A common definition of Cloud Computing is: “a type of computing based on sharing computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications” which was obtained from dictionary.com. Basically, the idea is that instead of having a single system performing a task, we’d have an invisible line of systems doing that same task. You can think of it as you needing hard disk space, but instead of buying a hard drive and adding it to your computer, you could choose to use a Cloud solution, where upon you get access to much more hard disk space but aren’t really concerned with where it’s located or what it’s running on.
Another example might be that I am writing a business system much like the one Lizzy™ already performs, but I don’t want to rewrite tax, invoicing and inventory control systems if there are already solutions I can borrow from. So I go to the Cloud and locate pieces written by others and integrate those solutions into my system so that I can come out with a complete system faster than I could on my own. The fact is, Cloud Computing means a lot of things to a lot of people. The question of what exactly is Cloud Computing, get as daunting as asking just where is the edge of a real Cloud?
Just like a real cloud in the sky, you can’t really touch its edges to see where it starts and stops, nor can you really define where the Cloud Computing model actually starts and ends. The farther we move into this model the fuzzier things get. I read articles daily where this company or that has adopted one model over another, or that this company has elected to create an internal Cloud instead of using the one growing amass on the Internet. The problem remains though, what really is a Cloud?
Salesforce.com uses the Cloud extensively in order to provide external modules to their CRM system. Instead of using the model that Nizex Inc adopted, where we integrate our own modules to insure that they all operate seamlessly together, they go to the Cloud to find pieces and then charge additional fees to integrate and keep those modules integrated together. They’re not alone in this practice as most companies today are taking up residency in the Cloud. It’s my belief though that trying to keep all of this unrelated code managed is going to prove more than the system can bare.
And then there is the obvious question (at least to me): If we continue to improve the management of the Cloud in order to insure that different modules are as tightly integrated as systems such as Lizzy&trade, will you still have a Cloud? Will the enforcement of integration and security rules relegate the Cloud to some glorified form of Research and Development that crosses company and personnel boundaries? Will the individuals creating these different pieces be happy taking orders from outside their worlds? And if we get to this point, will they be happy working for free while being treated as employees?
I have to agree that in concept the Cloud would seem a great thing, but in practice it brings me back to the big Internet boom of the 90’s. While people with more money than sense dropped millions into companies that had no sustainable business model, the rest of us continued to work on the things that made sense. Of course, they made more money short term and got lots of publicity in the process, but in the end, they’re gone and we’re still here. Will Cloud Computing follow a similar trajectory? I believe to some degree that it will. I think that eventually the buzz of the cool sounding term will loose its zeal and people will start to realize that they’re spending even more money trying to manage a beast than they did when they were doing it all internally. They’ll also wake up to realize they’ve lost control of their information in the process, with more and more external forces dictating exactly what they can and can’t do.
Can businesses really relegate all of their internal processes to the Internet and still maintain the level of control they need more than ever to succeed? I believe we’ve reached an important turning point in the life of development. I’ve worked for years handling the development processes for a couple different companies, all the while doing things much differently than other companies, and in some turns, being looked down on for not doing what everyone else was doing. Now I read articles where the big turn in development is to do exactly what we’ve been doing for years. Now I’m watching the Cloud gaining more and more steam and wondering if it’s really the answer, or just another cool sounding slogan that too many are falling victim to.