Cloud haters: You too will be assimilated

You despise the idea of losing your individual computing power. You hate subscriber services. You don't trust our security model or feel we are reliable enough. You don't believe your connectivity will ever be good enough. It doesn't matter: Your distinctiveness will be added to our own. We are the cloud. Do not resist us.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

I've been writing a lot of articles about the cloud lately, particularly as it relates to the future of personal computing. And what I've seen in the Talkbacks by average end users as well as business types as to how they perceive the cloud has been fascinating.

It seems some of you find the cloud ... threatening. And that you'll move to the cloud kicking and screaming, holding your personal computer and your local data with your gritty nails dug into your laptops, external drives, and NAS appliances, tearing at them with whatever last lingering bit of life force you have left in you before you'll accept the inevitable.

Image: ZDNet

Well, I got news for you, Cloud Haters. The cloud is coming for you whether you like it or not. The cloud cannot be stopped. Your data and user experience will be assimilated.

We still don't understand why this frightens people. The cloud will be a better experience than you have now, and it will be less expensive in terms of asset expenditure and total cost of ownership.

But we at The Cloud Continuum are not entirely without compassion. Let's go down the list of your grievances and address your concerns. I mean, it's not like we have to, because we'll just end up owning your infrastructure anyway. But we are, if anything, attentive.

Grievance 1: I'll lose my individual computing power if I move to the cloud

This cannot be any farther from the truth. If anything, you'll have more individual computing power from moving to the cloud, because your user experience will be backed up by a balls to the wall datacenter with huge amounts of remote compute power as well as even remote GPU compute capability, if you look at the latest advancements in desktop as a service (DaaS) with technologies such as Microsoft RemoteFX, Citrix XenApp, and VMware Horizon View.

But don't blame the cloud for losing your localized computing power. Blame the technology industry and the overall desire to move to greener, more power efficient localized processing. Blame tablets and smartphones and low-power SoCs and other inexpensive endpoint devices that will be the crux of the next-generation personal computing experience.

Powerful workstations, PC desktops, and even heavy-duty laptops are going to make way for thinner, lighter ultrabooks and tablets, many of which will end up using ARM-based SoCs as opposed to the venerable x86 architecture.

While these systems will have the still have the capability to run localized applications, as time goes on and the operating systems from the usual sources for these devices evolve, the newest applications will be deployed from cloud-based app stores and use entirely new API sets, like Microsoft's WinRT and of course the APIs used by iOS and Android.

Sure, you'll need to get to legacy, CPU-intensive applications for things like content creation (think Photoshop, AutoCADs, video editing, and the like), but those will be deployed by ISVs as subscriber legacy apps or in private clouds by the enterprise.

Yes, there will be minimal edge cases that do need workstations, but they will be so few and far between as to amount to a rounding error in a Tier 1 PC manufacturer's yearly income, and private citizens won't be able to justify the expense of buying them for the sheer vanity of having a "local" machine when their cloud-enabled devices are a fraction of the cost.

Oh, and yes, we've heard the "I'm a hardcore gamer, I need a real PC" argument. No, really, you don't. And we don't care about you, either. Between smartphones, tablets, and consoles, the "hardcore PC gamer" has been marginalized for years, and the game publishers willing to put resources in strictly PC games without re-purposing development assets for mobile and console are ever few and far between.

Within 10 years, there will be no "hardcore gaming PCs" to buy, anyway. They'll be extinct.

Grievance 2: Subscriber services are going to increase my personal computing and application costs

The move to a subscriber-based sales model for major ISV applications like Microsoft Office 365 seems to rub people the wrong way. There's no question this is an entirely new way of doing things, and that having to pay a yearly fee per seat rather than assume an upfront cost for a license that may be used for four or five years sounds more expensive.

The reality is that software as a service and subscriber software services are actually less costly to both the end user and the enterprise in the long run. Much of this has to do with the burden of maintenance and updates. It also has to do with the elimination of software piracy, which has artificially inflated the costs of software for at least two decades.

Things like Office suites and content creation suites like Adobe CS6 and stuff like Intuit Quickbooks Pro cost a lot of money to produce, because a tremendous amount of man hours go into their development. Traditionally, one might spend $200 to $400 on such a suite per PC, and then, in four years or so, upgrade for a lesser amount.

That's not accounting for things like academic or student discounts, which still exist in a subscriber model.

That's if you honor things like End-User License Agreements and you don't take that copy and install it on, say, 10 more PCs, or you never bought the software in the first place and are using pirated license keys.

If you're one of those people, then all I have to say is that you're just going to have to pay for your software like everyone else. Or try your hand at the open-source stuff like LibreOffice that was designed for folks who don't want to pay for software, and see if it works for you.

However, if you're a law-abiding citizen, and you've also budgeted for your own IT needs and understand that software is a cost of doing business, your costs are going to essentially remain the same or might even be cheaper.

Plus there's the added benefit that under the subscriber model, you will always be running the current version of the software, and you will always be at a current level of support as well. For small businesses as well as enterprises that live or die by their line of business applications, this is a very big deal.

Grievance 3: I don't trust the security or the integrity of the cloud

OK, we know there have been a few notable security breaches at some big-name companies who have had some kind of cloud presence in the last few years.

But look, every time something like this has happened, it's been a learning experience, and the folks who run real, business-grade clouds that supply a specific quality of service (read as: they charge for this stuff and have to perform according to Service Level Agreements rather than provide free services in exchange for advertising eyeballs) tend not to be the ones that are susceptible to these problems.

By the way, the folks who I am talking about are not these fly-by-night data storage startups such as Dropbox and "gotta have it for free" cloud-based apps like Twitter that have had all kinds of security incidents. I'm talking about significant telecom carriers and hosting providers and strategic outsourcing vendors and software companies that build both public and private cloud offerings who have been running secure enterprise datacenters for many, many years.

These are the folks who will be coming out with all sorts of consumer, end-user cloud offerings, and the ones who you should be trusting your data with.

They will be the ones to invest in the best security technologies, employ the highest-trained security professionals to insure the storage of and network connectivity to that data is isolated from other tenants and walled off from the outside world, and to put the most amount of capital investment into their redundant infrastructure to ensure the integrity of your data and the continuity of your business.

Grievance 4: I don't think I'll ever have enough connectivity

There's not a single article in which I mention the cloud that I don't get some comment that sounds like "I live in a van ... down by the river! In East Bumscrabble in Sub-Saharan Africa! My municipal government stinks in deploying broadband! And I live in a developing country where we only have GSM connectivity and 300 baud modems! The connectivity to the cloud will never be fast enough to where I live!"

Yeah, well, sucks to be you.

Look, nobody expects the cloud and broadband initiatives to deploy to every single person in every single country in an equal opportunity fashion. We know that governments drag their feet and infrastructure takes a while to build out. That stinks.

But the bottom line is that for the majority of folks, and for many types of application scenarios, cloud computing does not require a heck of lot of bandwidth. For the types of things I have talked about, such as DaaS and access to remote applications via thin WAN-optimized protocols and web services, the cloud is actually made for reduced bandwidth scenarios, and is far, far less bandwidth intensive than something like video on demand or even CD-quality music streaming.

Once the data lives in the cloud, it doesn't need to leave or move to the cloud. Because it will simply be in the cloud. Indeed, there will be many types of clouds, and you'll have your choice of where to keep your information and will have the ability to federate the information and services from or migrate to and from other clouds. But pushing tons of data back and forth from the cloud once the majority of our computing existence is cloud? No.

This is a process that will take years. It will not happen overnight. We are still facing fundamental issues for things like what the heck we're gonna do to deal with increased video traffic like a national 4K rollout using IP-based delivery, and how to provision virtual and physical infrastructure at the largest scale according to increasing demand, but these problems will eventually be solved.

The bottom line is, you will be assimilated. Cloud hater or not. It is simply a matter of time.

Will you still resist the cloud and not go quietly into that good night? Talk back and let me know.

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