Cloud Computing has been a much used and misunderstood term. You know its become mainstream when it attracts pundits of the caliber of Larry Ellison, who last week confessed his own confusion during an anti-cloud computing rant:
Maybe I’m an idiot, but I have no idea what anyone is talking about. What is it? It’s complete gibberish. It’s insane.
And of course, Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, who told the Guardian his opinion of cloud computing:
It’s stupidity. It’s worse than stupidity: it’s a marketing hype campaign.
I wasn’t surprised at Larry’s reaction, as the more classical IT enterprise that his business serves is by definition going to be a late adopter. I was surprised at Stallman, however.
His arguments went for a general theme of cloud computing being too much risk for the CIO. Funny, as open source suffered the same start. Open source weathered many years of questions on what it is, how could businesses accept the indemnification risks, and of course how mature were the products being developed under its banner.
Hyperic has embraced both. We open sourced our software in 2006, and have roots in open source starting in the nineties from Netscape to Apache from our founders. It’s also no secret that Hyperic, and its users, are early adopters of the cloud. We’ve been part of this trend unfolding, visibly so with our CloudStatus service.
We didn’t do either because they were cool, or for any desire to be some sort of fashionable IT software company. We did it because it makes sense for our users, and both are an approach to building more affordable, useful, and scalable IT.
Open source is a business model for us to work with our users – they are building modern web-driven applications and need better monitoring and management for these dynamic, custom-built environments. Since they are web-afficianados when they have a problem they consult, that’s right – the web. They do a Google search, they look for how others solved it – and they look for the straightest line to applying the same solutions to their unique situation. They want self-service. They want quick results. Open source lets them download and use the software without unneccesary limits on time, scale or its application. Once our software establishes its value, if there is more opportunity to help them more, we have an educated, successful, in-house champion to help work through the sale. We save a lot on the cost of sales and support this way. The customers in turn save time and money in completing their solution. Open source is way to package our products and services to ease adoption so everyone benefits.
Cloud computing is much the same. Cloud computing is a system of technologies and services that have commoditized IT to make it more readily consumable, scalable, and cost-effective for everyone. It has leveraged the innovation and expertise of Internet giants like Amazon and Google, and is making it accessible to anyone with the next big idea. It removes the investment in physical and human resources to scale up a business. It affords more folks to try their ideas and vet its worth in the market. It also affords these same businesses to scale out as quickly as their business demands. Cloud computing, same as open source, is a way to package products and services to ease adoption so everyone benefits.
Open source was sexy because it was toppling the big guys by eroding their market shares. They *mostly* now all get that it is a better way to do business with a larger, more unpredictable market that prefer to leverage open components to construct their own inventions.
Cloud computing is sexy because it taps into the entrepreneur’s “CIO envy”, as the451group’s Rachel Chalmers called it when we last spoke. This “CIO envy” channels the aspirations for anyone to be the next Facebook. It removes the need for deep pockets and a deep technical bench to scale up their business to go to market, and scale out to capitalize on customer demand. It will come in all shapes and sizes, from infrastructure services to software application services to development platform services and all the surrounding implementation support services that typically surround IT. Regardless of the form, its purpose will be the same – to reduce IT complexity to create scalable, building blocks that can be consumed and paid for based on real usage.
In short, the term may evolve to become not as sexy, but the concept, just like open source, is too big and attractive to ignore.