Cloud computing and the constraints of 2006 thinking

Cloud computing and the constraints of 2006 thinking

There remains a lot of gobbledygook talked and written about “Cloud” computing, as anyone who has been around the industry for any time is very well aware.  For the most part it is a species of marketing for a particular consumption model which does not pay enough (or sometimes any) attention to underlying business need.

Larry Ellison and Richard Stallman made well known assaults on “Cloud” when the term first began to gain currency around 2008. Other veterans I met referred to it as IBM Bureau Computing reborn, Network Computing for the broadband age or, my favourite, from a gleeful representative of a well-known multinational, “outsourcing without service level agreements”.

The early criticisms were valid in the context they were made and might have remained valid had something not changed. But something has changed, very rapidly.

Purchasing Insight logoWhen mobile phones became the “must have” company perk during the great yuppie scare of 1991, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced a tax on their private use, a tax removed in 1999. In the meantime mobiles became important tools for small businesses, especially tradesmen.  Hugely popular and cheap “pay as you go” consumer models were introduced.

Blackberries, at that time phones with an email client, were starting to become common in North America around 2001. Psion PDAs, Palm Trios and other niche devices were in the market around the same time. It was not until 2007 that touch-screen devices appeared in the consumer market and in only five years have grown to dominate while increasing exponentially in capability. Chinese manufacturers are now starting to produce cheap, quality Android devices and the infrastructures are in place to support them.  As with mobile telephony, this is not a single infrastructure but multiple connected networks which are transparent to the end user because they have to be.

This represents a very significant shift in human capabilities because it establishes ubiquitous, “always on” worldwide interactivity focused on us as individuals, not tethered to any one device.  This means we have to look again at what is now meant by “cloud”, a term which, in its social context, looks to be growing out of the accepted NSIT definition which is itself only 2 years old in its final form.

This is a theme I have raised here before, realising the potential of 21st century technology when our thinking is constrained by 19th century assumptions. This has been a motif of mine for a long time as I first went into print about it in 1998. This is not simply about the replication of paper documents in electronic format, entrenching our finance processes in the 19th century, although that is bad enough. What is overlooked is that we are increasingly constrained by the inherent assumptions of pre-2007 technology.

We will never properly have eCommerce unless we can get over this.

Ian Burdon can be found on twitter @IanBurdon