Appirio Guest Post

Over on the Appirio blog they’re running a series getting cloud perspectives from a bunch of different industry players. Appirio approached me with a bunch of questions to answer, I thought I’d repost those questions (and my answers) here. It was a general overview of current cloud trends and barriers/problems. All good stuff and I appreciated the invitation from Appirio to be involved.

As a long time cloud evangelist, how would you compare the adoption of cloud computing today with other great IT moments in time?

Adoption and promise are, sadly, two different things. We are at a point in time when a perfect storm exists that matches the commodotization of consumer electronics and ubiquitous connectivity with a new generation that is less concerned with where their data is. In theory everything is poised for Cloud Computing to have a rapid ascendency and, in fact, this is happening in the consumer space – witness the iPad, Facebook, Gmail et al. However in the enterprise space companies still have some niggling concerns, many of which are created by the fear, uncertainty and doubt that traditional vendors create in order to protect their existing market positions.

That said, the cloud revolution is different to the PC or Windows revolutions before – for the first time truly powerful computing is accessible by almost everyone, almost everywhere – that is a game changer.

What do you think of all the "cloudwashing" happening in today’s industry?

It’s understandable – vendors who have long been lulled into complacency by supernormal profits, and who are unwilling or unable to change the way they work have been caught off guard by the cloud revolution. Their only option seems to be a two pronged approach. The first stage of this is denial – we’ve seen this with a number of legacy vendors dismissing cloud as a fad. We’re now entering stage two, which is where legacy vendors rename all their products with a cloud prefix (it’s kind of like the "e" branding of the dotcom bubble, or more latterly the "i" branding). The biggest tragedy with cloudwash though is that it confuses the market and does damage to all concerned.

Any advice for what customers should ask when trying to separate the real cloud solutions from the pretend ones?

Simple really… here’s a checklist

  • If there’s no API.. it ain’t cloud
  • If you can’t self provision… it ain’t cloud
  • If it isn’t immediately scalable… it ain’t cloud
  • If you can go and touch the hardware.. it ain’t cloud
  • If it is application or operating system dependant… it ain’t cloud
  • If you "own" the hardware of software outright… it ain’t cloud
  • If you can’t walk into an internet cafe anywhere in the world and use it… it ain’t a cloud

Where do you think companies can benefit most from the cloud – IaaS, PaaS or SaaS?

Horses for courses really. They all have their benefits. End user customers and line of business folks will most benefit from SaaS, whereas IT shops will see IaaS as a lifesaver (or they should). Prototyping houses can use PaaS to accelerate their activities.

How do you think a company in high growth mode can best apply cloud computing?

It’s a no-brainer really. A high growth company needs to be able to rapidly scale, to add seats at will and to handle usage spikes without difficulty. Doing this without the use of the cloud makes absolutely no sense.

How do you think a large enterprise looking to increase its focus on innovation can apply cloud computing?

Cloud allows for rapid prototyping and a "fail fast, fail quick" approach. Enterprises can build custom apps on a PaaS solution rapidly, can utilize SaaS innovation applications and can scale business operations quickly and easily.

What do you think people should start thinking about related to cloud computing that they aren’t today?

The world is changing – your competitors can move fast, develop fast and obtain high level services more economically than ever before. Everyone needs to think about how they can position themselves to compete in this new paradigm. It’s not the big that eat the small, it’s the fast that eat the slow.

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Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. His business interests include a diverse range of industries from manufacturing to property to technology. As a technology commentator he has a broad presence both in the traditional media and extensively online. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

More about Ben here.