Ubiquitous and affordable broadband along with the evolution of social networks, real time and mobile technologies emphasize the importance and value of the Cloud. While the skeptics continue to focus on the missing pieces, it is very hard to ignore the ways in which the Cloud is shaping the way we live.
Yet, in spite of this progress, somehow today's Clouds remind me of the pre ERP days when companies would have separate systems for different functions: accounting, customer service, manufacturing, etc. While Clouds tend to be more open and easier to integrate than pre ERP enterprise applications, the reality is that Cloud integration is still in its infancy. Yes there are many interesting mashups coming along but most of them just collate information from different sources in the browser and rarely engage in significant business processes.
To reach its full potential the Cloud will need to become more open and more integrated, loosely coupled, integrated on demand and with a specific purpose. It is nice for business users to be able to combine data from different web services in a Google document but the integrations that I have in mind would happen at the application level, where salesfoce.com exchanges information with Parature which then kicks off a process in Netsuite which then triggers a payroll in Intuit which then updates a dashboard in Tableau and publishes the results to Twitter. All automated and coordinated to solve a particular problem. Once that process is automated, the next step would be to make that process smarter, that would be the era of the intelligent Cloud and a great topic for a future post.