Former Chief Technologist for BT and cloud computing analyst Dr Peter Cochrane discusses the cloud computing issues he has pondered this week, and explains why social trends mean there is simply no better IT solution than The Cloud.
Most conferences and debates about the The Cloud seem to position it as some singular or isolated entity, and in the extreme, an act of networked madness. In reality, it is vital transition for the whole ITC market as it moves to a fully mobile, free, and open future.
I listen and watch the same corporate objections and issues being raised with monotonous regularity: how can it possibly be secure; I need to know where my bits are stored; we need to control our infrastructure and all the devices connected to it. In the meantime the real world races toward more freedom, more openness and more connectivity on the move. I think we can safely say that the ‘social paradigm’ has already taken over, and there is no way back!
My position is that of an active and busy user, and none of my companies have an IT Department by law – my law. To allow such a thing would be as futile as providing a typing pool! We don’t get involved in people’s personal choices of pens, cloths, underwear, socks or cars either. And by the same reasoning we afford people the freedom to buy and use any lap top, pad, mobile phone (or anything else) they wish.
We outsource all operations that are not core to our business, and especially network provision. We use The Cloud and encourage social networking, open software and hardware. How come? With greater freedom comes greater creativity and productivity. In short; we like social networking because other people read, watch, search, find, think, model and write so we don’t have to! In a faster and busier world the power of social networking and crowd sourcing are business tools that we cannot afford to ignore.
Here is one very simple aspect I really value; when I get SPAM or other forms of unwanted mail I report it to my provider and they filter it out for me and the other 350M users of their service. But best of all, 350M users are watching my back! The net result is I only see 3 - 4 SPAM messages a week. And unlike the corporate drones I have GBytes of email account storage space at minimal (or zero) cost, and should I need more there are no discussions, no arguments, only instant provision!
I know of no corporation that provides and enjoys my level of network reliability, resilience, security and operational flexibility at such a low cost. They neither have the expertise, resources, or base capability, but worst of all they just can’t leverage the vigilance of anything like the same size user base. Moreover, I don’t see any corporate executives enjoying the degrees of freedom and flexibility I am able to invoke.
So, to any objectors reading this I ask:
1) Do you know where your stuff is stored?
2) Do you know how secure your network is?
3) How big is your email account, and what would it take to double its size?
4) How much time do you devote to fighting your system instead of working?
5) When you get an IT problem – who do you call?
6) When you need to by a new laptop – what is the true cost?
7) Can you us the applications you really need?
8) Can you have the mobile devices you really need?
I can guarantee that the answers to these, and many other, questions are not very positive. For the young person joining most modern companies it is like being catapulted into the past. They have a better computer, connectivity, applications and services at home. And they quite rightly ask; why isn’t work like being at home? Why all the unnecessary constraints? Think about it, they are right! There is no sensible reason, only the excuses of those with a vested interest in protecting old systems and thinking.
Given the speed of modern business, the transitory nature of managers and people, the use of fewer full time employees and more contractors, not to mention increasing M&A activity, and the need for more creativity, could you think of a better solution than The Cloud?
It is not by accident that mobile computing; open software, and the forthcoming open hardware revolution are more or less coincident with the need to share v the need to know and the death of controlism. We are moving from a world and time of seemingly infinite resources to one where energy, materials and people are most definitely finite and limited.
We are also seeing the rise of sensor networks and intelligent machines capable of aiding our management of peoples, production and supply as we engineer toward sustainable solutions. The Cloud and devices such as the iPad (and later, wearables) will soon be seen as essentials and not toys in the same way mobile phones have made the same transition in the last 30 years. We can also expect to see costs fall and service demands for greater bandwidth and lower latency accelerate.
Another way of perceiving all this is exemplified by the motor industry with thousands of suppliers hand-building automobiles in small numbers to travel on second-rate rates, pre-1910. This all changed with Henry Ford and industrialisation, and I see The Cloud as ‘Henry Ford gets into computing and networking’ – or the industrialisation of ITC. So there will be far fewer, but far bigger, providers with costs that will progressively fall, and ultimately, everyone on the planet will be a user!
Don’t believe me? The motor and telephone industries did it in 100 years, the mobile phone industry in less than 30, I reckon The Cloud will become the norm within the next 10!
Dr Peter Cochrane is the former Chief Technologist for BT and a seasoned IT professional with over 40 years of hands-on management, technology and operational experience across a number of industries. He has been involved in established companies at an operational level, as well as the creation and deployment of new technologies, products and management systems, plus the transformation of corporations, the starting of many new businesses and direct board responsibility in companies spanning from £bns to £ms.