Joe public gets cloud while techs miss the point

Joe public gets cloud while techs miss the point

Summary: You don't have to understand the inner workings of the cloud to realize the business benefits - get too close to the technology and you'll miss the bigger picture..


A survey commissioned by Citrix purports to show that the American public don't understand cloud computing. The more interesting takeaway from the survey is that their inability to identify the correct definition of the cloud doesn't stop them from successfully using it. Indeed, a humungous 95 percent of respondents already use cloud services, broken down as follows (quoting from ZDNet's Charlie Osborne):

  • 65 percent bank online,
  • 63 percent shop online;
  • 58 percent use social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter,
  • 45 percent have played online games,
  • 29 percent store photos online,
  • 22 percent store music or videos online,
  • 19 percent use online file-sharing.

What this survey really tells us is that you don't need to understand how something works to be able to take advantage of it. In truth, knowing too much about the inner workings of cloud computing is proving to be an active disadvantage for many technologists, including many prospective customers of Citrix. They're obsessing about how to deploy cloud architectures within their existing IT infrastructures while ignoring many of the business outcomes that are truly characteristic of the cloud. Instead of tinkering with their internal systems, they should be focusing on the online information access and commerce, the real-time engagement, collaboration and file-sharing that external-facing cloud infrastructures allow.

In another ZDNet posting today (I'm just back from vacation) I read that IBM has launched its latest mainframe, supposedly revamped for the cloud. I don't imagine you can get any more techie than an IBM mainframe product manager, so it's hardly surprising their view of the cloud is diametrically opposed to any of the real-life use cases successfully identified in the survey of public attitudes. Here's how Jeff Frey, CTO of System z mainframes at IBM, describes the "base characteristics" of cloud: "efficient consolidation, virtualization and the ability to host multiple tenants." This definition is so remote from the concept of online engagement with external stakeholders that the main outcome he goes on to cite is that "large enterprises can deliver cloud services internally."

The curse of technologists is that they're too close to the wood to see the deforestation that's happening just beyond their own patch of trees. While they obsess about adopting "cloud" within their existing infrastructure, they ignore the wider connected cloud that's rapidly forming all around the edges of their enterprise world and which will fundamentally transform the business environment in which it has to operate. As I've often said in the past, "You can't take computing out of the cloud and still call it cloud computing." Joe Public intuitively understands this because of their everyday experience of the real-world cloud services they already use. Most enterprise IT folk, alas, still don't get it.

Topic: Cloud

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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  • joe public is spoonfed

    Techs think, ask questions, and try to be a representative entity.

    Techs miss nothing... joe public won't notice until everything crashes.
    • And

      Joe public seems to think that client server is a cloud. Just another over hyped term.
  • Joe Public here

    Cloud is a disaster waiting to happen. So are all computers, but why centralize your disasters? Keep them small and decentralized.
    • Cloud is nice but keep your

      critical stuff backed up close to home.
  • Someone made us the cloud, all your business data are belong to us

    You might have to be over 25 to get that..but its going to be a regular occurance soon..
    • cloud

      Cloud is only as good as your service provider. I have had numerous clients with "cloud" problems because their provider went down and left them twiddling their thumbs while they waited to have their service restored. One California County lost all their current sentencing records for a day so they couldn't process prisoners. What a mess. It was not my mess luckily as I was the hardware supplier. IT people tend to err on the side of safety and don't like to experiment with their clients data at stake.
  • somebody us up the cloud, rather...

    getting older sucks
  • Semantics

    "Cloud" is a made-up word that came from the business to describe "lots of web services". It really has no meaning on the techie side of things. There are many ways to produce "Cloud services" - even without virtualization!

    But since the word has 2 meanings (1 is the empty set), techies are free to (mis)interpret how to create this stuff. A 'true' (idealized) Cloud infrastructure (from the techie view) would mean a single entry point, access to any app you need, and an ability to run that app. What you end up with is "How big of a VM do you want?" which really isn't Cloud-like at all.

    In reality, Cloud has become a pawn in the Virtualization takeover of all IT. You can't mention Cloud without then mentioning virtualization in the same breath. IT departments smell the blood of fresh cash for equipment and heed the call of the virtuals - even while they suffer from a shallow talent pool (very shallow for virtualization expertise).

    So will IT run out of cash or talent first while reaching for the Cloud? Failure is very much an option here.
    Roger Ramjet
  • Odd definition of Cloud Computing

    As soon as I read the article on the Citrix survey, I looked forward to the Phil Wainewright take-down. A few of the more bizarre points for me -

    * Citing "59 percent believe the 'workplace of the future' will exist entirely in the cloud" as a misunderstanding. You know what - those 59% are right!
    * I fail to see how "online banking" is a cloud computing proof point. My guess is that most banks still use a single-tenant, self-hosted architecture for their online services.

    The whole survey seemed like superficial linkbait anyway.
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  • You guys are all so thick.

    For you is a philosophical story, almost religious, because you can't realistically form an opinion on something you know little or nothing about. In 10 years, after you have been forced to comply with some kind of cloud networking, you will look back and realize you were a little on the paranoid side.
  • Amen

    The comments illustrate Mr. Wainewright's point perfectly. Cloud Computing and virtualization are not the same thing - the IT department certainly shouldn't be making capital investments in equipment. All SaaS is not Cloud Computing - just because it's hosted doesn't make it Cloud Computing.

    IT teams need to realize this change is happening with or without their help. Teams that embrace the additional services (and reduced cost) cloud vendors allow them to provide will maintain their status as experts and the salaries provided by that status.

    If you can't differentiate between virtualization and cloud computing or an application services provider, you shouldn't be in IT - you're the equivalent of an obese personal trainer. It's time to study up or get out of the way.