That's right, I'm a scoffer. Sure, I use the cloud for one thing or another probably every day, but I still don't believe in cloud computing. However, just because I don't believe in it doesn't mean I don't think it's important for businesses to have in their plans. It's complicated, but I'll try to explain.
If you're reading this article close to its publication date on the Windows IT Pro website, you might have noticed the new website design that just launched. Of course, the redesign has been in the works for many months, but a lot of work and testing always comes down to the last few days before the switchover for such projects. Last week, in the middle of the final delta migration of content, our web hoster experienced a power failure overnight at a data center that interrupted migration (as well as taking all existing websites down).
As Windows IT Pro technical director and directory services MVP Sean Deuby commented in an email, "Look at it this way: We (which includes Penton IT) get to experience that feeling of helplessness when we aren't in control of our own data center. Can you say 'public cloud'? Sure. I knew you could." Helplessness, indeed. However, the migration resumed the next morning, and although some testing was slightly delayed, the outage ultimately didn't affect the launch of the new site.
Web hosting -- which is to say, running your website in someone else's data center, or website as a service -- is something that's been going on for a long time, probably just about as long as companies have had websites. And we didn't call it the cloud then. So perhaps this segment of the cloud is mature enough that little problems are easily overcome, or our own website team was well prepared to deal with bumps in the road. Whatever the reason, an event that might have caused a serious problem ended up being a non-event after all.
At this point, I'm reminded of a song lyric from one of my favorite artists, an obscure Scottish poet and singer who goes by the name Fish:
And everything changes, forever never lasts,
There's no such thing as always, it's all too soon the past.
Fish wasn't really talking about technology, but he could have been. As soon as you get used to something, it's time to move on and adjust to the next new thing.
Last month, Microsoft made a lot of noise with the launch of Office 365 featuring the Office 2013 wave of applications, including the new server products Exchange Server 2013, SharePoint 2013, and Lync Server 2013. Microsoft's strategy brings Software as a Service (SaaS) to the front of mind -- although, if you're a business that takes advantage of the full Office 365 for messaging, collaboration, communications, and so forth, is it still SaaS, or does that push it into the realm of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)? I mean, Microsoft is now running your whole communications infrastructure. No?
We've all heard the plethora of acronyms: SaaS. IasS. Platform as a Server (PaaS). Network as a Service (NaaS). I'm sure there are more I'm not thinking of, and someone somewhere probably keeps an authoritative list that defines each of these. In a recent conversation with Scott Gode, senior director of managed services for Avanade, he told me they were toying with the idea of offering Devices as a Service (DaaS) because customers need help managing all those connected mobile devices.
Most people, however, probably don't stick to a technical definition when applying the terms, which says something about the level of understanding about cloud computing in general. In a survey from last summer, over half of respondents thought that stormy weather could interfere with cloud computing. Most people have heard of cloud computing, but they don't know what it means at all. If you think about it, the key word in all those acronyms is service: You get something delivered as a service (subscription model) that you would otherwise purchase outright.
So what's the big deal?
As I write this, I'm at my office listening to music from my personal collection streamed from Google Play. The document I'm working on is located in Microsoft SkyDrive. I just overheard two coworkers talking about sharing some work files via Dropbox. The cloud is everywhere, and it's all the time. So when I say I don't believe in cloud computing, what I really mean to say is that I don't believe in it as a new thing, as something people and businesses still need to adjust to: It's already here and we're using it often without even realizing.
Many businesses still probably have big decisions about how and where to implement cloud computing -- which workloads are best suited to the cloud, which hosters offer the best prices and guarantees (service level agreement -- SLA), what's essential to keep on premises and what's OK to have hosted. But if you're not even considering the cloud for your business, you're falling behind. Whether you agree with it, whether you like it, whether you believe in it, the cloud is what we have now and agile companies will take advantage of it to get ahead.
Or to put it another way, and to quote another, much less obscure singer and songwriter named Danny Elfman, ain't this the life?