Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cloud Computing Lessons Learned

The beginning of a new year has brought along a large number of predictions regarding the impact adoption of disruptive technologies like Cloud Computing. The art of the possible is certainly exciting, it drives innovation and shapes the future.

While I believe that innovation can't be stopped, I recognize that expectations and change management are largely responsible for the ultimate adoption of a promising technologies. As such, I thought it would be appropriate to share a few lessons learned around some of the challenges and opportunities surrounding Cloud Computing.

Challenge: Privacy and Security
Lesson Learned: Mainstream technology and reasonable precautions are enough to satisfy the requirements of a majority of organizations.
Observations: Privacy and Security remain an unsolved and a delicate issue and its severity and complexity vary by industry. Nevertheless, the leading cloud providers (e.g. salesforce.com, AMZN, GOOG) have in place controls, technology and procedures to properly secure data and applications.

Challenge: Vendor Lock-In
Lesson Learned: The Cloud continues to be more open than legacy technology and vendors like GOOG have initiatives in place to keep it that way.
Observations: Migrating from one cloud provider to another with ease is a key criteria in many practitioners' checklist. The ultimate goal for some is the ability to switch cloud providers quickly, easily and cheaply. I'm not sure how feasible this goal is. I think it is inevitable that most solutions will be optimized for a particular cloud provider (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, or other). Commodity services will get easier and easier to change but other services will always require work. Either way, the tendency towards more openness does not appear to slow down.

Challenge: Hype
Lesson Learned: Buyers are well informed and proceed with caution
Observations: There is a lot of hype around Cloud Computing but the early adopters are focused and well informed. I have seen technology buyers fall in 3 categories: 1) Focused on a particular solution 2) Skeptical but doing thorough due diligence 3) Skeptical and not adopting. What I find notorious is the absence of a 4th group that is rushing towards towards cloud computing with unrealistic expectations. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure they are out there but there aren't that many. It feels a little different from the late 1990s.

Opportunity: Innovation
Lesson Learned: There is an explosion of services, many of them truly valuable
Observations: When thinking about Cloud Computing, a majority of my acquaintances think about cutting costs and saving money. I like to focus on finding value. I have come across a large number of applications that I find incredibly useful and more importantly worth paying money for. These are innovative services that solve specific problems (e.g. collaboration, version control, project management, communication, etc.) efficiently and profitably. All the necessary signs of sustainable economics.

Opportunity: Globalization
Lesson Learned: The world is flat but the cloud makes it flatter
Observations: Call me naive but I must confess that I have been truly surprised by the global reach of Cloud Computing. I have worked with customers in 4 continents with remarkable ease. Somehow, the Cloud's always-on nature enables a familiar (standard?) and relatively efficient marketplace; almost like a new lingua-franca. Like I said, call me naive.