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The Cloud Bubble: Is Computing Becoming a Utility?

The Gartner Hype cycle research shows Cloud Computing as being on the peak of expectations

The Gartner Hype cycle research shows Cloud Computing as being on the peak of expectations… the very top of the hype bubble roller coaster.

Vendors are looking for something to sell, and the consolidation of the data center, reducing operational cost and economy of scale are as convenient of an excuse as anything. There are some fundamental technologies as well that will make a big difference such as Virtualization.

Is computing becoming a utility?

When someone refers to cloud, the etymology of the term should be examined. This term comes from the days of network diagramming, and a cloud was an abstraction for the network. Basically whenever someone didnt feel like drawing all of the network entities, they would just draw a puffy white cloud. In essence the puffy white cloud is shorthand for “don’t worry your pretty little head about this stuff”.

In doing so, one hands over both control and visibility to a third party.

If your cloud provider fails, then you fail. Unless of course your cloud provides non-essential services. Don’t count on it. Large scale failures such as Gmail recently point out some of the flaws in “don’t worry your pretty little head”. You better start worrying your pretty head. Failures aren’t the only problem implicit in the cloud, the lack of transparency can lead to privacy failure. No SLA can ensure privacy, just ask the customers of UBS Bank in Switzerland.

So are there things that a business should not have to worry our heads about? (whether they are pretty or ugly or little or big)

Of course. At the risk of using the most tired analogy in Cloud Computing, we take our electricity and water as a utility. Of course any organization of sufficient size knows that backup generators may be needed. Or even emergency water supplies.

Now reading all this, you may think you know where I’m going with this “Cloud Bubble” thing. After all, vendors are our cloudwashing all of their products and the potential for an economic bubble is pretty large. but I am actually thinking of a different cloud bubble.

An Architectural bubble.

Much like the idea that everything can be viewed from a single point of view did not work for the SOA era, the idea that everything is in the cloud is equally preposterous. This is a legitimate perspective, as I said in my talk at the Burton Group Catalyst conference it is the perspective of Mr. Magoo.

[This article appeared originally here and is republished by kind permission of the author, who retains copyright.]

More Stories By Miko Matsumura

As Vice President and Chief Strategist at Software AG, Miko Matsumura is responsible for the technology strategy. He holds 12 years of experience in Enterprise Software and Middleware technologies. Prior to his current role, Matsumura served as vice president of SOA product marketing at webMethods and vice president of worldwide marketing at Infravio. He emerged as an industry thought leader while at The Middleware Company, where he was a co-creator responsible for building the partner program for SOA Blueprints, the first complete vendor-neutral specification of a SOA. He holds an MBA from San Francisco State University and a Masters Degree in Neuroscience from Yale University.

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Most Recent Comments
setandbma 09/16/09 04:14:00 AM EDT

When we talk about cloud we actually talk about three distinctly different phenomenon.

We have to architect systems differently!

vbrown 09/14/09 01:15:00 PM EDT

I guess I didn’t take quite the same point from this post that hoolipot did (I thought the “excuse” comment was aimed at opportunistic vendors), but I do agree with his position.

My current experience tells me that the cloud hype is extremely loud and distorted right now. As with most emerging technologies or computing paradigms, the rush by vendors to capitalize on (or, create) new opportunities and by enthusiastic early adopters to try to gain an edge creates lots of confusion and silliness.

There is plenty of value to be gleaned from the cloud movement – even by the implementation of private/internal clouds. And after the cloud vendors and services have matured, they should be a valuable addition to the IT landscape and should be able to fill a variety of roles (some utilitarian). But let’s not rush to try to realize the promised benefits without a clear strategy, planning and risk management.

Just a brief comment about the etymology of the term “cloud.” When we used a “cloud” as a symbol for some entity out on the network, it was because we weren’t concerned with what was in that cloud. Someone else was providing results/output from the cloud that we needed. It didn’t matter how the functionality was implemented as long as it delivered what we needed at the edge (contracts and other means of assuring the usability, quality and usefulness are out of scope, here). Actually, pure SaaS vendors still fall in that category.

Now, as you point out, “Cloud Computing” as we use the term today is quite different. I strongly agree that if you’re hosting your own processes or data in/on a cloud that’s managed and controlled by another party… you definitely need to “worry your pretty little head” about it!!! For example, due diligence and clear, contractual agreement on SLAs is essential (and that’s just for starters).

hoolipot 09/13/09 06:12:00 PM EDT

Hmm - a software company VP proposing that Utility Computing might be a risky choice? Forgive my skepticism, but might Utility Computing actually be more of a risk to the profits of the aforementioned software company?

Miko makes some good points - not everything will work in the cloud, that's for sure. But to describe reduction of operational cost and economies of scale as "excuses" is ridiculous, especially in the current economic climate. These aren't excuses, they are DRIVERS that companies of all sizes are looking to utilize to survive.

Cloud Computing and Utility Computing aren't mature technologies by anybody's standard - but let's continue to develop them rather than badmouth them because of a couple of failures (which weren't even as bad as the internal software failures of most large organizations).