Castle in the Clouds

I read with interest Cloud computing ascends the mainstream in my local newspaper last week.  The newspaper article opened with:

LAST century we said goodbye to personal generators such as the water wheel, and most of the developed world plugged into the new electric grid, giving us high voltage on the wire with long-distance transmission. Now computers are set to make the big switch, transferring computer power and storage from our humble hard drives to the “cloud” – where everything happens on the internet.

Cloud computing is often described as analogous to how traditional utilities like electricity or water is consumed.  Unfortunately, traditional utilities is not an appealing analogy since they are failing as a service delivery model.  Here in Melbourne, Australia, we have strict water restrictions and seasonal power outages due to insufficient supply and capacity.  Furthermore, there are no service level agreements and the consumer has no bargaining power.  Therefore, what does the consumer do?  Well in Australia, the societal trend is to become more self sufficient by installing rainwater tanks and solar panels.  Furthermore, the Government is encouraging this practice through rebates directly to consumers that install them.  According to the ABS in 2007, 20.6% of Australia households had a rainwater tank and of those that did not, 60.8% are considering installing one.  Another utility, telecommunications, has even bigger issues in Australia, with no clear direction or leadership from either the Government or private enterprise on meeting future infrastructure needs of this country.

Earlier this month I attended a Gartner Briefing where Stephen Prentice presented on Gartner’s Top 10 Predictions for 2009.  One of these predictions was that by 2011 that 30% of consulting and systems integration revenue will be delivered via the cloud.  I wonder how Gartner came to this prediction given that they preceded with a model that building an effective strategy is that we need to accept the fundamentals (People, Resources, Geography) are beyond the control or influence of any organisation; understand the secondary influences (Aesthetics, Societal, Technology, Information, Process, Trust, Governance, Political, Economic, Industrial and Environmental); and appreciate their complex interactions.  I can foresee that Cloud computing will be driven by Resources, Technology, Economic and Environmental influences; but adoption will be constrained by Geography, Information, Trust, Governance and Political influences.

Earlier this month I also attended a local .Net User Group where David Lemphers demonstrated development with Windows Azure.  A fundamental issue with Windows Azure is you need to redevelop your software to run on a proprietary platform and hope you never need to migrate off, since it would mean redevelopment again (though the programming language is not proprietary).  Additionally, there is no ability to migrate existing databases onto the cloud and no service level agreements defined.  I am sure Microsoft will address service level agreements, but then will it be like traditional utilities with no bargaining power by the consumers?

Every day there seems that there is a new article on Cloud computing and how it is the future for software.  Amongst the hype, I read Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing which I definitely recommend reading.  The top 10 obstacles and opportunities for growth are quite interesting.

To finish, I quote G. K. Chesterton from The Everlasting Man (1925)

There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.

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3 Responses to “Castle in the Clouds”

  1. blogesh Says:

    Great Post, Adam 🙂

    Just thought I’d also point out the term “Utility Computing” is sometimes used when computing power/storage is being made available as a metered commodity – very similar to how traditional Utility companies work.

    It will be interesting to see how Cloud computing takes off, considering the fact that companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft are backing it in a big way…

  2. blogesh Says:

    I read through the “Above the clouds” link in your article too, Adam. Nice read. According to it:

    Cloud Computing = SaaS + Utility Computing

    which sounds about right.

  3. Adam Long Says:

    Last month I migrated my company’s file hosting from a file hosting service to Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). The ease of migration, the cost savings, and the increased availability made it a very easy decision for hosting data for public consumption.

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