Watching vendors scramble around making claims that they are the very essence of cloud computing is quite amusing. In more cases than not what is actually happening is that they are attempting to clothe themselves in a brand new shiny computing term in an effort to remain relevant in the world of technology. The sad part is that people don't really stop to consider what this new term really means or to consider to any great degree what the implications are.
This whole conversation reminds me of a similar discussion years ago in the realm of computer service. Back then the brand new shiny technology term was "help desk" and vendors started the process of using the term with a great deal of awe. Their clients joined in the excitement and in many cases started writing checks to make sure that they were on the cutting edge of this grand new technology. I like everyone else involved in computer service had to determine my position in this bright new world ... and I did. I simply said that the new term was quite easy to understand ... it meant to put a process and supporting systems in place to help people fix their own problems. It isn't a real complicated process, but it did have some strong ramifications - especially if the person you were applying the concept to had no desire to "fix it themselves".
The new fervor about computing in the cloud isn't unlike the help desk experience ... there are lots of specifications, terms, discussions and claims being made about the cloud and who is and isn't really ready for the new world, but there is also a very simple concept in play that has actually been a part of the business process equation for quite some time. It is the age old tension between component stereo and the convenient "all in one" unit. Audiophiles will for the most part tell you that to truly have the ultimate audio experience you should use components allowing you to select each unit based on its own merits. On the other hand there are people out there who swear that if you simply have the "right" unit that you don't need to bother with all that other stuff. So the question remains ... do I buy the Bose wave player, or do I start collecting the best components I can find for each need. (amp, speakers, cp player, etc..) I guess the other option to consider is that I could hire an acoustic engineer to design a system for my home or office.
So am I the only person that is wondering why this whole discussion is vendor focused instead of customer focused. For decades we have been ensnared by thinking that we can implement technology just because it exists.
I think the answer involves communication ... the real power of the cloud is simply an expansion of a concept that has been around for years, but hopefully with the cloud will gain more traction. I'm not talking about communication with other people I'm speaking of communication between our "systems" that causes us to have a more beneficial technology experience. The communication capability allows each provider to focus on their strong suit and allows the consumer to benefit from everyone seamlessly.
Let me explain by examples ...
Microsoft offers "Exchange" in the cloud ... simply put you can "pay as you go" for all the best benefits of an exchange server for your eMail, contacts, etc... So now I connect to my exchange server using my iPhone (Another really cool technology) and see that I have a message from a client that needs me to come see him. In one simple touch of my clients address I'm magically transported to my mapping application where I can now use a GPS to help me navigate to the site. While I'm doing the driving I call my secretary to add the appointment to my calendar. (Which of course magically shows up on my phone) After the appointment I make some notes on the appointment, which now becomes part of my documentation necessary for billing and mileage reimbursement. I could expand on this example, but you get the point ... multiple vendors ... multiple sources of data ... one fluid process!
The concept of the cloud says that as a consumer I don't have to find a "single" vendor to handle the various needs of my day, I just need the tools that can communicate with other tools to provide me a fluid experience. I know this is a simple example, but it really helps drive the point home ... I don't have my resume on my web site because LinkedIN does a great job of hosting a much more advanced resume for me on their site, and I can simply reference it from my site. The same is true of Twitter ... I can use twitter for "micro updates" on various topics and simply feed that content onto my site.
The cloud is about separating the data, application and process in a way that makes it possible for a consumer to use the best components for each part of the process. Communication is the key!