Monday, April 12, 2010

The Cloud, why do I care?

I was recently speaking at a Computerworld Canada event in Calgary and Edmonton, the focus was on Linux as the proper operating system for the cloud. While I brought over a decade of Linux in the enterprise experience to the discussion, my real focus was on the solution for business rather than the fact it was delivered as a cloud application or service.

The cloud, and why do I care?

When we think of the cloud it is clear that there are a number of different perspectives on what is a cloud, as well as offerings from the cloud. Basically as rule of thumb cloud offerings fit into these categories:

* Infrastructure
* Services
* Software
* Storage

Storage is the newest type of offerings in the cloud. My personal experience has been focused on the most popular category which is software. More commonly known as SaaS (Software as a Service). We use solutions for Payroll, HR, Sales and Marketing CRM, and our US Core Business suite so I have gone through this discussion and software selection multiple times.

It's not about the cloud!

The fact is that the solutions we choose were not about the cloud at all, they just happen to be delivered via the cloud. This again re enforces the the old axiom that you should select software based upon your business needs and not by the technology. The cloud is after all just an alternate delivery model, not some revolutionary new technology. In fact without divulging my age, I remember when you bought IT services (because computers cost too much for most business') in time multiplexed models. That was a cloud of sorts based upon the general definition used for a cloud today. The clouds of today though are uniquely identified because a key requirement for today's cloud is the use of the internet as a connection methodology.

So why do I care?

The fact is you shouldn't care. When I define a software need for our organization, I don't start or include the platform, the environment, or even the database that it MUST run on. I focus on the right solution for our business, how user friendly is it, does it deliver functionality that we can turn into a strategic advantage, does it meet the users needs, managements needs, and executive needs. After they are all satisfied I then take into account the IT part of the business. The fact is that IT impacts must be considered as part of the overall business decision to select an application, BUT they must not be the driver of that decision. Chosen a solution because of the technology is akin to chosen a car because of the engine.

In closing

The key message here reminds me of the dot com era were everyone starting believing that business fundamentals changed, they of course hadn't. With cloud solutions today there appears to be over enthusiasm that they are the new panacea, when in fact it is just another way to deliver very valuable solutions. As IT professionals it is good to consider new delivery models if the solution is the right one to start with. So keep an open mind when looking for new solutions, regardless of how it is delivered, but don't look at the cloud as a panacea for how you should be delivering solutions.

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