastructure management and services delivery method …. which encapsulates notions of desired/required user experience and very different business models … but more on that later. For now enjoy Majek Fashek singing about clouds and rain .. And maybe you too will be afflicted with not being able to get the tune out of your head whenever you hear Clouds …..


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