TechEd 2011: Cloud Fear and Loathing in Atlanta

Update (5/20/2011, 2:34p MT): Added more detailed comments from Windows IT Pro editor that attended both the IT and development cloud career sessions.

I've just returned from yet another foray into the wilds of TechEd, having attended Microsoft TechEd 2011 in Atlanta earlier this week. I've written a bit about some of the Microsoft news and announcements from the show, and you can see some of what Paul Thurrott thought about TechEd as well. While there was a fair amount of product news and announcements -- and, of course, our annual Best of TechEd Awards Program -- the predominant theme of the show was how the industry (and IT professionals in particular) are adapting to the cloud.

For years we've been hearing about the different ways that cloud computing is being viewed by IT professionals and the senior executives at their companies. It's easy (and often inaccurate) to generalize, but I think it's safe to say that many business decision makers and C-titles are attracted by the promise of improved ROI, reduced IT expenses, and the greater IT agility that the cloud can provide, while IT pros are concerned about security, auditing, compliance, and a raft of other issues. There's also an undercurrent of fear mixed in with the aforementioned discussion points, as some IT pros worry that increasing cloud adoption could translate into job losses. Namely theirs. 

Let's be honest here: If a company outsources their email system to a cloud provider, how many Exchange admins will end up looking for work? Granted, that fear is probably overstated, as the cloud is still in its infancy and still on the fluffy, fog-spewing, hype-machine end of the technology adoption curve. (Quick aside: A thought-provoking post on the topic of cloud computing hype by IT consultant Thaddeus Howze ( @ebonstorm) entitled " The Cloud Conversation No One Is Happy Having" is well worth a read.)

TechEd is normally attended by IT admins and developers (although the latter attends in smaller numbers), and their opinion of the cloud differs markedly. You can see that difference on the faces of panelists at two different cloud-focused career development panels Windows IT Pro hosted at TechEd on the evening of May 15th. Here's a photo of the developer panel:


Lots of smiles all around, right? The cloud has proven to be a great tool for developers, and I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a developer dead-set against the cloud. Contrast that with this shot of panelists from the IT professional career panel:


Not many smiles on this panel, is there? A Windows IT Pro editor that attended both sessions told me that the developer audience was more excited and optimistic about the cloud, while the IT professional panel was more somber and less positive, with more audience members raising concerns about job losses and other negative aspects of the cloud.

So I was curious what TechEd attendees had to say about the cloud in their own words, so I sent the following Tweet out with the #msteched hasthtag on May 16th:


I've put the responses I received in a photo gallery, which I've embedded below.

The responses run the gamut, but just from my admittedly unscientific and unarguably flawed Twitter survey it seems that IT pros in attendance aren't -- as a group -- overly thrilled about the cloud. 

(A quick thank you and hat tip to Twitter users @lectricx, @wheels847, @orinthomas, @_JoeKelly_, @ebonstorm, @mikerigsby, @bit9, and @Dansam_preston for their Twitter responses at TechEd.)

So what are your thoughts about cloud computing hype, adoption, and career impact? Let me know what you think by commenting on this blog post or following me on Twitter.

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