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Microsoft TechEd 2011: Microsoft Pushes Cloud

Before Microsoft TechEd 2011 had even started, Microsoft was getting its We-are-the-cloud message out to attendees. In its Reviewer Workshop,  keynote speaker David Campbell, Microsoft Technical Fellow, talked about engineering for "A,B,C": app, box, and cloud. Microsoft and everyone promoting the cloud sidesteps the J word--what will happen to jobs? (no, not Steve, IT)--but then again, maybe we shouldn't be worrying about the potential loss of jobs to automation and the cloud, right? I mean, when the buggy-whip manufacturers lost their jobs, it's not like they didn't see the end coming. Nearly every disruptive technology has signaled the end of certain required tasks and ways of thinking that it replaces or makes old fashioned and therefore quaint and unnecessary. Then again, many of the people I've known who were laid off in the last few years were caught by surprise when their jobs disappeared, whether or not their job was lost as a result of changing technologies.

There will be "admin to server ratio changes with the cloud," Campbell said. He and others speaking kept using the concept of "elasticity" during the day-long series of presentations. My translations:  If you're not helping your company be more "elastic" you'll get snapped in the rear end as the front door of your organization closes forever behind you.

The cycle of disruptive technology follows four phases, Campbell noted (and I interpreted):
Phase 1: Using new technology in the old comfortable ways (i.e., using PCs as servers).
Phase 2: Technology matures (it actually becomes viable for how it was intended to be used)
Phase 3: People see unique, new opportunities to use the technology (maybe even in ways the makers never intended)
Phase 4: I never got what Phase 4 was. (Maybe it's 'move on to the next great shiny object.')

Campbell walked us through the development of the PC/client software/servers using the phases, and then took it through a web example too (Use browsers as terminals; Learn how to build scalable websites; Development of protocols for richer client experience; And again I got stuck on 4 because I don't write fast enough.)
How long will it take to go through the 4-phase cycle for cloud computing? Relax--it will take, according to Campbell, "10 years to go through the cycle."

So where are we right now? I didn't get a phase number but I would guess Phase 1, maybe. What does it look like?
1. There's a split between end users and service guys.
2. CIOs and some end users see possibilities and go around IT.
3. There's some disagreement as to whether the cloud is secure.
4. There's some disagreement as to whether the cloud is reliable.

So let's talk risk, quickly, because that's the way one talks about the cloud: "There will be different forms of failures," Campbell says, "but some won't shift," citing the everlasting potential of a stray backhoe to accidentally cut cables. Then again, some forms of failure will change--for example, "People will learn how to architect resilience." There will also be a new mingling of commercial security with national security--and national policies: He cited the example of companies from foreign countries expressing a reluctance to use data centers owned by US companies subject to certain policies and regulations.

I think the concept here at work regarding Cloud and IT jobs is transformation. The message I'm hearing is 'Some jobs will change as a result of the cloud but IT will get the possibility to transform itself as a result of the cloud."

To hasten your journey along the road to transformation, here's a map from Microsoft. I'm not exactly sure how helpful it is, but Campbell mentioned it and it might be useful to glance at. It's a white paper called "The Economics of the Cloud." Let me know what you think. About all of this.

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